“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose...”
With these two simple sections of his song, Nat King Cole paints a perfect mental picture on the stereotypical American Christmas that I myself have become accustomed to. Having spent this holiday season in the beautiful land of Belgium, this year's Christmas was definitely far from the norm. Replacing chestnuts with Belgian chocolate and waffles, and Jack Frost being far more of a Jack Rainy, my first Christmas in Belgium was one I will never forget.
Christmas Eve was a long day that most of us spent rushing around to find presents for our “Secret Santa's.” With the only stores open in town being a grocery store and a lingerie shop, our options were limited. With only three town bikes available, shopping was done in waves. And after the gifts were wrapped, they were brought downstairs to the kitchen where they would spend the night. Not knowing what to expect underneath the wrapping paper, I went to bed that night feeling almost as excited as a younger me, going to bed on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus.
The morning of Christmas started like any other, waking up to the smooth jazz of my roommates alarm that he often sleeps through. After the trek downstairs to the dining hall, I saw all of the presents on the small brick section of the room. The wrapping of the presents was far from spectacular, but it was excusable due to the lack of tape. After a simple breakfast, the multicultural ceremony of opening presents commenced. While the presents were all simple, having to be under 10 Euros, it really was the thought that counted. Most of us having been strangers before this camp, the fact that the holidays brought all of us together was truly a special experience.
The Christmas that I always had growing up was proven to be not as memorable as my Belgian Christmas. I learned that it doesn't need to be a “White Christmas,” and there does not need to be a decorated tree. As long at you are spending the holidays in good company, that is what makes a successful and memorable Christmas. Belgian Christmas was an amazing experience, and I hope to celebrate it here again next year. And to finish Nat King Cole's Christmas Song ... “I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two. Although it's been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you”.