2 January 2013

Holiday Cheer

After a very long and undeserved break from writing, along with ceaseless nagging from Immah and various other friends, I’ve finally gathered up the courage to come up with our new blog post, hoping that the next one will take a bit less to come up with.

It’s no coincidence that we’re posting so close to the winter holidays. We both had the great opportunity of going home to celebrate Christmas, and the overwhelming feeling of Christmas cheer provided plenty of inspiration for me to write this eulogy to Romanian holiday customs (I wish conveying sarcasm in writing was easier.)

I know that this blog should be mostly about our experiences abroad (which are now very broad and interesting. Damn, I really should write more often), but I feel that the world knows too little of how us, Romanians, celebrate Christmas and, more importantly, how we prepare for it. It begins with making a list, then checking it twice. The twist being that it doesn’t matter if you’re naughty or nice, you’re still in for a world of hurt. You see, everyone makes their preparation plans well before Christmas. No one actually starts doing the work until there’s three days or less left, meaning that you can kiss that sweet sleep goodbye until Christmas Eve.

First, there’s the cleaning. Aaah, the cleaning. Nothing helps you feel that Christmas cheer quite as much as having to vacuum, dust, mop, wipe and scrub every square inch in your house. Oh, it’s snowing outside? Maybe we should wash the windows as well! Do we have industrial amounts of food to cook? It might be a good idea to make sure the kitchen is spotless before that. You’re going to bring in a Christmas tree that leaves needles everywhere at the slightest touch? The floors better be immaculate then! All these, and many more, are logical, intelligent ways in which we prepare our homes for the arrival of Saint Nick.

Once the house has been thoroughly cleaned, you can merrily begin preparing the food. Let’s say you have a family of three and are expecting about 4-5 other people to visit you throughout the whole holiday season. Well then, we should probably cook around 10 different dishes in massive quantities, let’s say about 3kgs of each. Yeah, that sounds about right. But how can we cook all this food without any supplies? ONWARDS, TO THE STORE! Christmas shopping (for food, not presents) is such a lovely process; you take your list of groceries (nothing short of two pages will do), grab a shopping cart and start plowing your way through all the other happy shoppers that postponed doing everything till the very last moment. Fast-forward to four hours later when you’re done throwing half the store in your cart and you will find yourself halfway through waiting in line behind many of the afore-mentioned shoppers, among which there will be at least three that have forgotten to have their fruits weighed or have a few products that don’t have a barcode on them. Another eternity afterwards, you can finally make your way home with all the stuff for all the food that you’re planning to prepare for your family and friends.

Now, where were we? Ah yes, cooking so much food that restaurants seem like amateurs. The process is pretty straight-forward: you’ll find that you don’t have enough pots, pans and containers, every other hour you’ll realize that you forgot to buy something you urgently need, which will force you to make a run for the corner shop where there’s little and less to choose from, and by the end of the day you’ll find that the smell that’s impregnated in your skin is unlikely to leave you for the next few days. Just hope that you have enough perfume and body lotion to cover the smell of pickled cabbage and smoked meat (you probably don’t. nobody does.)

Okay, so you’re done cleaning, all the shopping is done and the food is nicely cooked (and decorated. You have no self-respect if you don’t spend at least an hour decorating all the dishes). But wait! You don’t have a Christmas tree yet! How could you possible enjoy all the hard work you’ve put in without having a tree that’s been cut down and thrown around in trucks? But worry not, my friend. That tree will look majestic in your living room, covered in all the decorations you’ve gathered throughout the years, and a few more that you’ve purchased in your recent shopping trip. It doesn’t matter that it’s going to start looking downright morbid after a couple of days when the branches start to bend under the weight of all the pretty shiny stuff, or that it’s going to leave a huge mess in your newly-cleaned house. You need a tree, and you need it natural.

Well, now you’ve got it all covered. Everything that needed doing is done. So what that you haven’t slept in three days and you’ll end up throwing out half of the food because it’s not going to be eaten? Who cares that your stress levels have never been higher? You have successfully prepared a very Romanian Christmas and you should feel very proud. In the meantime, I’ll have a nice hot chocolate, enjoy my foldable Christmas tree and exchange gifts with my friends.

Hope you had a Merry (stress-free) Christmas! 
Happy new year!