I remember this time last year having some reservations about what the first Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home might be like for me. I have almost always spent the holidays with my family and over the last couple of years, I have come to cherish a few newer traditions with my friends.
For instance, on Halloween, Suey has her annual Pumpkin carving contest that Kristin always wins!....I always come in second. One of these days you are going down my friend! :)
On Thanksgiving, my mom always slaves away all day making that quintessential meal that makes you feel REALLY at home and gets you in the holiday spirit, and then after dinner we would plan out our Black Friday shopping excursion. The next day, we would wake up at 4 or 5 am (although each year it gets earlier and earlier thanks to Target opening earlier and earlier) and go out to wait in lines with all of the other shoppers, and get all of our Christmas shopping done. I think we have done this at least 25 of my 28 years of life!
For the last couple of years I have thrown a Christmas Ornament Party so that I could have my tree covered in memories...and it was just a good excuse to get everyone together to all drink and be merry.
I also had a cookie decorating evening with my friend Val that I really looked forward too each year. The cookies got slightly more perverse and demented each year...so I can only imagine what they would have been this year!
My 5 "ring friends" and I had started doing a Family Christmas dinner a few years ago. We would all get together, just the girls....no boyfriend/husband distractions, and have a formal seated dinner and dessert at Kristin's house and exchange gifts. In the last few years, it had become one of the only times of the year (if not the only time) we all got together and just had a good time. No wedding, birthday, or shower of any kind. Just pure family time with each other!
Going into this holiday season, I was so preoccupied with the moving, job finding, and visa process that I really didn't have time to put too much thought into what it would be like. Then, just like that, they were over.
We spent Halloween at Knut's coworkers house. Norway does costumes....but not like what we know in California! Some people really went all out, but most put together costumes with the items they already own in their closets.
Thanksgiving this year happened to fall on my birthday. Obviously Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here, and Black Friday is a foreign concept....literally! That day happened to be the first day of the Sample Sale at my work, so that is where I was. They did surprise me with a gorgeous cake and pink champagne....which was SOOOO sweet!!
Knut and I didn't really do much. His gift to me was a surprise trip to Paris (more on that later) a couple weeks after, so on the actual day here in Oslo, we really didn't celebrate. But he did surprise me with a bottle of wine, a frozen pizza (Norway's official national dish) and a new Muubaa Clutch that he sneakily bought from the agency that I work in.
Then there was Christmas....where do I even begin?!? Normally the season is kicked off by Black Friday, but this year it was kicked off by an MMS from my mom in line at Black Friday (which made me cry for a only a minute or two...) and a surprise holiday trip to Berlin!
The company I work for too all of the employees on a getaway for our gift this year. We showed up at the airport, checked our bags, got through security, and still had no idea where we were going. All we knew was to bring our passport, and an overnight bag consisting of both day and evening clothes. We spent two days roaming the city attending Christmas markets (Berlin is known for having the best in the world I guess), shopping in some of the best stores, and eating all over the city.
We had such an amazing trip! I wish I could make that a new tradition to repeat each Christmas!
Here in Oslo, we attended the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. The whole city gathers in the center of town and everyone sings and they light the big tree. While we were walking down there from our house, we ended up right in the front of the parade of people walking up Karl Johan carrying candles to "light" the Christmas tree. Some woman handed us both a candle, and you would have thought she handed me a million dollars! I was soooooooo excited to be a part of it!
Decorating the house was fun. I love the way it looks with all of it's Christmas best on. It was a labor of love to get it up though. I had made an advent calendar for Knut this year. Each day got a surprise or gift of some kind. One day I decided I wanted to surprise him with a Christmas tree when he got home that night. So I stopped at Clas Olsen Norway's closest thing to Target) on the way home from work and picked one up. This just so happened to also be the first day of the year that it snowed. We opted for a fake tree since the real ones were all upwards of 100-200 including stands, and the fake was only 60. The box holding the tree didn't seem too heavy when I was in the store, but after walking for a couple of blocks it seemed to gain a few lbs or kilos to my norwegians. So I hoped on a bus. There are a ton that run from the city center (where I was) to our apt which is really only a mile, but when its snowing and your carrying a tree seems like 5300 miles.
Frazzled from the stress of the situation, I unknowingly got onto the 31E bus instead of the 31. No biggie...they go the same route, but the 31E doesn't stop at some of the stops the 31 does....one of which being the one in front of our house of course....awesome!! <---Sarcasm (That's for you Kristin!)
I had one of those moments where you just want to throw your hands up in the air and shout, "REALLY!?!"....The bus took me blocks and blocks past my house. I got off on the first stop I could, tried to go back in the other direction, but ended up only being able to get as close as 4 blocks from home...at about 3 blocks away the handle on the box broke, and the box fell in a pile of brown icky snow....awesome again! I manage the rest of the way carrying it over my shoulder like some kind of gorilla carrying a woman into its cave....but in the end, Knut and I got our tree and it was all worth it.
A couple of weeks later we had some friends over for a Christmas get together....
|Caroline had just gotten back home from a work trip in the US and brought us back a present! These and Hot Tamales made my whole month!|
Really nice night with great people!
In Norway they celebrate Christmas on the 24th. We went to Knut's Uncle's house here in Oslo and had a big traditional dinner consisting of mostly meats that I had never heard of before and have no idea what animal they even came from. I ate potatoes and some kind of carrot mash. I think I offended his Uncle's mother-in-law by not eating the meats. She was under the impression that I wasn't eating them because of some prejudice against norwegian food or something....I am not sure. But she gave me that angry grandma face and told me I couldn't possibly know I didn't like it if I didn't try it. I am ok with assuming...sorry!
After dinner we had ice cream and warm arctic berries. The berries looked like a yellow version of raspberries, but way more delicious! One of their family members had picked them and sent them over....you can't buy them in the stores and I guess they are somewhat rare. They were amazing!
Halfway through dessert Knut got yelled at (in norwegian) by his 4 year old cousin to hurry up because they couldn't begin opening presents if everyone was still eating. Santa came in a while later and brought the girls their gifts....we all opened the remaining gifts, had some more sweets, coffee, and wine and enjoyed each other's company, then made our way home.
As for the Christmas with my friends and family.....the dinner with the girls looked something like this:
All in all a very successful holiday season....but I am really glad to be done with it all and get on with 2012!