Cafe Hitch-hike


Here's to the holidays!

The holidays are coming, and they talk about the spirit of giving. The holidays, to me, also mean the spirit of being there. It means visits, dinners, parties, and other types of gatherings. What stands out about the holidays is they are a time where most people can pause whatever they're doing to simply connect. A lot of us just don't see that much in our usual lives.

A Mexican immigrant told me about Las Posadas they had in his village before Christmas. He said in his town, the boys were bad and were always fighting, but they laid down their arms during that time of the year. There was no fighting. All homes were open, and everyone offered food, drink, and company. They sang songs, chatted, and just had a great time. I heard a sense of joy underlying his description, and perhaps of missing it as well.

I don't know if I wrote about it here, but I'll never forget the Christmas I got to spend in Germany. They aren't big in expensive, showy gifts. The kids get nice things, but the adults tend to give each other useful, practical gifts that the receiver likes. A smoker will get a higher-grade cigar than what they usually smoke, a cook will get some fresh, organic herbs or food basket, and a woman will get a perfume she likes but doesn't often get for herself. I actually liked that!

The Germans, I found, were very hospitable. I attended many dinners and gatherings involving food. I was surprised at their elegant table manners, where regular people had full table settings and different glasses for different beverages. Beer would not be served in a water cup, for instance. I didn't interpret it as being stuffy, but rather it was their way of fully enjoying food and the artistry of serving it (something that has stayed with me to this day). I also loved their Christmas markets where they sold handmade goods and foods (even when it was freezing outside), and had a carousel or rides for the kids. I especially loved their warm, cherry wine! Seeing what everyone put into making the market seemed to make the holiday more special.

Oh, I'll never forget about the night I was in a pub, and three guys with a buzz happily sang O Tannenbaum in a slurred chorus. The bar was decorated with garlands, and a little train set moved around the top of their walls. I saw the train move behind the garlands as it circled the room.

To me, the best I see in holiday giving is when when others are attentive, ready to give and receive, and be fully in the moment, kind of like what I heard about Las Posadas and noticed in the holiday gatherings in Germany.

The holidays are the one time a year I can visit my family and they will be in the area. Sometimes they may have to work part of it. My mom has to because she works in a hospital where the show must go on, and I skipped at least one Christmas when I worked in hospitality.

I won't be going to Texas to see mine this holiday, and I feel mixed. Grandma just died and I know things won't be the same. The other part is I had some financial matters spring up and I don't want to charge my trip.

For this holiday, Thanksgiving #1 will be at the family of my brother-in-law who is married to Rafa's sis Mariposa. His family hails from my fishing village and one of his brothers bought a house near where I live! I will be contributing a sweet potato dish and I use the real deal! Thankgiving #2 will be at Mariposa's place. Their family doesn't celebrate it quite the same way. They were immigrants and don't consider Thanksgiving "their" holiday; this is a sentiment I found immigrants from other parts of the world. We will get some gallina, which is a whole hen cooked with vegetables and a tomato-based sauce.

We will also have a extension by attending a community event known as La Purissima that is a celebration of the Virgin Mary. I attended my first one last year. The family stayed behind after the event was done, passed around a hat, and paid the band that played at the service to perform. One of the elderly aunts beseeched me not to see them as heathens for having a party after a religious event, but I assured them it was not a problem. Everyone was in one place, so it made sense to me! Gosh, and someone just so happened to have a bottle of Flor de Cana rum on him? Perhaps it was an offering to the Virgin, haaah!

I ended that night with cramps in my face from laughing so hard. I had a little Flor de Cana rum (or more, who's to say?) and discovered a drunk-dial song that was seemed to be their national anthem. I thought it was, anyhow, with the enthusiasm and laughter that accompanied it.

I don't know how I will spend Christmas. It will probably be with the in-laws. Ideally, I'd love to be on a cruise ship and hang out 60 feet underwater with scuba gear in the Bahamas! If, in the off-chance I am offered the job I interviewed for, I definitely will be doing that!

In the past, I found holidays to be dreadful times of the year, but I've been able to configure them into something more nourishing after I left home. I was able to find friends and (sane) family to spend them with. Heck, I found myself on the road on more than one occasion. It felt a little lonely, but at least the stimulation of being somewhere new outweighed thinking of the Norman Rockwell version of the holidays and why mine didn't look like that.

So with that, here's to a restful and joyful holiday to come, and for my being able to turn them in that direction.

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