Ahhh, the holidays. Commercialization and over-consumption at its finest, with a heavy dose of self-reflection tinged with guilt and self-pity. My Father was never big on Christmas. “I hate wholesome.”, he would growl at an age where I should have still been pining for Santa. Even the very act of getting a tree was a stretch at times, so needless to say, tradition was not nurtured or practiced in my house. That doesn’t mean I do not enjoy the holidays. I may not encompass the rabid Christmas frenzy but I do long for…I don’t know, something. I’ve never been able to really put my finger on it, but yeah…something.
Last year, Christmas was a blur. We had only been in country a few scant days and I was still reeling from getting to know my new environment. We had dinner at Rafa’s parents with the rest of the family and all I remember was being tired and so wonderfully overwhelmed. This year, we had decided to take the reins and arrange the Christmas meal.
It was going to be a simpler affair. In September (yes, September) we went to a department store and saw THIS.
I have seen white, frosted, purple and silver, but this black one was a first for me. In my wilder days, I would have loved to get it but I had a feeling it really wouldn’t be appreciated as much as I would have wanted to be here. As it stands, Ticos do enjoy real trees for the holidays. They are not the traditional pines and blue spruces, but a carefully trimmed home-grown fragrant cypress. I was intrigued and Rafa would have gotten me one, but I settled on a durable Norfolk Pine house plant I bought last year.
It’s a delicate little tree so I could only put on a few light ornaments, but it still is quite lovely. I only packed one box of Christmas things. As crabby as my Dad was about Christmas, I did inherit some sweet old glass ornaments. Ok, I just took them. It’s not like he would ever use them.
Ticos certainly do get into the full on Christmas mode, even so far as decorating their homes with signs that say “Let it snow!” Sheesh, if it ever did really snow here, you know the apocalypse is coming. What you do get here more that I would have expected are fireworks. All of December, I could hear the pop and distant booms of fireworks accumulating in a Christmas day (at the stroke of midnight) extravaganza. Although, I was rather puzzled at the mid-day display, at high noon no less. Kinda defeats the whole idea to me, but hey, why not?
I kept needling Rafa for guidance on what to expect and prepare for when it came to holding Christmas dinner, but he was terribly ambiguous about the whole thing. I shopped for several options for several different meals, but ended up hitting the store again on the eve and making a seafood paella.
The funniest part was watching my sous chef, Rafa, tackle the calamari. Not one for blood and guts, he bought the whole squid and watching him eviscerate the critter with that big eyeball staring at him, was hilarious. Even his sister had to beat a quick escape at the sight of squid innards. No picture could capture the whole event. None the less, he was a trooper, and the dinner was divine. My Spanish may still be a little wobbly, but cooking crosses language barriers. Nothing says love and appreciation more than a great cooked meal. And well, that is certainly something.