In an effort to celebrate Christmas with family (instead of all by ourselves in pity) we imposed our presence upon Sam’s second cousins and second cousins once removed. (FYI I’m very knowledgeable regarding cousin relationships. One has to know 3-4 and removal status when growing up in a small Midwestern town. While Inadvertently dating distant cousins may not be illegal it would be severely discouraged not to mention incredibly gross) Anyways back in Brussels, we were graciously welcomed and treated like distinguished guests. Upon arrival we were served high tea with minced pies. At this point I was reminded that Sam’s relatives were more British, Zimbabwean, and Scottish than Belgian. Most of the food and customs were a mixture of each culture. On Christmas Day they served a fancy 4 course Christmas lunch including soup, turkey, ham, brussel sprouts, and Christmas pudding with brandy butter. They also had ‘crackers’ which are a small gift wrapped in paper that you ‘crack’ open to reveal a Christmas joke and surprise. But in general I found that Belgium and The Netherlands does not manifest the same amount of Christmas cheer implored in the US. There are decorations and people celebrate with family but everything is toned down about 10 notches. Even locals admit that Christmas feels like any other day. On one hand less money is spent and stress is considerably lower. People had more time to simply relax and enjoy. But…I believe there could be a happy middle ground including abundant cheer and less stress.
On Christmas Eve we served at a soup kitchen in downtown Brussels. Sam and I were put on door duty to monitor people coming and going. Unfortunately, French and Flemish are the main languages spoken in Brussels. So when a group of 8 year old ruffians started lighting napkins on fire they chose not to listen to my English. Instead we all started arguing in a French English battle and nothing was accomplished. The only common language turned out to be hand gestures. Once the little ring leader flipped me off I behaved like an adult and tattled to the woman in charge.