Baby! It’s Cold Outside

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Christmas
Christmas brings remembrance
Of family and friends–Cheryl White

Christmas is celebrated, in Lebanon, the eve of December 24th. Family and close friends (who are family too—by choice) get together to be merry, create new memories, exchange presents, and of course, celebrate the Newborn Child.

It is a treat for me to share with you the way my family celebrates Christmas Eve!

Flying Home for Christmas
I want to fly, spread my wings across the sky,
see the world from way up high,
I’m flying home for Christmas.

The house, the tree, and the manger are all decorated way back in November. The invitation list hardly varies from one Christmas to another. Those traveling into the Country, book their tickets months in advance.  Those who can’t make it, call to say how much they’ll miss being with all.

Present-buying takes some thinking–peeking at Santa’s list helps.

The Night Before Christmas
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse–Clement Moore

Well, that was in the story, The Night Before Christmas. In my house all the mice were abuzz.

Setting the table for the celebratory dinner has its own rituals–a glass of wine in hand, Christmas songs playing on the stereo, china/ glasses/silver clinking as they are placed on the table.  No table is ever complete without candles, and lots of them.  The table has to look just right.  We feast with our eyes too!

Christmas Eve day, the cooking commotion starts early and the kitchen turns into a welcoming area for all who drop by for a cup of coffee (before noon) or a glass of wine (in the afternoon) and invariably for tips to improve upon a recipe. The marinated turkey is all ready and placed in the oven by noon.  The cooking of cold and hot appetizers, soups, gravy, and side dishes continues until the first guest arrives–whew!  It’s a juggling act that takes timing and keeping dishes in various stages of preparations afloat.  The juggling act also involves consideration of the dietary needs of my vegan mom and my Muslim friends.  My daughter and her bestie have already baked the pumpkin pies (two pies for Christmas Eve and one to be tasted on the spot).

Papa Noël’s Time
Petit papa Noël
Quand tu descendras du ciel     (shhh–Santa does not always come this way 🙂 )

 At 6:00 pm, the house starts to be filled with friends, laughter, Merry Christmas wishes, and the joy of the kids.  All rush to look for their names on gifts under the tree. The evening and the festivities have officially started!

Santa makes his big entrance through the door.(I should have built a chimney! Anyway…)

Santa brings cheers to kids and grownups too.  Gifts are handed out with special requests to sing “Petit Papa Noel” and/or to confirm that we have been more nice than naughty.  (Requests vary depending on who is dressed up as Santa).

 

Dinner Is Served!.
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright 

Dinner is served at 8:30. The turkey smell is at the table – taking center seat. Compliments, a jingle to my ears, are uttered by one and all. They love the starters, the turkey and the other dishes (well, what can one say … I am a good cook 🙂 ). Time and energy spent preparing for this special Eve make the gathering just right.

Baby It is Cold Outside
I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)

While savoring “Buche de Noel,” Arabic desserts, and pumpkin pies, stories from Christmases past start to flow.  Reminisces and jokes fill the air.  We dim the lights; the glow of the candles and the twinkle from the Christmas tree make the ambiance dreamy.  Sheets, printed years ago, are passed around and altogether we start singing our favorite hymns and carols.  But over the years some people have claimed certain songs. “Baby, it is cold outside” is Miche and Mel’s specialty. There is something uniquely moving about this part of the gathering; and it is not the gifted voices. (Granted, some voices are better than others.) What is special is the love and affection we share for each other and the memories we create every year.

Every Christmas Eve is more or less a variation of previous years, but each year brings with it its special new joy. Christmas Eve connects family and friends anew and all cannot wait for next Christmas to come.

The gathering at Christmas Eve is what genuine hospitality is all about. It is the joy of receiving and sharing; the yumminess of homemade food and the jolly ambiance; the grace of time spent with our loved ones; the feeling of home away from home. Christmas Eve hospitality is living our precious moments and building new memories.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
ميلاد  مجيد , Fröhliche Weihnachten and Merry Christmas everyone!

Mona Chalhoub with my sis, Micheline Chalhoub

 

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