Saturday, December 23, 2006

Balkan Christmas

In Sarajevo, I can't visit excessively decorated stores packed with shoppers Zombified by the endless playing of carols --but I'm listening to Bing Crosby singing White Christmas thanks to my friend Julie Bird who sent me three CD's packed with carols.

And I don't have cards taped all over the door and window frames but I do have a computer file filled with funny singing e-cards.

I don't have a lovely smelling tree, but I do have a funny beaded red tree, a gift from another friend, and I spent the week cat-sitting at the Posners whose tree is a fantasy of ornaments from all over the world.

I don't have my family -- but I do have a collection of new friends here who seem to love Christmas as much as I do. I'm not working to rev up everybody else this year. Last night, the Bonames, who have a son and daughter who still believe in Santa and who get glassy-eyed at the sight of a decorated tree, hosted a wonderful party. It had the works: eggnog and fancy cakes and ham and turkey and lots of wine with guests from all over the globe. I talked with a woman from Cypress much of the night. Ok, they have that at all their parties. But last night, their place was alight with decorations handed down from their family including mechanical toys with skaters and tobaggan riders endlessly circling their coffee table. And Elizabeth, beautiful in black silk with a knee-length orange scarf, made everyone sit after eating and listen to her read the Mole Family's Christmas as if we were in grade school. The reading is a tradition in her family and the book was a gift to her daughter from her father. "Do you want us to get the kids?" we asked. "Nah, they won't listen anyway," she said. And we laughed. They were all hepped up on the candy Santa brought and jumping around. She was right. So we listened, kids again ourselves. This reminded me of the best trip I ever took to Disney World; it was as an adult with my money, sans kids.

Our friend Bob inpersonated Santa. He came to the door and the kids were human pogo sticks flocking around him. I am such a sucker for this stuff.

I baked all day for the next round of parties. Thank you Jennifer for sending Bisquick which makes the best banana nut bread and chocolate chip cookies. Tonight a co-worker and his wife invited me to their place for about the best calimari I've ever eaten. I kept saying, but you aren't even Italian. How did you do this. On Christmas Eve Beth, a freelance reporter here, is hosting a potluck dinner for which I am conscripted to bring salad and, of course, cookies. and then on Christmas we all head back to the Posner's again. I have to work during they day but we are talking about all going out to lunch together since it's a holiday. My assignment for the nighttime gathering is bring wine --and the lyrics to as many Christmas carols as I can find online. I can hear the drunken singing already.

Have I mentioned that it snowed all last week. The city is sparkly -- and deadly -- with snow and ice. I fell twice today but nothing is bruised. And along the pedestrian walkway in the old city a caravan of vendors has blossomed selling cheap toys and tinsel and Christmas balls and -- even though they are explicitly outlawed for sale -- a staggering array of multi-colored fireworks. I love seeing these burly dark Bosniacs in ratty felt Santa beards and hats, puffing away at their cigarettes.

This is Christmas as I always imagined it. Odd. Up to this year I only ever felt this way watching Christmas portrayed on TV or remembering when I was a kid.

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