UPDATE: For those who could not see the content in the most recent blog post, here it is! For some reason, wordpress did not view it correctly the first time.
Sometimes it is easier to just use an all-inclusive greeting, especially when it has been a while since greeting you all! Christmas was very special this year. Not only was this the second year that our family could celebrate together, it was even more significant to celebrate with Xavier being a little more cognizant of the season.
Most nights we read an advent reading, lit advent candles, and ushered in the remembrance of the coming of Christ. Some days Xavier would wait to eat his food once the devotional was done, other days he would be half done before we could finish praying. He would always end the prayer with an “Amen!” It was still a good family tradition for us!
We celebrated the actual holiday of Christmas quite different than other years as we joined our friends’holiday traditions. The custom here (and maybe this is true for other Catholics around the world) is to fast all day on Christmas Eve. Again for here, fasting means no meat (with hte exception of fish) or animal proteins (milk, butter, cheese, etc.).
We showed up to our friends’ house around 5 and sat down for an evening meal of grilled trout, potatoes, squid, and Francuski Salata, which is basically like 3 of the 7 layers in Seven Layer Salad. It’s mainly mayo and some veggies. Not sure how mayo slipped through the fasting cracks. For Catholics here, the fast is broken after midnight, once midnight mass is performed. Leading up to midnight we played games, talked, and spent time remembering about Christmases and life in the past.
After midnight, we feasted! Oh did we feast! Lamb is the main event when breaking the fast. We also threw down on some cured meats, cheeses, and sweets. It was almost like celebrating New Years. We were all watching the clock and anticipating midnight. Once midnight struck, the Croatian TV Networks started streaming midnight masses from all over Croatia or Rome and we greeted each other with a kiss and a “Sretan Božić (you guessed it, Merry Christmas).
It really was a great night of anticipation and then celebration, quite different from other Christmases for us. We left about 1.30 AM and returned home to sleep. Xavier gave us the biggest Christmas gift of all by sleeping in until 9, quite different from his usually 6-6.30 wake up time. The biggest Christmas tradition I brought with me to our family is Christmas morning breakfast. Usually this is a big spread of pancakes or waffles, eggs, sausage, and whatever else I can find.
Sadly, the power was out when we got up. And stayed out. Til almost noon. No breakfast for us, on Christmas morning at least! We did have Christmas breakfast the next day. Once Xavier got up, we opened gifts, which seeing a child opening gifts, regardless if he has any idea why he is, is always a treat. We didn’t really do the Santa thing. People here celebrate St. Nikolas day on Decemeber 12. That is the day they put our boots and St. Nikolas brings them candy. You see Western Santa everywhere here now, but more as decoration rather than belief. So for this year we just skidded past Santa. I am sure we will tell Xavier about Santa and St. Nikolas, but I doubt he will get the full American Santa experience as long as we live in BiH.
The rest of Christmas day we went from house to house eating some food and celebrating with friends. We ate a lot. A lot. It was a great time to get around to those close to us and celebrate together. Monday and Tuesday we spent having people in our home, eating more food. Again, a lot.
Fast forward to Wednesday. The Nettletons, our team leaders, offered to watch Xavier so that we could get out of town for a few days. We never really got out for our anniversary and had a couple days of time-off left. That, partnered with the fact that some friends in Split were going back to the States for Christmas and left their flat for us to use, we could not pass up the chance to get out of Livno, sans kid.
It was nice. Really nice. Slow. Relaxed. We missed our little guy, but enjoyed the freedom to sit at a coffee bar, go to a movie, and not worry about nap times or attention diversions. We saw Sherlock Holmes in a Split movie theater, ate Chinese food from real Chinese people, and walked around a mall. These are things we do not have in Livno.
We came back Friday afternoon just in time for Krista to come down with some kind of virus. New Year’s was spent at home, with Krista going to bed at 10 and me watching some college basketball via the internet. The fireworks went crazy at midnight and I rolled over to tell Krista, “Happy New Year.”
Today we are getting back to our normal routines, with the exception of Krista still being ill. It has been both exhausting and relaxing this holiday season. Although we missed being with family and familiarity, it was nice to celebrate with our community. We are thankful for that. We praise God for the reason for this celebration. We are thankful for Jesus Christ, who in order to save man from his sins, came to Earth to walk as we do and suffer so that we wouldn’t have to. Forgiveness and reconciliation begins with the Advent season.
We are excited to tell Xavier more of that story and see others around us experience the true nature of Christ. Not religion and piety, but the real teachings and actions of Jesus Christ. Hope you guys had a great holiday season and look forward to the coming year!
Below are some pics from the last couple of weeks.