My first Christmas spent away from my family was while I was living in London and on Christmas day alone, I grew up from a child who only cared about the presents to a young adult who realized just how important family is.
In the months leading up to the holidays, I knew I was going to be apart from my family and I knew I would miss them. At 22, I had never been apart from my clan for the holidays. My family is huge, My Big Fat Greek Wedding huge, and we all live in the same vicinity so we always get together for the holidays. When I would tell non-relatives that our usual dinner count would be around 40, they would look at me like I was crazy but gargantuan family gatherings were always normal to me and I loved it.
In London, it was just my friend Liz and I and about 10 house mates for Christmas dinner. I instantly felt lucky that I had Liz and our housemates instead of being completely alone thousands of miles away from my family and our traditional Christmas. On the morning of , Liz and I exchanged gifts and started cooking breakfast – sausages and scones with clotted cream and jam. We went grocery shopping the day before and stocked up on all the foods we loved knowing the city would be shut down for the next two days. We were fully prepared to hibernate and vegetate on the couch watching movies.
Once the rest of the house was up and we wished everyone Happy Christmas, we started preparing dinner. Everyone broke into teams to each make a dish for our table. We cooked ham and pork, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and Liz and I made roasted vegetables. The house had two big communal kitchens but they were both reserved for cooking the meat and mashed potatoes so Liz and I resorted to cutting and dicing vegetables on the small wooden table in our bedroom right in between all of our beds, probably not the most conventional kitchen but it was fun because house mates would filter in and out of our rooms and sit and talk with us while we chopped and built a growing mound of veggies.
By the time six o’clock rolled around our dinner was ready for the taking. We set up a table in the common room and it was filled to capacity with all of our food and everything looked really appealing for people who were not regular cooks. We all sat around the table on big blue couches and stuffed ourselves silly.
After dinner we just layed about playing Jenga and watched “Wedding Crashers.” I never missed my family more than I did at that moment. I called them just as they were waking up and so wanted to be there eating the big breakfast we usually cooked and opening presents around our giant tree. I wanted to be there watching my Mom in the kitchen as she frantically tried to get all the food ready in time for the 40 family members that were coming for dinner. I never realized how important it all was until I did not have it.
However, sitting in the dark watching Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and surrounded by all of our house mates, I realized how lucky I was to have friends to celebrate Christmas with. They were all away from their families too. For the first time, I did not care about how many presents I got or the rush to buy presents for others. I cared about my breakfast with Liz and cooking with all of my house mates and getting to know them better. I was not alone but had a great group of people around me and there are a lot of people out there who are not that lucky. Every time Christmas rolls around and I am at home with my family, I always remember my Christmas in London. I do not think I will ever forget it and I hope I do not because anytime I get overwhelmed with the presents, I can just remember my Christmas abroad because it reminded me of what is really important this time of year.