Snow is falling, all around me…

Really. And it’s beautiful. It’s always a funny time of year though, with lots of ups and downs. Expectations, combined with that inevitable urge to hibernate in light of the changing season, often create a rather mixed bag of emotions and experiences. It’s a good time to realise what really matters though and, despite all the distractions, I always find its a time when I can start getting my head together about the new adventures to come.

Time for parties and celebration,
People dancing all night long

How  you do Christmas varies not just between countries but between families too. It’s a recurring topic here now – perhaps as it’s a rather convenient means of diverting the conversation from exams and which question you completed in the last one – “how do you celebrate Christmas?”

But in all honesty, it really is fascinating. In most countries, the idea of turkey and cranberry sauce being a decadent Christmas treat to be repeated every year is met with a rather blank stare of bewilderment. In Ukraine for instance, they typically enjoy 12 different dishes and in France or Luxembourg a magret de canard is not uncommon as the main dish.  It begs the question of how different traditions evolve, what their roots are.

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Celebrating Sinterklaas Fest College of Europe style!

One tradition we don’t have in the UK, but which I really rather like, is the Sinterklass Fest. This takes place on the 6th of December and involves Sinterklaas arriving from Spain to give presents to children.

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Me with my cosy gifts: Pooh Bear Tigger and the all important Kinder Surprise

We aren’t really children (although arguably ‘student’ is sometimes a synonym), but Nadia, Luc and Sarah had a fabulous idea to arrange a little Sinterklaas festival of our own. Everyone was assigned a name (randomly by the magic of computers) known only to them and had to buy a present for that person. They then wrapped it anonymously and placed it under the tree, accompanied by a poem giving hints about the contents, or about the giver. People went to such great efforts and we had a tremendous laugh reading the poems out, it was a really pleasant way to take a break from exams.

Having brought 18 mince pies and 2 Christmas cakes from home, I’m hoping to run a little British Christmas tea soon too – I’m sure it will go down well, especially with a few renditions of ‘Spaceman’ and ‘Stop the cavalry’ playing in the background – but I hope there will be the chance for trying out more exotic Christmas traditions!

Room is swaying, records playing,
All the old songs, we love to hear…

It’s a nice time for reflection too. But you do need to look to the future and always remember that things get better with time. Seeing everyone having fun can really exaggerate feelings of loneliness and this tends to get compounded when you’re stressed. People are getting closer together, but it’s important to see those who are perhaps not feeling so included, especially at this sensitive time of year.

It’s hard when we’ve got exams, as well as presents and cards, not forgetting the prospect of travelling home to think about. But there is always time to spend with others and yourself.

I was lucky enough last Sunday to go to the Wilanów Palace for an afternoon out for Reece’s birthday. It’s getting harder to leave the golden cage at this time, as every moment outside feels a little like trespassing on that all important study time, but it was well-worth it and I think he had fun too!

It was built in 1696 and is absolutely stunning. Throughout December, they also have a light show. Whilst it would have been better with music, it was definitely up to the 5pln we paid. Afterwards, accompanied by Reece, Craig and Roman we celebrated both Reece’s 22 years and the reassuring Austrian election result with a fire, a cat , mulled wines and pierogi: I haven’t felt so cosy and satisfied for ages.

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Heartwarming homemade pierogis and pickled cucumbers by the fire: what more do you need?

It’s the season,
Of love and understanding

So it’s getting rather snowy and cold here, and there will inevitably be a post dedicated almost solely to artsy-pictures of the white stuff in the forests coming soon. But I’m trying to stay busy, and warm here, both inside and out.

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

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