When it was still Christmas Future, it looked like we would never get here, or maybe be deported.

When it was Christmas Present, well, here’s how it went:

On Christmas Eve day, we went out around the town to do some last minute shopping. Although around here, everyone shops then, so we didn’t feel like those bachelors back home who wait until so late on December 24th that they end up buying everyone’s gifts at Rite-Aid—you know those guys??


We picked up the final ingredients we needed for our feast and then headed home to put everything together.

In the evening, we relaxed and watched a movie. In fact, Mark relaxed so much that he fell asleep 10 minutes into the movie. So, really, I watched United 93 all by myself—very uplifting for Christmas Eve, not quite the same feel as, say, going to Midnight Mass and eating enchiladas.

On Christmas morning, we woke up and walked the hound. Then we came back and opened the little presents we got for each other. Perhaps you are wondering what kind of loot we found here? Well, Mark got a new pair of shoes he needs and some bath salts (for his nasty, there’s-a-fungus-among-us feet), and some gum and candy in his stocking. I got a couple of books, some warm pajamas, and some ear muffs. Yes. Ear muffs. People wear them here. And after walking the hound this morning without my ears covered, I will be wearing them, too, even if they make me look like a hound myself!

Then I made pancakes. They were a little more dense than the kind from home, but not bad. And we had found some blueberry preserves that were most delicious on the pancakes. We took a long, long nap, and then began preparing the feast.

Let us discuss the feast.

Anthony brought over the ingredients for, and made here, a shrimp and pasta dish which was quite good. I made my first-ever banitsa, which was a bit nerve-wracking because I did not know until the last minute that Anthony was bringing his girlfriend (I try not to name unsuspecting people here in the blog, so we will just call her Girlie, ok?). And she is a Bulgarian. The LAST thing I wanted to do was experiment with a traditional Bulgarian dish in front of a legit Bulgarian. But it came out pretty good! And we had a traditional Bulgarian salad (Shopska salad) and potatoes.

And then there was Mark’s steak.

Or, better referred to as Mark’s beef jerky. You literally could not saw through it. And if you got the knife to score a piece off, then you BECAME the cow, seemingly chewing on a piece of cud for hours at a time.


Here’s a picture of the offending meat:


In all fairness to Mark, the beef here, as previously mentioned, is not of the good-old-Texas variety at home. The cows here must be marathon runners or something, because there is no juicy fat anywhere to be found. To resolve the bad cuts of meat, Girlie suggested we go to a small butcher shop just a few blocks from our flat, because she knows he can cut a good piece of meat.

“True, true”, I agree. “But how will I tell him I would like a London broil in Bulgarian”.

“I see the problem,” she answered.

I know I keep swearing off the beef here. But. It’s like a challenge now. We will find a decent piece if it kills us with E. Coli or breaks off a tooth first. This, we vow!

And so we made endless beef jokes and laughed about old Christmases when we were kids. Girlie asked if American families really do get in fights on Christmas, or if that was just something Hollywood made up for movies…HAHAHA We laughed. Of course we have epic battles at Christmas! And then we all recounted our favorite Christmas family fights and it made us yearn to be home.

She had a hard time understanding this. “Why all the stress? Why all the drama?”, she pondered. It was hard to explain to someone who lives in a country where Christmas trees are barely put up for sale a week before the holiday. Where Christmas did not exist for 50 years during Communism, and its return has been with a bit of apprehension. They’ve only had 18 years to get into the groove. We’ve had hundreds to create the consumeristic nightmare we know it to be.

“Give yourselves a few decades in capitalism”, I told her. “You’ll see!” And we laughed our knowing, capitalistic chuckle.

And so went our Christmas, surprisingly quite fun and funny (although Mark has yet to really see the humor in the Steak Incident of 2006.)

And so ends Christmas 2006. Christmas Past! On to New Year’s…

**Coming Soon: How Bulgarians celebrate the holidays, the disastrous trip here, and yes! the worm story I promised you!