Saturday, December 20, 2008

a Christmas tradition

yesterday we celebrated Christmas with our kids at Steps of Hope. (hey - shameless self-promotion! i helped make this website possible! it's mostly the program i used .. but still. there's a site where there wasn't one before :) and a big part of that celebration was going caroling. to various families who wanted us to come. we met at the office first for some games and playing and rehearsing and eating cookies (the kids mixed them up and i baked them) .. and then we started by singing to the school principal. we had 4 songs that we'd practiced (the only one i knew before this month was 'away in a manger' with 'slightly' different words :) and we sung all four of them at almost every place we went.

we left the office about 3.30, and by my count, we visited 7 families. with a total of about 18 kids and 4 adults, with our feet as transportation. i'd guess that the average walk between homes was more than 15 minutes. partially because we weren't speed walking, but also because of where people live and who got home from work when. we finished at the 7th home about 7pm .. so 3 and a half hours or so. personally, i think i only sat down at one of the homes, so the bulk of that was on my feet (even those who sat only did so for a few minutes here and there). i would say we walked at least 5 miles. maybe more .. after the 7th home, about half the kids went home and the other half (the older ones) got on a tram to head to one of the kids' homes about 35 minutes away (by tram!).. i personally opted out of this last one because it would have meant arriving home after 9, and i was already tired (and homesick) at that point. and .. before i even arrived at the office, i had already walked at least 3 miles and had to walk another 1.5 to get home. which means that i probably walked about 10 miles .. and my body certainly felt it last night!

at almost every home we visited, the door was opened and as many as could crowded into their hallway/small foyer (most romanian apartments have foyers where shoes are taken off and coats are hung). we sang our four carols (with two girls alternating 'giving the tone' meaning they sang the first line of the song. this is typical for how a tone is given here.) and then the family invited us to sit down in their living room, again not quite all fitting. they had some sort of sweet for us (often more than one kind of cookie) and something to drink, typically coke or another soda. and if you don't eat, sometimes they get offended. hospitality is culturally very important .. so it is polite to both offer (a few times if it's not received at first) and also to accept what is given. which means that by the end of the night, even though we only went to 7 houses, we were sugared out! a couple of the houses gave us fruit in addition to or instead of sweets, which was very nice! i had heard about this tradition but hadn't been able to experience it for myself, so this was quite a treat.

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