Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday, December 24

Christmas is celebrated today instead of tomorrow here in Chile. I got up early and went for a run, and then Nancy, Monse, Maxi, and I started to decorate the millions of cookies that we had made the night before. We decorated for like 4 hours while we talked and listened to Christmas carols.
Then I went on Facebook and sent Merry Christmas messages to my friends from the US. I sent some to people that I haven’t talked to at all since I’ve been here, so it was nice to let them know that I’m still out here and breathing and loving and missing them.
By that time it was like 5 in the afternoon and we had to get ready to go over to our aunt and uncles’ house (they live like 5 minutes away) where we were going to celebrate Christmas with both sets of grandparents, our cousins, and our aunt and uncle. We brought all the presents that were under our tree because we were going to open them there.
When we got over to their house, Monse, my cousin Laurie, and I went out for a long bike ride. When we came back, we chilled in the house with the other kids for a while until 11 at night when they served a big dinner of fillet mignon and chicken and salad and potatoes and lots of other things.
They have their Christmas dinner a day early here. Then, we Skyped with Cristobal for a while and wished him a merry Christmas. The Chilean tradition is that at midnight, the family has to leave the house to walk around the block so that the Viejo Pasquero (Santa) can come to the house and leave the gifts. Before we left on the walk, I took off my jacket so I was in nothing but jeans and a thin tank top. After everyone got out of the house, I freaked out and realized that I was cold, so I had to go back to the house to get a jacket, and Maxi went with me. We quickly went in and put the Santa presents under the tree, then scattered a bunch of chocolates in a trail in the front walkway to alert the kids that el Viejo Pasquero had been there. Then we rejoined the group walking around the neighborhood.
There were a bunch of other families with little kids walking at the same time. When we got close to the house again, the three kids, Monse, Laurie, and Joaquin started running to see if Santa had come. When they saw the candy in the walkway they got super excited and picked it all up and then we all went inside to open presents. It was a whirlwind of everyone opening everything at the same time. Except the difference was that every time someone handed you a present from them, you have to hug and kiss them on the cheek before you open the present. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I was surprised to receive jeans, shorts, a few workout shirts, nail polish, and a bath set. I also think they were all really happy with the gifts I had chosen for them. I took the opportunity to wrap up the souvenirs I had brought them from Patagonia and give those away too. In that moment, when everyone was hugging and thanking each other, and getting excited about new presents, I really felt like I was a part of their family.
Most people say that Christmas is one of the hardest days for an exchange student because they miss their family so much, but that wasn’t true for me. I know my family loves me and will always be there for me, and I have always known that. However, this feeling of being completely accepted into the most important family celebration of the year with a new family in a new country was priceless and unforgettable and absolutely incredible. After opening presents, I played the new twister game Monse had received and then we went home around 3.

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