yesterday, at least Western and Central Europe. We descended on my sister's Greek-Cypriot sister-in-law and discovered that they had invited many more family and friends-with-nowhere-to-go and a few strangers as well.
They have a wonderful space for entertaining. They designed their home so as to be able to entertain family and, somehow, other people get invited as well.
We are considered 'family', after all my sister married her brother and that is good enough. It does not make us Greek-Cypriot-Australians. We are quite definitely Scottish-Australians. My sister's SIL married a Macedonian. They have Albanian neighbours who need to be included. Then there is their own German neighbour who lost her husband almost twenty years ago. They always invite her to Christmas lunch. One of the cousins married an Italian. There is the Welsh-Dutch one engaged to another Greek and the Russian girlfriend of the Greek-Italian family's son. There are three complete strangers. They are Bulgarian refugees. The child is eleven and calmly interprets occasionally for her mother. The father's accent is heavy and he struggles to find words at times. There is a relationship between Macedonian and Bulgarian which helps.
My Greek brother in law explains what I do and leaves me to help keep the conversation jerking along.
There is food, far too much food. They do a BBQ, bread and salads. There is a long break and then Greek sweets, cheesecake I have made because they love it and claim not to know how to make it. There are cherries to eat and the usual pip-spitting contest onto the vacant block of land next door to their home.
This year my sister's father in law did not dress as Father Christmas to hand out the gifts to the children. That role was passed to the eldest grandchild, my eldest nephew here. He is 22, a young man studying medicine. He did it differently from his grandfather. He knows his cousins are growing up and that, now, it is just a bit of fun for the benefit of their grandparents as much as themselves. Photographs are taken, video is shot. There is laughter.
I watch the young Bulgarian girl. She is laughing but she has hold of her mother's hand. Then there is one more parcel in Santa's sack. He produces it, looks carefully at the label and says as he has for each child, "This is for Liliana. Is there a Liliana here today?"
She goes pink, blinks and walks up to him. He gives it to her and, with the smallest of curtseys, she accepts it with a smile that reaches right into her dark hair. She is part of the family now. Christmas is complete.