A Special International Christmas

Greetings and salutations,

I’m writing this post from State College, Pennsylvania where the weather has been extraordinarily warm. Had a couple of days of on and off rain but looks like there is some colder weather on the way.

This post started out titled “On the trail to Pennsylvania” but the trail wasn’t that eventful or interesting. Think I-90 from Madison to the Indiana line on other side of Chicago then driving on I-80 all the way to State College. Here’s a photo of downtown Chicago on the trail to PA.

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We did break up the trip to PA into two days, staying the night in Shipshewana, Indiana. We really like that town, there’s a large settlement of Amish and Mennonites with lots of interesting shopping at Yoder’s (several stores with Yoder in their name), the Mercantile and E and S Sales. Donna enjoys the many quilt shops and I like seeing the horse drawn buggies driving through town. Here’s the one photo I took of the buggies tied up outside the bank.

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And here’s the one photo taken from the car just after crossing over the Ohio border into Pennsylvania.

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So what made this Christmas so special is what we did and who we spent it with. On Christmas Eve, we helped Melanie and Daniel (our daughter and son-in-law) prepare and serve a meal at their church. The Community Cafe is open every Thursday evening through out the year and serve a wholesome meal to who ever comes. Attendees include women from the nearby domestic abuse shelter, homeless, international students, elderly, physically disabled, families, and some church members. A diverse cross section of the community. The weekly menu is created from mostly donated and some purchased ingredients. A big shout out to the State College Trader Joe’s for donations and providing team members for helping prep and serve meals. Excess ingredients such as bread, desserts, fruit and vegetables are set out for attendees to take home. Here’s a couple of photos of the food prep.

Anyway, we had a great time working the kitchen and serving line. It was also fun talking with the attendees. Santa made a visit during the dinner to deliver presents for all the kids in attendance. For a couple of families, this was their Christmas and the only presents the kids received this year. Here’s Santa!

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Christmas Day we shared dinner with Penn State international students; Roshan (Hindu) from India; David (Christian) from Uganda; and Mohammed and Nur (Muslim) from Malaysia. Interestingly, we all are from countries that were once colonies of Great Britain. Celebrating Christmas was a first for all of them and we talked about holidays they celebrate in their traditions and countries. They were curious about Christmas, for example, David (he’s been in the US for four months) asked, “What’s Santa?!” Their version of Santa is called Father Christmas. Nur had never eaten brussel sprouts and none of them had ever had pirogies (a Ukrainian dish we usually have on Christmas eve). What a great time we had visiting and learning from them, they were delightful. For fun activities, we decorated gingerbread cookies and did a dessert fondue.

We ended the day by playing board games (it was a first for them) and of course eating some more. Then did our traditional group photo.

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Well, we are sadly heading home tomorrow morning but memories of a fun Christmas will be traveling with us.

Happy New Year!

Until next week,

Tom

3 thoughts on “A Special International Christmas

    1. Yes, so true. It is also true locally, if we know our neighbors there might be less bickering. Don’t recall who said it “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

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