“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you,” Abby’s high-pitched voice rang through the house, our mixed tones joining in with hers. We all grinned at each other, giddiness spreading through each of us. Christmas happiness hovered in the air – the joy of family, the excitement of giving, the anticipation of gifts, the thankfulness in each of our hearts, the appreciation to our Lord and Savior who came to earth so long ago to save us, all mixed in the smiles of eight individuals who call themselves a family. Happy Christmas, as British people say, to all of you!
The Christmas season crept in unexpectedly and hit us in a flurry of paper snowflakes, blinking lights, choir booklets, and mincemeat pies. People left, Stage 1 ended, school closed, tearful good-byes were said, plans were put into action, decorations were hung up, and money carefully saved was happily pulled out. I can’t believe we’ve been here for twelve weeks.
These three weeks of break have been amazing. They provided the rest, fun, and quality time we needed. Plus, renting a van for these weeks has given us the golden opportunity to travel around the surrounding areas and actually experience England to the fullest.
Windsor Castle – this was our first “outing” we did at the beginning of the break. Richard (the head chef who also packed us lunches – thank you very much), Haley, Rachael, and we all hopped in cars and drove to the town of Windsor to visit Her Majesty’s official home. We spent most of the day up there gawking and playing the part of the typical American tourist.
Winchester – This quaint town was gorgeous. From seeing the legandary King Arthur’s Round Table, walking around Roman ruins, shopping in the renown Christmas Market, ice skating outdoors, and admiring the Winchester Cathedral, this trip was one of our favorites and we came home tired, hungry, a hundred pounds poorer, and very happy.
Pierrepont Carol Service – This annual service was at the end of Stage 1 and consisted of a Christmas play (of which we all played the Von Trapp Children and Rachael played Frauline Maria from Sound of Music), Christmas carols (Kimry and I were in the choir), Bible readings, traditional Christmas pudding, and much laughter. It was a fun night.
The Great Hall – The Great Hall, normally used for classes, was cleared out at the beginning of the break. The desks and chairs were replaced with sofas and the fireplace was lit (thank you, Tim). Many hours have been spent in there playing card games, Around the World PingPong, Hide and Seek, watching movies, eating, and so much laughing or simply talking. In addition, several team people from other Ellel bases in Europe stayed here for a week during Christmas break, so we spent a lot of time with them (those people can play some mean Dutch Blitz).
Christmas Eve – Thanks to some careful planning on Tim’s part and our help, Christmas Eve turned into a party. Worship, dancing, games, a potluck, and a movie filled the afternoon. From dancing to Hillsong worship videos, to playing musical chairs with twenty-three people, to eating Cheese Chowder my mom and I made in Cedars (we multiplied the recipe by 12), the night was a huge success and enjoyed by all.
Christmas Day – 7:23 a.m all of us kids jump on our parents’ bed, wide-awake and ready to begin the morning. After a quick run to Rachael’s dorm room to wake her up (she was being too slow according the the younger kids), we all sat in our lounge, giggling and ready to open the presents that decorated the room. The stockings were the best. Due to the issue of not having proper stockings, we resorted back to the origin of stockings and pulled out socks. My mom was laughing the whole time she shoved small gifts down the six, stretched-out socks. The morning was a lot of fun and the room was a mess (of course) afterwards. Lunch time rolled around and everyone on campus journeyed down to Cedars for the much-desired Christmas lunch. A 14-kilo turkey and sides were proudly displayed on the buffet table and the decorated room and tables drew gasps from everyone. The lunch was amazing. Thank you Cedars team, and thank God for an industrial dishwasher! :)
These three weeks aren’t over yet, and we look forward to the remainder, yet my parents also anticipate the coming of Stage 2 and the teaching they will receive. Each stage is more intense than the last, so please pray for them as they prepare to dive into these upcoming ten weeks.
Happy Christmas everyone!