Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day

I still associate the 26th of December with Boxing Day, as I remember it in New Zealand. Of course it was just a holiday there, and it had nothing to do with the origins of the holiday. I was reminded of it the other day, as I was talking with an English friend who lives near me about my birth country. She asked me what I missed most about it. The question surprised me; I have never really thought about what I miss from my previous homeland, even though I was born, raised and educated there. I don't seem to miss much.

There must be something you miss, she insisted. Family? I have family in New Zealand, but not the mother-father-sister-brother type (whereas my English friend has all of them in England). Aunts and cousins, once or twice removed, means that our bonds are now diluted, as we have all moved in different directions.

- Friends? Friends... that's a tricky one. I left at a time when all my friends and acquaintances were in life-changing modes - most were settling into careers, some were getting hitched, while others began travelling, like me, although very few ended up living in another country. We all moved on in some way; hence, my friends feel more like acquaintances now, while my acquaintances feel like passersby on the street. Few of us will remember each other, and in those moments that we do, we will probably say something like "I had a friend once who..."

- But there must be something you remember in New Zealand! she gasped diebelievelingly. You lived there long enough! What about the food? That's a funny one. In my days, Kiwi food consisted of cooked-from-scratch food, fresh ingredients (some garden-grown vegetables), meat from lambs the size of pigs, a few international dishes when I ate out, and some store-bought Kiwi desserts. Our mother cooked Greek dishes, which I continue to cook, not for any other reason than that I live in Greece, and cook according to tradition, because it makes sense and resources are cheap and easy to access.

I used to make the occassional Kiwi sweet treat... but I notice that my kids really don't prefer them these days, so I don't actually make them much now, apart from banana cake  muffins from time to time. At any rate, I eat most of the gingernut flavoured sweets myself, which is why I purposely avoid making them. I used to tell people I missed pineapple lumps, but when friends bring them to me from New Zealand, I find them too sweet for my tastebuds. I've now grown out of them. In fact, I have even developed likings for European Christmas treats. Thanks to LIDL, I've developed a taste for stollen and lebkuchen at this time.

Marzipan-filled stollen and chocolate-coated lebkuchen - Italian panettone is also widely available in Crete, and popular as an alternative to Greek Christmas treats. 

I don't miss anything from New Zealand any more. I suppose I could say that I am now more Cretan than I am Kiwi, which I don't think I ever was to be honest, or even Greek, which is misunderstood these days, both by Greeks and and non-Greeks. Possession of a passport does not necessarily make you something. There has to be a certain feeling associated with it, which I seem to lack in terms of my Kiwi status. My not feeling proud to be a Kiwi should not be taken as meaning that I am proud to be Greek instead; I'm against nationalistic hang-ups. My parents instilled in me the idea of being proud of earning something with your own sweat, rather than of being proud of something you were simply born with. 

The embroilment of Greece in the crisis, taking centre stage in it, coupled with the stigma that has been attached to being Greek, have all heightened my awareness of what I am. If there is anything I am proud of, it's the fact that I was born and raised a Greek among strangers.

Getting back to my friend's question about what I miss from New Zealand, perhaps, if I were pressed to find something, I'd say it was a Christmas cracker. I haven't seen one of those in ages. I did once make my own (in the classic DIY way, by collecting toilet rolls), but snaps aren't available in Crete, and there's no fun in a Christmas cracker if there's no snap. Come to think of it, it would be nice to see a Christmas cracker at this time too. Perhaps that's one thing I do miss.

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