December 19, 2010

Warm your heart with hugs, sincerity and a mug of spiced wine

Our lives wouldn't be the same without you. My mom pointed out this line from a friend's Christmas card, and told me how much she liked the sentiment because of it's sincerity and simplicity.

The annual Griesel Christmas party was last night. My parents host an open house each year to celebrate the past year with friends, coworkers past and present, and family. The preparations for this Christmas-in-Germany-themed party began in September, but it all came together about 6 o'clock last night with the arrival of the first guests.

My mother had decked our halls with real greenery, lights and a massive Christmas tree. There were candles and sparkling ornaments, festive table settings and even my gingerbread house. My parents had baked dozens of traditional German cookies, cake balls and other holiday goodies. Achim prepared sauerkraut and ham shanks, bratwursts and pork chops in giant roasters. Our bar was stocked with German beer and warm, spiced wine. I contributed German licorice and expert opinions on decor and food.

From its humble beginnings, this party has gained a serious following and has become quite an event. As I have become an adult in the past few years, I have come to appreciate this party more. Last year, for example, the party was the day after my graduation from UNK and just weeks before my departure for Cambodia. With those two events as my conversation pieces, I made friends with lots of people at the party, and I gained a network of adults who are still rooting for me.

This year, I wasn't planning my jump into the unknowns of Southeast Asia, but I am still forging my way into adulthood. It was reassuring for me to catch up with people who have watched me mature, and people who will commiserate with the difficult process of figuring it all out.

The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of others, to be generous, and above all, to be thankful for the good things in our lives. Our friends and family are worth celebrating all year, but it is important to take time to show appreciation for the impact of others on our lives.

This morning, as I enjoy the leftover food from the party, I am appreciating the people in my life. I am lucky to have friends and family who support and care about me. It wouldn't be the same without you.