The last place I expected to find myself on a snowy Christmas Eve was at the base of Mount Hood, dodging snowballs lobbed by people I hardly knew.
Christmas Eve in my family is sacred. It is better than Christmas Day, surrounded by family and food and warmth and fire and laughter and tradition.
Somewhere far away, my family was celebrating. And there I was, stuck in Oregon, alone for the holidays.
But God is so good. He had tossed me gently right where I needed to be: surrounded by other far-from-home Christmas celebrators. I had been invited along to join a group of people transplanted from New Mexico to Oregon. They are all core members of Reason Church, a brand-new church plant looking to give the PDX community a reason to live for, not just rules to live by.
(This is, by the way, my shameless plug: starting January 17th in the Bossanova Ballroom on East Burnside, Reason will be launching right here in Portland. I’m so stoked.)
Anyway, these wonderful people welcomed me into their Christmas without batting an eye.
We were all holiday misfits, far from home.
When we had all properly worn ourselves out from an impromptu holiday snowball fight, I found myself drawn to the one comfortable room in any house — the kitchen (obviously). One of the housemates was a fellow Le Cordon Bleu student from the Dallas campus, who kept us all fed with hearty omlettes in the morning, dusted liberally with cayenne and brimming with golden bacon lardons and sauteed mushrooms.
He also made hash browns so lovely and golden they kept the crew full all day. Luckily, I was recruited to help prep chicken breasts for Christmas dinner, which allowed me the ease of community that can only be found in the kitchen, and helping cook Christmas dinner gave my otherwise idle hands something to do.
Our Christmas dinner was delicious, the warmth of the table pulling us all out of our uncertain shells as we ate massive stuffed chicken breasts and mashed potatoes that were more likely half butter than actual potato.
It felt a little like we became a family in that moment, everyone pitching in a little to set the table, fetch groceries, cook the meal, clean the dishes, make dessert, brew coffee.
Granted, I hardly knew these people. But we were brought together to celebrate the season, tied together in gratitude over our shared meals and seemingly endless pots of coffee. (What else could be expected from Portlanders on holiday?)
Everything was brought to the core, the simplest reason for the season. Yes, holidays are about being with family and friends and the ones we love. But at the end of the day, isn’t Christmas the simplest, sweetest celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth? Aren’t we supposed to join over a meal– no matter who with– and take a moment to just be overwhelmed at this incredible, miraculous moment that we still celebrate hundreds and hundreds of years later?
Our nice wine glasses were filled with eggnog or apple juice. Dessert was a rich cookie/brownie baked good that combined chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and brownies in one sinfully sugary bite.
It was, without a doubt, one of my more memorable Christmases.
Yes, I was surrounded by people other than my near and dear family. But these people became family, too, all held together by the miracle of Christmas. And it was a beautiful thing.
Here’s hoping your holiday was warm and welcome as well. Keep an eye out for my New Years party recipes… definitely working on some 2016 kitchen magic on this side of the internet!