I Found Santa’s Workshop!

There’s nothing like living overseas for a year-plus to make you appreciate being home for the holidays. This past month has been a whirlwind of visiting American friends and family as the husband and I have ranged from down south in Texas, all the way up to (what this Texas gal considers) the Far White North of Indiana. Although both of our overseas posts–China and Suriname–celebrated Christmas to some degree, the American Christmas experience is truly unique. In no other place that I’ve lived has the holiday been as sugary, extravagant, bustling, or glistening as I’ve found it to be in the States. Traveling home to share in all that chaotic cheer gives me an effervescent kind of happiness.

One of the moments on this trip that quintessentially captured American Christmas was a stop at Albanese candy store, AKA Santa’s Workshop. Some of our dear, Indiana-based friends took us to this massive–and I do mean massive–sweet shop in western Indiana. The instant we crossed the threshold, we ran into an almost palpable wall of warm, sugary scent. The sights were equally dazzling, with banks of home-made chocolates (maple truffles, malted milk balls, chocolate-covered animal crackers, turtles, haystacks, etc.) and endless bins of rainbow-colored gummy candies (did I mention that their gummy bears are home-made?! From scratch?!) Vintage-style candies lined the back of the store, and an extra wing of the shop boasted a glorious array of glittering Christmas baskets and speciality items. And as if that weren’t enough, a gigantic column coated with flowing molten chocolate stood sway in the midst of all the Christmas sparkle.

Considering all the temptation around, I was pretty proud of the fact that we walked away with only two packs of bubble gum cigarettes (a nostalgic favorite of my husband’s) and 1.5 pounds of chocolate candy (peanut butter meltaways, chocolate-covered cookie dough, and chocolate almond toffee). I’m also grateful that the Suriname to Indiana commute is long enough to prevent our being regulars at Albanese. Because my waist-line cannot take that abuse on a regular basis!

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Christmas in Suriname

It’s never easy being away from home during Christmas. My in-laws very graciously let me bawl my eyes out with no judgement the first time I spent the holiday with them in the Mid-West–my first Christmas outside of Texas. And bawl I did.

But being countries, rather than states, away can feel even stranger. I’m happy to report that Christmas is more of a thing in Suriname than it was in China. It’s more organically part of the culture, rather than a recent, Western addition. (China appears to have adopted Christmas in a mode similar to the way it’s adopted Starbucks). But no matter where you are, Christmas overseas has its side-effects, if you will. In the photos, you’ll notice the scrawny nature of our Christmas “tree.” (I’ve taken to calling it our Christmas shrub.) This sad little tannenbaum is a bi-product of my forgetting to order a tree from the States until it was too late, and there being no real ones locally available in Suriname. Similarly, I think my Indiana-born husband is having a tough time squaring 85°F with its being Christmas. (This is pretty typical for me, being a Gulf-Coast Texan.) There are lights in the house, eggnog in the fridge, presents and stockings wrapped up brightly… so why is he wearing shorts instead of sweaters? Continue reading “Christmas in Suriname”