(Cross-posted on all our major blogs.)
It is Christmas morn. Annikki and my email Inboxes are filled with greetings from all corners of the globe.
63er Stephanian Ajay called me on a Skype video link from his farmhouse in Lund, Sweden. (I was able to see him, but as I am still having a problem finding an economic web camera for my Apple Mac, he could not see me!)
Chaff participant Kannan, who is taking his mother on a pilgrimage called us from Kashi, Varnasi, India.
Chaff participant Tingting checked in from her home town in Northeast China where she reported all the shops were open and brimming with customers.
63er Stephanian Aftab Seth (the twin brother of Roshan Seth who acted as Nehru in the movie "Gandhi") from Japan, 66er NCRTer Christie Robert from Malaysia, 60er Cathedralite Mehfooz Ahmed from Saudi Arabia, 62er Ranko Ivancevic from Cerbia, 95er Oulu University Ramesh Devu from Silicone Valley, California, USA; from India - 57er Cathedralite and 61er Stephanian Ashok (Tony) Jaitly (retired Chief Commissioner in Kashmir) from New Delhi, Cathedralite 59ers Viney Sethi and Vijay Shivdasani from Mumbai, cousin Satish Abraham from Kerala, Catheralites 43er Naval and 54er Armaity Patel from Mysore, etc...., from Finland Rotarian Ville Suomi, Women's Empowerist Ildiko Hamos, Chaff participant Pekka Keranen and family, on and on.... were among those who shared their greetings with both Annikki and me.
This made us feel profoundly humble that so many hundreds of you, of every age group, took the time to share your thoughts of the season with us.
On our part, we have made it a tradition to ask a couple of young foreigners who have no family here in Oulu, to join us for our very simple Christmas meal.
Year-before-last it was a young Tanzanian lady, Christine. Last year it was Kannan. This year we called two youngsters, Benjamen Hayes and Kanchan Gupta.
Benjamin is from Australia. He has been here for a few months. He is all what I call Australian, friendly, outgoing, understanding and a lovely human being.
We have a rule in our home that no gifts are exchanged at Christmas. For us, the time for giving is not one day, but the whole year.
Despite this, Benjamin brought me a CD which he cut of some of really best jazz tunes he has collected. Even as I write this I am listening to the CD "Jazz for Jacob". Forever-lasting melodiies, oldies rendered by many great artistes, as George Benson (Eternally) and Diana Krall's "Cry Me A River".
There is beautiful message on the back cover:
"And promise will come
To those whose kindness,
Leaves you without debt,
And bends the shape
Of things to come,
That haven't happened yet."
These are words of the New Zealand pop star Neil Finn, whose career from 1976 till today has been an inspiration to many, including me.
We had also asked Indian newcomer to Oulu, Bihari Kanchan Gupta, to join us. Unfortunately, he went for a walk on the previous day, fell and hurt his hand. He obviously consumed an overdose of pain-killers, which put him to sleep.
When I rang his doorbell to pick him up, and also rang his mobile several times during the course of the evening, he was in deep sleep and dead to the world.
He woke up after our meal was over, just about midnight, telephoned us, apologetic, but sadly, he missed a feast!
Annikki's mother, now 86, was also in a festive mood wearing the elf's hat, as she enjoyed what delicacies that were on offer.
I prepared the turkey. As I was thinking what filling to make, Annikki, as usual, came up with a most humourous and unusal suggestion. We had a box of chicken wings on the shelf. She suggested I stuff the turkey with that.
We laughed our guts out.
I had fun making a new Christmas dish, roast turkey stuffed with chicken wings beautifully flavoured with herbs and light spices carried in plenty of onions!
The meal was fully traditional Finnish in other ways.
The menu: Apple juice and orange juice to accompany Christmas brown bread made with a trace of molasses syrup, pickled herring, salted salmon slices, freshly tossed salad, potato salad, mushroom salad, turnip casserole, carrot casserole, roast potatoes, and, of course, the roast turkey stuffed with chicken wings! Afters were whipped cream with chocolate swiss roll and Annikki's own Christmas cake, full of all the rich dry fruits. Coffee to end the evening.
Mika, had his fill as well. Annikki's brother, who lives as a hermit in the forest, also landed up on the doorstep. Annikki put him to sleep in the cellar. He slept through the meal but enjoyed it later!
It was a true Christmas spirit as Benjamin had a tour around Annikki's garden and enjoyed the humour and simplistic creativity and beauty of what makes us so happy, day-in and day-out!
We finally thanked our Creator and Maker for all the simple things in life which make us so happy.
But, this year we dearly missed our grandchildren, Daniel, Asha and Samuel, who are holidaying in Florida with their parents!