Christmas Bhoj

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house.
Not a creature was sleeping, not even a louse.

We have eaten our fill in honour of various festival days throughout the year, and it only seemed fair to return the favour. So, on Christmas Eve this year, we invited the neighbours to a party.

We were intimidated by the idea of cooking vast portions of Nepali food, specifically mutton, for our community. The last time we fed someone a curry, the feedback was that it lacked saltiness. So, we sought cooking help from the owner/cook of a local restaurant. He came to our compound to cook for everyone.

He brought, 10kg of goat meat, with another 3kg of intestines to be curried. As well as 5kg of roast chicken, vegetables for a curry, masses of pickle and a 10kg bag of rice.  Goat meat is what makes for a real celebration – buffalo or chicken are acceptable, but goat means party time!

Next on the list were the cooking utensils and pans – giant pans. We borrowed some from the local lady’s development group. A co-op of women (including our landlady and several neighbours) who rent out party materials for such an event as this. In the storeroom we found chairs, speakers and cooking equipment. The ladies rent themselves out too – as party starters! They form a travelling group of red-sari wearing entertainers who sing, dance and bang drums and tambourines to get the party vibe going. Seemed like too good a deal to pass up.

Those of us available in the compound collectively peeled, and chopped the veg together while dried corn husks were lit as kindling for the cooking fires. Gentle conversation and the odd kick-about with a football ensued. And then as people started rolling in – we brought out – the giant ball!

For months children from the neighborhood have come to peer through our window at the biggest ball they had ever seen. Often they have asked us its purpose.  Instead of using it as an ergonomic office chair – we turned it into a giant bowling ball!

Laughter erupted as people bowled a yoga ball at Sprite bottles and an odd empty Pringles can. We all cheered and whooped as the winners collected After-Eight chocolates for knocking down all three pins.

The bowling could have gone all night, but instead we had to move on to the next game. Wendy hid different denominations of money in seven different clay jars (from approximately 5 cents up to 10 dollars)  from youngest to oldest everyone took turns being blind folded, spun around and sent forth with a giant stick to try and smash the clay pot with a single strike. Ever increasing numbers of people lined the arena, peering, shouting and laughing.  The bat would swing, mostly missing, sometimes breaking on the ground, sometimes breathtakingly close to a member of the crowd, but every now and again a pot smashed, the crowd cheered and someone counted their winnings.

Dinner followed, children first, then adults. We had told the cook that we expected about 40, he told me later that he dished up for 79.  The white baby was passed along from person to person, enjoying herself the whole time.  Nice to think that everyone was happy to join us for a Christmas meal.

After dinner came the singing. The rent-a-party troupe came into their own as they formed a circle of singers. We danced – we had no choice. Everyone laughed (but they always do when Simon dances!) People made up different songs, we slipped out and we watched our landlords and neighbours dance into the night.

It was a fun day, and our guests told us to invite them to next year’s Christmas party too.