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Christmas 2000 was my 21st time celebrating the holiday, and the first time I had spent it without my family. Since I was studying abroad, I couldn't afford to come home, so Christmas was spent with friends I had only known for about two months. Even though I am very much not an emotional person, spending my first Christmas away from home was a very strange time for me.

First, I tried to duplicate some of my family traditions by myself and with friends. I found a recipe for gingerbread houses and tried to make one, only to have it condemned by my engineering roommate before I gave up and got sick on M&Ms. The gingerbread men suffered third degree burns and had to be admitted to the gingerhospital. Second, despite what the gingerbread had taught me, I tried to cook some Christmas dinner. The smashed potatoes turned out pretty good...

My roommates were gone, two had flown back to the states for the holidays, the others were natives. The people I was planning to spend Christmas with didn't get back from travelling until Christmas Eve, so I spent my time watching rented movies and TV. I put the two or three Christmas cards I got in the mail up on the TV, and glanced at them while I watched the cheesey Christmas specials or the adult shows that came on late at night.

Most everyone must spend at least one Christmas away from the family that they grew up with. Perhaps it's easier when you're spending it with your spouse's family or a loved one. It seems like a rite of passage to me, perhaps breaking one of the final dependent ties to your parents. I ended up really enjoying Christmas, spending it with new friends, who were in the same situation as me. And while the food I cooked may have turned out rather bad, my friends aren't half bad cooks.

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