[Version française sur le site de La Recherche]
What makes you feel like Christmas is coming? Christmas lights in the streets? Music and advertisements? Chaos in shopping malls? Markets with smells of gingerbread and hot wine ? Days getting shorter? For me, it is the date at the bottom right corner of my computer screen.
In our dome, the closest we have to Christmas lights is the strip of LEDs we installed because, as days get shorter, our solar panels cannot power the main lights. Music and advertisements do not reach us, as we do not have radio or magazines, or even Internet access. There is of course no mall or market, and the smell of the food we rehydrate does not really evoke Christmas. And as we are never outside, except for occasional EVAs, we do not really sense that days are getting shorter – besides the fact that we are generating little solar-based power.
However, in a mission where the crew is isolated for a long period of time, celebrating holidays is important to break monotony, tighten the bonds between crewmates and boost the crew’s morale. It is coming at the right time, as some of my crewmates start looking a bit tired and tense. So, even though we are away from our families, we are going to celebrate Christmas.
A few days ago, we set up a Christmas tree. Okay, a plastic tree that barely reaches my knee, but a tree anyway. We found it in a container in the Sea Can and decorated it with chocolate candies hung with ribbons, and with duct tape stars.
As there is no shop around here, most of my crewmates are crafting presents. At least, that’s what I imagine when they spend hours in their rooms and hide whatever they were working on when someone comes in. But as I have the crafting skills of a 5-year-old, I brought present and have been hiding them in my room for months.
I don’t know how exactly we’re going to celebrate, as traditions differ in our different cultures. We brought it up, but each of us ended up telling the others about their own way of doing it. That was very interesting but we did not take any decision.
What is certain is that we will cook a festive meal, as we did for Thanksgiving. We have cubes of dehydrated turkey, which we will rehydrate and amalgamate to make turkey-shaped turkey meat. And our tomato plant, a dwarf variety developed for spaceflight and growing in a hydroponic setup, is giving its first cherry tomatoes. Luckily, they will be ready just in time. We’ll have at most half a cherry tomato per person but trust me, after 4 months in here, it will be much appreciated.
We plan to have group activities, games for instance. The hardest part of it will be to prevent everyone from working. That’s what we had in mind for Thanksgiving, but dome life took over and most of us got back to urgent tasks right after dinner. Let’s hope that we’ll be better at it this time, and that we can take a full day off – for the first time since the beginning of the mission.
I will probably not post again by then so… Merry Christmas!