’Tis the season.

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Fig 1: A bad joke

Some weeks ago, I had the pleasure to visit a research lab in Oxford I’ll be joining next year, and was invited to join their Christmas lunch. The lunch took place at a cosy restaurant at Turl Street.  The raw wooden tables were decorated with Christmas-crackers that didn’t really crack much when pulled, but revealed a paper crown, a small gift (I got golf pegs, yay) and a bad joke. A good start to any party!

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Figure 2: Yummy pudding, and sprouts.

While the food was not traditional Christmas English food, it was rustic and very nice. I had smoked beetroot salad for starters and yummy mushroom and cheese suet pudding for mains and managed to give away the accompanying sprouts to my neighbour. This inspired a discussion of what is traditional Christmas food in different countries, as this lab is a very international lab. The virtues of Brussels sprouts as compared to pickled herring was discussed, both of them a bit of an acquired taste. We also discussed general Christmas traditions and how they differ between countries. For example how the Swedes are always very eager to celebrate and cannot really wait till Christmas day and so Christmas Eve is the main event here.

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Figure 3: Christmas sweater.

The dress code was your best Christmas sweater. As Christmas sweaters aren’t really a thing in Sweden, this was a new and exciting fashion choice I enjoyed looking at but sadly, could not partake in. Maybe next year I’ll have one of my own, maybe even one of these science themed.

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Figure 4: The puns. How many do you get?

Mary, who normally works with promoting health and safety to save lives in the lab, had put together a quiz – as per tradition, I was told. It was hard, and especially so for a foreigner who might not know which English TV chef got their paella slandered. THere were also more science related questions, like what does CRISPR/Cas9 stand for, and for what was Yoshinori Ohsumi awarded the Nobel prize. Googling was strictly forbidden.  There was also, a set of word puns to be deciphered, which was even harder for a non-native speaker, but I was told that practise makes perfect, so there is hope. Take a look at figure 4 and see what you make of it!

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Figure 5: Secret Santa!

And finally, there was the giving of gifts. First a lottery of the year’s batch of giveaways from different companies (I got a Life Technologies water bottle, yay!). This was a really nice way of handling all those little items – mugs, calendars, t-shirts etc. – that different manufacturers insist on bestowing upon you through the year. And then there was Secret Santa, and he even got me a gift although I was not really part of the Secret Santa scheme. See Figure 5 for my lovely Christmas cap, and for my Secret Santa in the background.

In all, it was a very jolly experience.

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