Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist
The dulcet tones of a yuletide choir slipped under my door and roused me from my sleep at exactly 8:30 AM Mars Standard Time. White sunlight radiating off the powdered terrain outside permeated through the fog outside and met my eyes. The smell of cinnamon and
peppermint swirled ’round the Hab and lifted sleepy spirits. I can’t think of a better way to wake up on Christmars day.
We assembled our own breakfasts and dove back into the puzzle to get our cognitive gears
in motion again. During our half-focused small talk, we learned that our fearless leader, Cesare, was a member of the very choir that woke us up. We learn something incredible about one another every sol. Once we had finished eating and had puzzled the sleep from our eyes, we began our holiday festivities. Cesare, our operatic Martian Santa Claus, had gotten all of us Xmas candy and individual gifts that revealed themselves to be adorable snowman fridge magnets.
As if that wasn’t charming enough, he went into his quarters and came back out with a handful of Christmas cards for us that he had stealthily collected back on Earth. There were so many lovely greetings from writers all around the world, including a card from the entire Class 9EW of the Queen’s School in Chester, UK. It seemed that for a moment the mist from outside had somehow gotten in my eyes.
Once our first round of festivities concluded, it was time for some Habitat maintenance. It appeared that the snow had found a few leaks in the tunnels between our buildings and collected on the floor. Myself, Cesare, and Pat held our breaths and set off to sweep the tunnels clean and locate the leaks. We had the tunnels spick and span (and safe to traverse) in no time.
Or so we thought. In reality, by the time we were done it was time to begin preparing Christmars lunch! While we were working in the tunnels, Jonathan, Shefali, and LuzMa
were collecting a very plentiful harvest in the GreenHab. While they took the mass of the greens, we prepared some spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and assorted feast necessities. The GreenHabbers returned with their bounty and turned it into a delicious fresh salad that tasted like summer. A nice culinary reminder of home!
We invited some friendly Martian visitors (the Assistant Program Directors) for our Christmars banquet. If there’s anyone who deserves to join in our festivities, it’s the folks who make all of this possible! It was an incredible meal that had all of us on the border of going comatose; for the first time, the worries of the hostile Martian landscape melted away.
We saw our guests out the airlock, and returned to the puzzle whilst tagging each other in and out for Hab chores. By sunset, we were all gathered around the table as Jonathan theatrically placed the final piece. We were awash with relief as we had finally vanquished our collective nemesis… until we realized we had to delicately flip the whole thing over to sign our crew number on the back. We bounced a lot of (frankly ridiculous) ideas off of one another until Pat took charge and finessed the entire cardboard mass over without unseating a single piece. I may be on Mars experiencing a one-in-a-million interplanetary adventure, but that takes the cake for the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.
Signing our crew as the 5th of 218 crews to complete the puzzle felt like a monumental accomplishment. Watching Cesare draw the Purdue “Block P” was akin to how I imagine it felt to watch Julius Caesar lead his army across the Rubicon River. Satisfied and exhausted from our arduous accomplishment, we began drafting our reports to CAPCOM.
So here I sit now, buoyant from a perfect White Christmars on the red planet, documenting this day so I may never forget it. Thank you to everyone who wrote us a card and Happy Holidays to all reading this from Earth!