This year will be my second Christmas since being married. Also, it will be my second Christmas away from home and almost all of my family. Being able to be with my husband during Christmas is wonderful, especially since the three years before we were married, we were long distance and could only see each other on Skype for Christmas. And this year, we have family visiting and we are really looking forward to it, more on that later. Nevertheless, it is hard when you live thousands of miles from home and you will only see your parents and siblings over Skype and can’t give them hugs or do any of the things you usually do with them on Christmas. In light of my holiday nostalgia, I will be sharing what Christmas looked like for me growing up.
First things first, we open presents on Christmas Eve. You may think it’s weird or wrong, but oh well. That’s how we do it. Here’s how our Christmas tradition goes. We eat dinner together before going to look at Christmas lights. Somehow, it always ends up that Ben, Molly, and I get out to the car first and then have to wait a long time for my parents to make it out to the car. Hmmm . . . hanging out with Santa perhaps? Once they finally join us, we drive around town looking at lights. We don’t go to the same places every year but over time we have learned some of the best places. And of course, we always drive through downtown where there is a big Santa and wreath displayed on two of the buildings. One year, we won a limo ride at the parish festival so we saved it until Christmas Eve and then rode around town in style. When I was younger, I remember watching the sky as we drove around hoping to see Rudolph’s nose. The anticipation builds the whole time we are out. Finally, we head for home.
Once we get home, Santa has been there! We come in and our stockings are full and there are more presents under the tree. In our stockings we usually find candy, an ornament, and several other things chosen specifically for each of us. Of course, the three of us compare our haul to see that we all got similar enough items and that no one got more than the other. My mom always gets cashews in her stocking and my dad always gets a Whitman’s Sampler. In the past, Santa would leave presents for each of us but recently he leaves a new board game under the tree for the whole family.
Someone has to wear the Santa hat and pass out the presents while someone else goes to set up trays of cookies and snacks. Once everything is ready, it’s time to open presents. We take turns and go in order, usually youngest to oldest because we kids don’t want to wait anymore. When we were younger, once everything was opened, we would start playing with the new toys right away. Now, we continue snacking and talking until it’s time to go to Midnight Mass. As youngins, sometimes we would fall asleep in the pews but now, as mostly full-grown people, we manage to stay awake the whole time. When we get home, we may stay up a while longer or if we are feeling really tired, we just go to bed.
Christmas morning we all sleep in as long as we like and then come downstairs and have cinnamon rolls together. We stay in our pajamas all day and generally stay on the couch. We might watch a bit of the Disney Parade. We watch a lot of HGTV. And we watch A Christmas Story on TBS. They always have a 24-hour marathon so we often come in somewhere in the middle and watch until we’ve seen it all. At some point we get off our butts and make a nice Christmas dinner. Afterward we just spend the rest of the day together eating cookies, watching a movie or HGTV, or playing a game, or whatever we feel like, really. It’s a whole day of lazy family fun.
So that’s it. That was Christmas growing up.
Sometime around Christmas we would get together with extended family and do another celebration with everyone. And once I started dating Dale, I also took part in his family Christmases. This year, he and I are doing something we’ve never done before. We are hosting Christmas at our own house. Dale’s sister and her family are traveling all the way to Italy to share the holidays with us. Which means we will get to have Christmas with our favorite niece, 2, and one of our favorite nephews, 1. We can’t wait to make Christmas cookies (and a mess) with them and see them opening presents and experiencing Christmas in a way we haven’t for many years. We will show them some of our favorite things about Italy and even take them up to Switzerland for a few days.
As people get older, get married (or not), and move away from home, they make new traditions. Dale and I are still figuring out what our traditions are. We’ve only done this once before and already this Christmas looks a lot different than last year. I’ve never had a real tree for Christmas but Dale always has. We got one this year and that will probably be a continuing tradition. Dale has always opened presents Christmas morning and I never have. We will see what happens with that in the coming years.
I know that this year while I am holding my niece and nephew on Christmas Day, I will be thinking about all the Christmases they have to come and the traditions their family will make. I will remember what my Christmases were like and know that before I know it, I’ll be back in the Midwest and will be able to share Christmas with the rest of my ever-growing family.
Merry Christmas everyone. And if you can, give your mom and dad a hug on Christmas.
I’d love to hear your Christmas traditions. Share them in the comments below!