Saturday, December 12, 2009

christmas memories

I have this lovely relative that I grew up thinking of as a cousin but I don't know if that's actually accurate. I get confused trying to figure out actual relationships sometimes because there were so many "aunts" and "uncles" and then of course their kids were my "cousins". We're related somehow or another but in any case, she is a really cool person. I wanted to be like her when I was a kid and as an adult, probably even more so. In any case, she's been posting Christmas memories in her blog and it has been fun to read. They of course stand on their own quite nicely but I can't ever hear someone else's memories of something like a holiday and not think of my own.

When I was a kid, we always did Christmas Eve with my mom's side of the family and Christmas Day with my dad's side.

Christmas Eve was ALWAYS a big hubub of a to do with my mom's siblings, my grandmother's siblings, great-grandparents, my mom's cousins, and a ton of kids. The tradition for the meal was to pick a theme of some sort and everyone contributed something. There is always a ridiculous amount of food when my family gets together, not necessarily for the need of having that much but to have that many choices of things. I remember Mexican food, Asian-ish food (my dad sat and made wonton until no one wanted to eat anymore), tritip and all the fixings, breakfast, and baked potatoes with every kind of topping you could ever imagine. Tons of people, tons of food, and a pretty much all day affair.

The pile of Christmas presents by the tree was more than any of us kids could bear to see without at least mentally sorting out in our heads. I never knew of an official time line for everything to happen. It seemed as if the adults knew precisely when the kids wouldn't be able to bear another minute of not being in the same room with all those glorious wrapped packages, and then it would be about another hour before any of them were opened. See, first everyone had to gather in the same room. Next was the reading and passing on of The Fish, Stella, and Santa Claus. Each of these is rotated every year to someone knew and that person must write a recap of the year and then read it Christmas Eve. The Fish is supposed to rhyme but the other two don't have to. I think The Fish is the oldest and it spans back to pages that are barely readable now. It's kind of a cool thing that everyone enjoys but everyone dreads having to write. After all three have been read and passed on to the next person, we would listen to Silent Night. It's a time to pause and reflect on the day, the past year, and the fact that you are literally surrounded by loving people. Christmas isn't supposed to be about the presents. When I was a teenager, my aunt added in the candles. Everyone gets a candle and the flame is passed around the circle until the room is lit up by candles alone. Several adults always cried and us kids tried to impress everyone by knowing every single word to every single verse of Silent Night. Then, presents! Hugs of gratitude, laughter, and just a generally loud good time. And, the first day rule. On the first day of a new present, you don't have to share with ANYONE. We have passed this rule on to many other families and still adhere to it this day.

Christmas Day varied a little more than Christmas Eve. We always spent it with my dad's parents and just depending on the year, my dad's brothers and families would be there as well. From my perspective, the relationships between my dad and his brothers and then all three of them with their parents are complicated enough that I stopped trying to understand when I was about twelve. Usually the food would be much more traditional Christmas fare like ham and green bean casserole and the like. My grandmother usually told the story about how one Christmas morning she made eggs benedict for everyone and used the scissors to mark the page and then completely forgot about them. She blamed my dad, the youngest of the three kids, for misplacing her scissors for an entire year until she went to make eggs benedict the next Christmas and found the missing scissors. We'd eat and do presents and have dessert. My grandmother made several kinds of cookies every year. I remember my favorite ones she ever made where biscotti and as I was on my third one she proclaimed she'd never make those boogers again because they were so labor intensive.

Inbetween, my parents and sister and I had our own little things we did. Santa Claus still comes for us even after the year when I was about 13 that my parents said Santa wasn't coming any more because the jig was so thoroughly up. I think it was that sometimes my sister and I would guess what we were getting from my parents but we never guessed what Santa was bringing. I think it's just kind of fun to do little presents like that too. Santa never brought us big stuff. My mom explained to me much later on that there was no way a mythical being was getting credit for the big stuff! For a few years, we had cream of wheat for breakfast which is kind of funny because my dad HATES it and I had no idea for the longest time.

One year, my sister and I had the idea to do Santa for my parents. We had gone to an evening church service that Christmas Eve and when my parents were in their room getting ready for bed, we quietly snuck back out to the living room and set up their stockings. We put fruit in their stockings the same way they always did for us and had a little pile of small gifts and candy for each of them. I think this was about 10 years ago and my mom only recently stopped talking about it. She cried when she saw their filled stockings and then cried in the morning when we woke up and cried every time she talked about it that year.

My dad's father died when I was 13 and we missed him when we went to spend the day with my grandmother. When she died several years later, I suggested we start a brand new family tradition. I thought it would be easier if it was just something completely different. That's how my parents, sister, and I started going to the movies on Christmas Day. We'd go to one of the first showings and then pretty much go home after that but it was a really fantastic way to spend part of the day.

This year is going to be great too, but in kind of a different way. Christmas Eve will be with my parents, sister and her family. Christmas Day will be with Ki's mom and his sister and her family. Ki and I decided that we want to go to the movies on Christmas Day before we go to his mom's house. We're brand new at this married thing and want to have our own little family traditions. I bet one of the grandmas will take care of Baby C next year if we decide to go to a morning movie again. :)

It's a lot of fun to think about how we're going to be creating memories like these for our kid. I would like to have some intentional things we do every year during the holiday season but I am also looking forward to hearing what Adult C remembers most of all later on.

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