How Do YOU Celebrate Christmas?
I was raised with the notion of "tradition" and "tradition" has dominated our holiday celebrations throughout my life, though the shape of the tradition has changed over the years.
In my growing up years, my mother always put the lights on the tree...it was her thing to do and she was a perfectionist. On Christmas Eve, my sister and I left cookies on the window sill of the "light well" (the space between the two buildings) because we didn't have a fireplace and Santa obviously came got in from the window.
We got to see the unwrapped Santa gifts on Christmas morning, and our stockings were always filled with oranges and walnuts. Then went to Mass and in the evening my father's parents, my godfather (who was my grandfather's uncle) and sometimes someone else came to dinner. My godfather always brought a box if See's candy. We had the traditional dinner -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and rolls. The vegetables and the salad changed from year to year, my mother's attempt at creativity. We opened gifts after dinner, and then back to the table for pumpkin pie and passing around that box of chocolates.
I don't remember when we took over hosting the Christmas celebrations, but eventually everyone came to our house for dinner. For many years we cut down our own tree and Walt put the lights on it, because I could never be as perfect as my mother had been so didn't even try. We decorated the tree while drinking nog-less egg nog and listening to Bing Crosby Christmas music.
We took the kids to midnight Mass and then all went to bed. Everybody got up and opened gifts Christmas morning (very early when they were little--much too late when they got older). I always tried to have a special Christmas breakfast. Then we had "Mom's Christmas Crisis" as we raced around cleaning and setting up for dinner. I liked to have lots of people here for Christmas, even though the space for entertaining is small. The biggest year we had 24 for dinner. We could barely fit around the table.
We opened gifts after dinner and there was, for many years, the Egg Nog Gala, a show that the kids put on, drawing in our current foreign visitor (whichever exchange student was living with us that Christmas), if they could take him or her into being part of the show.
Christmas changed for me after David died. I didn't want to put up a tree at all, but was talked out of that idea. I remember many of the Lawsuit members (the kids' band) came to help us decorate and jollied me out of my doldrums. At midnight, instead of going to Mass, we drove to the cemetery and stumbled our way to David's grave, where we stood around, shivering in the cold and singing Christmas carols while passing around a bottle of Jim Beam. We continued this tradition for several years, fewer and fewer people showing up to join us.
Two years ago, we moved our Christmas celebrations to Santa Barbara. It's time for there to be new traditions formed and now the important people are the grand-children. We no longer go to the cemetery on Christmas eve and we haven't put up a tree in about 3 years because nobody comes to the house anyway, so what's the point, especially since we won't be here on Christmas.Our "traditions" are still evolving.