Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Holiday Traditions

We have loads of holiday traditions so I thought I'd just mention a few, especially the things we did when we were kids, or now when we are bigger kids, since those are the ones that seem to make the most impression.

As I said in my previous post, my family is very big into Advent. So we are excited for weeks.

But Christmas Eve is always very special.

For years and years, my family celebrated Christmas with the family that lived directly across the street. My Mom and their Mom are still best friends and the two families grew up together, especially the Moms if you know what I mean. They would come for supper or dessert, which ever worked out.

About 10 minutes before their expected arrival, my sister and I would take up our post at the front door to watch for them. As soon as they left...I'm laughing to myself remembering this...our whole family would run out to our front veranda and now they were in the middle of the street, and all of us would start SCREAMING. I mean really screaming with excitement, jumping up and down, laughing, everything. Our other neighbors used to go to their front doors to "see what on earth was happening" but over the years they got used to it and didn't bother looking, they knew that it was just our Christmas Eve beginning. As I write this, I am still stunned that we did and still do this - only now it's even more fun with our kids - they don't know what's going on but what kid doesn't like screaming in the street?

So they would come over and we would eat, lots of chocolate of course, and then we would put on a concert. Both families are very musical and creative and spent years in community theatre so our concert was a combination of Christmas Carols, original pieces and Broadway showtunes. It was awesome.

Then came the gifts. Over the years, the presenting of the presents has taken many forms, but in the last few years we have settled on "The Yankee Swap". It has other names and I hope I can explain it properly.

Basically, everyone brings a gift representing their own age and gender. For example: there are three people in my family...an adult woman, an adult man and a child. So we would bring three gifts: one suitable for a man, one for a woman and one for a child. We are heavily into joke gifts and candy/chocolate, but you could have a theme (ie: tree ornaments) or regular gifts. My sister has four in her family: a woman, a man and two kids so they bring four gifts: two kid gifts and one for a man and one for a woman. So in the end you have as many gifts as you do people and the right amount of adult and child gifts. They all go in a box, we use a laundry hamper, whatever. Everyone now takes turns. First person picks out whatever gift they want (using label adult/child). Unwrap it...awwwwww, isn't it sweet, yummy, whatever. Next person goes, picks and unwraps. Here is the clincher...the second person can keep that gift they picked out from the pile or trade it with the other already opened gift. Now this goes on and on with each person. The person can keep the gift they picked from the pile or can trade with anyone who has already opened their gift and they have to trade. It's hilarious. Alliances form. You never know who is going to have what gift. And at the end, when everyone has a gift, the person who went first has a chance to trade if they want since there wasn't anyone to trade with when they opened the first gift. It is so much fun.

My next favorite tradition is the next morning opening stockings. Santa would leave my sister's and my stockings outside our bedroom door. We would get up and open them together - ooohing and awwwing over everything. We always got the same things (Santa was very equal-opportunity) . And then we would go into our parent's room, onto their bed and show them what we got from Santa. It was literally years before we realized that they may have already known what was in those stockings. We had such fun.

Every year, not always on "Christmas Day", we would have Christmas dinner with my family and my Mom's two sisters and their families. Eventually it turned into potluck. Family is the best and it doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you can do it together.

After I was divorced, I had to face part of Christmas without my little girl. I was really upset about that. I am very fortunate that her Dad and all of his family live very close by so there isn't a lot of driving and everyone in both families still share a Christmas visit, but the thought of leaving her there was killing me. Christmas Day night without my girl. So I decided that I needed to go to the movies, and it would be a sad movie so I could cry and everyone would think I was crying at the movie. I remember the first year, the movie was "Step-Mom" with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Good crying movie. So now every Christmas Day night my husband and I go to the movies and if my parents are visiting, they come too. And it has turned into a fun tradition and we see happy movies now. It turned out to be a good idea. Sometimes you need a new tradition so far from anything you've ever done. I thought the movie theatre would be empty, but it's packed. I find that kind of sad in itself, but then I'm thankful for the movie theatre because obviously there are a lot of people who need it open Christmas Day night.

I wish everyone the merriest of holidays and I realize that a lot of the US bloggers will start soon with their Thanksgiving (Canada celebrates in October). Don't eat too much! Have fun! Kiss everyone and tell those you love, how special they are!



Kathleen Marie said...

What wonderful memories and fun traditions! I am trying to picture the screaming on the veranda with the neighbors watching!

Thanks for sharing!

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Such great memories - so many fun traditions. I always thought it sounded fun to go to the movies on a holiday, something we've never done. I'd go for it in a heartbeat.

PEA said...

Hi Sandy:-) I so enjoyed reading your Holiday Traditions...I can just imagine how much fun you all have with those neighbour friends! hehe It all sounds wonderful but my heart ached for you at that first Christmas without your daughter...that had to be very hard. I'm in Canada too...Sudbury Ontario to be exact:-) Take care and hope you have another fabulous and fun Christmas!!

Morning Glory said...

Thanks for sharing your really fun traditions with us. I like the Christmas night movie idea.

Barb said...

Your traditions are so nice. I laughed when I read about all the noise you all made on Christmas Eve but how fun to celebrate with such good neighbors.

Yes, overeating day is rapidly approaching. Every year I tell myself I'll be sensible at Thanksgiving dinner. And every year I blow it. :-)