Another Christmas- Tweaking the Traditions Again

Most of my presents are wrapped, the cards which will be sent are out (so much less than in the early years of my marriage in this digital age of sending greetings via Facebook and email), and today, Dad and I went out to purchase our 2016 hors d’oeuvres. That tradition has been tweaked based upon our audience, and now that we are officially Southerners, we are having a grits-based appetizer prepared by our Louisiana Southern man.

When you were all young, we would pick up Grandma and head to a late-afternoon Christmas Eve mass (except for that year when I forgot her), while Dad remained home to prepare the feast. Afterwards, we would go on the drive to check out the lights and luminaries in Boonton Twp. It was always quite spectacular, and I truly believe that participation in that event must be part of the contract when anyone purchases a home on that street.

This year, we will have our appetizer-feast at lunchtime at our house, so that we can head off to church early to see Bryce sing in the church choir—an event I am anxiously awaiting. I think he will not bolt to his mom and dad, but we will see!

Then they will head home to put out their cookies for Santa. I am wondering if that tradition will be accompanied by music like you all did—“Alvin and the Chipmunks” in the early years followed by the more sophisticated “March of the Toy Soldiers” from the Nutcracker later on. (Check out Cookies for Santa and Such for more details about Christmases in our days of yore.)

Then Dad and I will go home by ourselves this year, and we will settle down to at least one Christmas movie. Will it be one of my favorites (Love Actually or The Holiday), Dad’s Christmas flick (Die Hard), or a classic (The Santa Clause, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life)?

I am not complaining this year. Life is full of changes, and we saw all of you a lot this year. Truly I am good with this. I have nothing to complain about and look forward to another good year and a new hip.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all of you. See you in 2017. (You can’t deny that this is the perfect card this year based on the publication of my book!)

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Time to Whine

It’s that time of the year: time for me to begin whining and complaining already. How did this happen so soon? I realize I should have known when I saw the Christmas decorations begin to appear shortly after Labor Day and then a few weeks ago when “The Love” station on Sirius radio switched to Christmas music.

As you all know, Christmas is not my favorite time of the year because of the shopping. I hate to shop! Oh how I really wish Santa was real! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike all that is Christmas. I enjoy the music (just not in September), getting presents, the lights (just not dragging them up and decorating the bushes and trees outside), and the Christmas movies.

But it’s not the same anymore. I remember when the three of you were little, and you all loved going through the JC Penney Christmas catalog each year, each of you carefully circling the toys you wanted Santa to bring to you. That helped me tremendously in knowing what you wanted.

Now you are spread near and far, so I don’t hear anyone dropping hints nor do I see anyone carefully circling their secret wishes in a catalog. I try to come up with clever gifts, but it is just so difficult.

I don’t make the spread of cookies any more—mostly because there are not a lot of little mouths in my household or at the Christmas Day dinner at our house to scoff up the chocolate chip, spritz, peanut butter kisses, chocolate candy canes, and oatmeal cookies that I always began baking weeks before Christmas and stored in the freezer. Also, now Dad and I need to worry about the extra pounds which seem to now settle around our waists more and more each year.

We have our own favorite movies—Love Actually and The Holiday—are two of my nontraditional now classics which we enjoy.

Dad still makes our Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres, and we now have the next generation of children to watch as they visit Santa at the zoo (our new Southern tradition) and see their excitement on Christmas morning.

I will try really, really hard to remember these fun parts of Christmas when the shopping Grinch begins to creep my way.

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Evolution of a Holiday

I guess Casey inherited her dislike of change from me, at least when it comes to the holidays. Although I am surprised that I have enjoyed moving around so much—living in 5 states—I don’t like all the changes in my holiday celebrations. Can’t I just choose a point in time and freeze it? So I thought that if I review the evolution of Christmas through my life, maybe I will feel better.

When I was very young, Grandma and Grandpa would take me to see Santa in Morristown. In the center of town was “The Green,” or Morristown’s answer to Central Park. Santa had an annex to the North Pole there, complete with elves and the biggest wooden rocking horses you ever saw. I loved going to visit Santa there.

I do not believe any of my siblings went to that Santa Land. I believe they visited Santa at another satellite house located in Grace Lord Park in Boonton. (Change #1) Every year, his house magically appeared there, and that is where we visited him sometime after Aunt Ar was born.

We had no special Christmas Eve traditional meals or any Christmas traditions for that matter. All that I recall is that we were given a time when we were permitted to come downstairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought us. Grandma and Grandpa were not strict, but that was one rule you just didn’t break—except for one particular Christmas. I was the culprit.

I remember tip toeing down those very steep stairs and peaking around the corner into the living room. The unwrapped presents were all under the tree (Santa never bothered to wrap our presents!), and next to the tree were Grandma and Grandpa. How could that be? Their explanation, which to this day I believe, was that they were fast asleep when suddenly, “from out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.” Naturally, “they sprang from their beds to see what was the matter,” and there in our living room were presents galore. Of course, I believed them. My parents would never lie.

One Christmas, Aunt El and Uncle Mart (perhaps Uncle Dave too) got up early, but they knew they could not venture downstairs. So they passed the time playing a board game in the bathtub until the anointed time arrived.

During the week when we were on our Christmas vacation, we would all take turns visiting the houses of our cousins so we could check out the loot that Santa brought to them. Grandma said that usually someone would mess up the plans by getting sick, but I guess we still hit as many houses as possible.

As the years passed, and our extended family grew, we stopped visiting every aunt, uncle and cousin. So that was change #2.  I think the logistics just got too hard. A new tradition was born and we all survived.

Then we started to grow up, get married, and now began to add the in-laws. Stay tuned for more.

Christmas- 19 Kids and 13 Adults

Christmas 1959