There are only a few days left until the Christmas holiday is here. I’ve always wondered about the allure of Christmas. In school, it was everyone’s favorite holiday (mine was always Thanksgiving, Fourth of July coming in second–these two holidays have the best food). Maybe everyone loves it because we get a solid 3-4 day holiday off from work/school/whatever else. Maybe it’s because we get to ask Santa for all those ridiculous things we’d never buy ourselves (plus some underwear). Or maybe people aren’t as greedy as I think, and they just like seeing their families. I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite things about Christmas to try to move it up on my list.
- Decorating the Tree– This is a big deal in our family because we’ve had the same tree/decorations/etc. forever. My mom has a huge fake tree. In our old house, we used to not be able to put the top part of the tree on because it was so tall. When I go to other people’s houses and see their weenie trees, I think, “Gosh. What a weenie tree!” because ours is so tall. Also, we’ve had the same ornaments all my life. We have hand prints made of construction paper and glitter, photos framed in Christmas-themed napkins, and homemade ornaments of all sorts. Every year we get a new ornament to add to the collection. We usually get it from some place like Cracker Barrel where they have cool and inexpensive ornaments. Ok, so we haul the giant refrigerator box with the disassembled tree in it up the stairs along with big black trunk full of Christmas junk. We put down the tree skirt (which is some cheap felt thing, but it’s lasted, so hey, who cares?), and set up the fake tree. I usually wear long sleeves and gloves because the material that the tree is made of rubs your skin raw, like a real tree of something. We usually have Andy Williams Christmas music blasting. Then mom sits down and untangles the ornament hooks and Patrick and I hang them on the tree. This year, Patrick’s in Nebraska, so it was Sean, my cousin Paul, and I decorating the tree. It was pretty hard on my mom and made her miss my brother more. But the Christmas show must go on!
- Eating Christmas Food– My family tends to be a little weird. On Christmas we eat a traditionally Jewish breakfast–lox and bagels. It’s a really big deal. It’s smoked salmon on, well, bagels. There’s other stuff too. Chocolates and cookies. My mom always makes this weird broccoli wreath (I don’t eat that either). Christmas is one of my least favorite holidays in terms of food (see above for my holiday food choices), but I have always loved how weird we are about Christmas food traditions. My grandma always explains the lox and bagels to the newest member of the family (if no one gets someone new, you may be explained to multiple years in a row). Mostly it goes like this. Once she was married to a Jewish guy, George Smith, and they merged holidays. I usually just get a bagel and eat lots of cookies.
- Presents!– This is much less greedy than it sounds. When Patrick and I were little, we lived in a weird 100 year-old house that had two bedrooms. The people before us needed three bedrooms, though, and they added another bedroom on… to the second bedroom. So, to get to my mom’s bedroom, you had to walk through Patrick’s. This wasn’t a big deal at the time because he was like 5. However, at Christmas it posed a real problem since Santa often stored presents in mom’s closets. Therefore, every Christmas since we’ve lived in that house Patrick has slept in my room. I mean, even last year when he was 16 and we all had our own separate, non-adjoining rooms Patrick slept on my floor. Every Christmas Eve, I would psyche him out about Santa. I’d knock on the wall and say it was Santa on the roof. I’d say I heard Santa’s sleigh bells and make Patrick listen for it. It was like it was my job to make sure he knew Santa was real. Before we went to bed every Christmas Eve, we were allowed to open one present. It was usually predetermined by mom because, if left to our own devices, we’d open the one shaped like a guitar or whatever we really wanted. It was usually pajamas or a movie or game we’d been asking for all year! Then we’d go to bed, wake up, do family Christmas. Mom would make her quiches (yuck) and the broccoli wreath (double yuck), and then, THEN, we’d head to Gaga’s. Christmas is Gaga’s holiday. We ALWAYS do Christmas as a mega-family at her house (Mom got Thanksgiving, Aunt April got Easter, Aunt Paula got Fourth of July). Now, at Thanksgiving every year we draw names. The catch is you have to MAKE the gift for the person whose name you draw. You can’t buy it (although when you do buy it, you get a pass, but I’ve never done this). So, the part about presents that I really like is watching everyone in the family (from youngest to oldest) open the presents that other people made. It’s a test of familial knowledge and creativity. I mean, as much as you don’t want to admit it, there are people who you hope and pray don’t draw your name, and then there are other people who you snoop through family members to see if they got you. That’s another part that’s really fun. If you want to know who got you, you can find out, it just takes some serious investigation. Most people end up telling someone usually if they need help or want to trade. Oh yeah, trading is legal too. Like if I draw some uncle and don’t know what to make and my mom draws someone she’s drawn for the past three years, it’s ok to trade. So we open gifts one at a time from youngest to oldest, and clap after each and every one. It’s great.
All in all I love my family. I love the weird traditions we have. I love telling people about them. If any of you want to come to my Christmas, just let me know. Especially if you like Jewish food…