Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve

I have always loved Christmas but I have grown to love it even more since I met my husband. When I was a kid, Christmas was much more hectic than it is now. I appreciate the freedom of Christmas now that I look back at the Christmases of my youth.

My brother and I were not allowed to wake our parents up until 7 am on Christmas Day. We were so excited to open our presents that we usually stayed up past midnight and woke up before 6 am. Since we weren't allowed to go downstairs where the presents were, we spent this time playing video games in my brother's room. Even well into my teens I can remember sleeping on the floor in my brother's room on Christmas Eve. We of course had to sleep in the same room to make it fair. If one of us woke up before the other and the other one decided to sneak downstairs that would ruin the day for us.

After opening all our presents, we had a huge breakfast and enjoyed all our new gifts. We spent most of the day in our pajamas watching Christmas movies and eating junk food. Late afternoon we got dressed up and packed the car for the one hour drive to my grandmother's house.

There are a lot of relatives on my mother's side of the family so it wasn't out of the ordinary for 30+ people to squeeze into my grandmother's 1500 square foot townhouse. This part of Christmas was annoying as a kid because all these people that you only saw every once in a while were in your business. They were asking tons of questions and making stupid jokes that proved how little they knew about you. As a kid all you could do was stew (unless you wanted to mouth off and risk getting a spanking) as your distant relatives talked about you like you weren't there. The day wasn't all bad though. The food was always fantastic, you got to hang out with some of your relatives that you actually liked and didn't get to see very often and, most importantly, more presents. My brother usually fell asleep in a food coma on the drive home while my mom and I bitched about our family (Thanksgiving generally went the same way except we didn't get any presents).

Christmas changed as I got older. My senior year of high school I spent two weeks in Germany to visit a friend of mine who had moved away because her dad was in the Army. I opened my presents the first week of January when I got home. My family hadn't opened the gifts that I had given them so we all opened presents on that makeshift Christmas. It was nice to be home but none of the Christmas magic was there.

The following year I went away to college. I was home for three weeks over Christmas between semesters. Both my brother and I had found our independence during my time away and me being home was a big adjustment for both of us. I remember my brother sneaking out on Christmas Eve and going out drinking and smoking pot with his friends. When I went in his room at 6:45 am to see if he was ready to go downstairs to open presents I found a very hung over, half-stoned brother with little interest in Christmas. It made me a little sad because I had been reminiscing over my memories of all the great Christmases that we had enjoyed when we were kids and the reality of this new Christmas just didn't measure up to my expectations.

I quickly realized that losing the morning Christmas ritual wasn't such a big deal. My brother and I were too old to worry about getting spanked so we enjoyed talking back to our relatives and correcting them when they made their stupid comments. The drives home were a lot more fun because my brother joined my mother and I in our relative bashing. We spent a lot of hours laughing until we cried once we had escaped from our relatives to the freedom of the highway. Christmas as an adult is great because if you are subjected to someones bullshit you can tell them they are full of shit without ruining the day.

Up until I moved to New York in 2005, I lived within three hours of my relatives or was home from college for several weeks at a time so travel wasn't an issue. My relatives are now at least 6 hours away. Traveling is much more difficult and has to be planned well in advance. The 200 inches of snow that we get every year makes it dangerous to travel in the winter so after my first year here I just stopped doing it.

My husband's relatives are spread out over several states so it wasn't uncommon for him to go 3 or more years without seeing many of them. Because his mother was sick for much of his life, he spent Christmas at home with her and the relatives came to them. She passed away in early 2006 and he moved to New York in the fall of 2006. He had rarely traveled for the holidays in the past and saw no reason to start now.

Having a husband who has no desire to deal with all the stress of traveling on the holidays and putting up with family is a beautiful thing. This is one thing that we have always been on the same page about. While he sees his relatives a lot more now that he's with me we always travel outside of the holidays when flights are cheaper, the weather is nice and it more convenient for our schedule.

Our traditions:

Thanksgiving Day morning hike with the dog followed by a big breakfast at a home and a trip to the movie theater. I make a big dinner for just the two of us with all of our Thanksgiving favorites. I go shopping early the next morning and he goes to work.

Christmas Eve open stockings and go to the movie theater and have dinner out. Christmas Day open presents, take the dog for a long walk and then come back home. Christmas dinner at a friends house or at home alone.

New Years Eve dinner out, maybe a little dancing. Fall asleep a little tipsy soon after midnight if not before. New Year's Day college football, hot chocolate and general gluttony.

Happy Holidays Everyone.

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