The Christmas holiday is upon us and, we get to deal with relatives and friends we may not have seen for at least a year. Some people we will be happy to see and others, not so much.
I started thinking about the experiences I have had over my lifetime and thought I would share some stories that may remind you of some of your own holiday memories.
I grew up in a small town. Being Catholic, we would have neighborhood parties on Christmas Eve. Everyone would go from house-to-house very nicely dressed and enjoy libations and favorite traditional treats and specialties of each host.
I would bring out my hula-hoop and stand for hours being the irritating kid in the middle of the room while the adults drank and ate. My mom would also send me in to hula-hoop when my brothers had dates visiting. I am sure my brothers were not happy about me being there either!
After all of the celebration, it was time to get ready for midnight mass. Church was the place where everyone we knew would come and would celebrate the birth of Christ. People attending were either relatives or great friends. It was always comforting to be surrounded by so many familiar faces.
I grew up with a lot of structure and certain beliefs. Then I met and married my husband. His family also enjoyed celebrating on Christmas Eve. However, their celebrations were a little different from the way I had been brought up.
I was lucky, because my in-laws were (are) awesome people. I was accepted as a daughter and sister. Our tradition in the Anderson household was also flanked with ‘spirits’ each year. One tradition was a family member who would always fall into the Christmas tree. We all looked forward to the familiar ‘tradition’ every year!
Neighbors would come as well, and there were familiar foods always prepared. We always looked forward to the turkey carefully placed into the oven to slow cook all night long. It was great to smell the turkey cooking as we ate and drank. What a fantastic memory.
Opening gifts was always fun. I can remember when I was divorced, I still was invited to the Anderson celebration. I had no money to buy gifts. Sometimes, the best thing was the $19.95 Olan Mills photography special during the holidays. I would scrap the money together and give pictures of my son as gifts. I think underlying, people knew I did not have a lot of money. At the end of the day, it was the love we shared that was important.
I do believe Christmas has become too commercialized. As an adult now, I prefer to go out for a nice lunch or dinner with friends and family as opposed to buying gifts. And, many of my friends and family agree. We have so much more meaningful memories.
Finding extra money to spend can be very hard for people, and I really do believe there are other ways to spend time together and keep the gifts (in moderation) for the children who still believe. Well, as a matter of fact, I still believe so, if you want to get me a gift, feel free!
But, there are the relatives and/or friends who we know who are going to do what they can to embarrass us. Like the familiar sound ringing in my ears, “So, you are still single? Oh honey, the right guy will come along soon.”
My mother moved in with me when I built my home. Our traditions had changed now that the ‘home place’ was sold and my Dad had passed a few years earlier.
Mom and I would cook together. Along with my son, we would have a very quiet dinner for Christmas. We would spend Christmas Eve together opening our gifts.
I remember one year, my mom told me we had a relative living in the city we had not seen since she was a very young girl. We were invited to visit her and her husband (both lawyers) to spend the afternoon with them for the holiday. So, in true tradition, my mother and I dressed up to go for the visit. My cousin’s home was very eloquent.
We were offered wine and cookies. I had started a diet a few weeks before, so I declined the cookies. My mother stated to my cousin, “Oh she struggles with her weight, so she will not eat the treats.” Lovely! Sometimes you just have to let it go. I chalked it up to mom not really meaning it in a bad way.