Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Tradition

Today I'd my first weekday off in my sixteen day vacation.  Of course, being the drama club advisor, I don't really get the holiday off since we will be rehearsing for our play in January.  I have to go in at 9 am and we will practice until about noon.

For most people, December 23rd is just another day. It's not yet Christmas Eve; it's not Christmas Day; nor is it the day for the after Christmas sales.  However, through all of my years growing up, this was the night of my immediate family's Christmas.  The dinner on the 23rd was the most special of the year.  We got out the fine china and silverwear and set the table just as etiquette describes.  My mother was a believer in knowing what silverwear to use when.  We would have a candlelight dinner usually of what we considered fancy foods in my house: shrimp cockatiels, followed by Cornish game hens, mashed potatoes with gravy (my personal favorite), broccoli in cheese sauce, and homemade yeast rolls.  We would also have sparkling cider or grape juice to drink while my parents had champagne.  Dessert would always be a cheesecake that my mother made. At the beginning of dinner either my sister or I would read Luke Chapter 2 before the blessing was said for the food.

After we had eaten, we would then open presents.  By the way, there was a different set of presents from Santa Claus on Christmas morning when my father would make breakfast and our grandparents would come to see what we got from Santa. Then we would open presents from them.  But December 23rd was our special day as a family.  After presents were opened on the 23rd, my mother would read us two stories:  "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

The tradition began to change a little as we got older.  We didn't read the stories after dinner anymore. But the tradition continued mostly intact until my sister got married.  Her in-laws did not have traditions like we did, and were jealous.  They liked to schedule their Christmas on December 23rd to mess with ours.  When we tried to move it, they did the same.  This juggling of dates went on for the first five years of my sister's marriage. Finally, my mother changed ours permanently to Christmas Night, and she stood firm about it. My sister's in-laws finally acquiesced, and our family Christmas has been on Christmas Night for the past 10 years.  It's not the same as it used to be.  We have most of the same foods, but now we have a ham, turkey, and dressing in addition to all of the others except the Cornish hens.  Also, I usually do the cooking these days instead of my mother.  We have real wine and champagne to drink.  We also don't use the fine china anymore, but generally Christmas china that doesn't have to be hand washed, like the real china.  We also have three more people than we used to have: my single aunt, my brother-in-law, and my wonderful niece.

It's one of the few times we all get together as just us with no other family, so it is still very special, even if it's not the tradition we used to have.
Did or does your family have any special traditions that you'd like to share in the comments?


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia. On Christmas Day we went to my grandparents house for lunch followed by the opening of presents. After that, we piled into cars to go for a walk along Tybee Island Beach. Sometimes the weather was 80 degrees and sometimes it was 40 degrees. Either way, we walked along the beach as an extended family. It really seemed to relax the family tensions.

Anonymous said...

The anal retentive graduate student in me is going crazy. I meant to type, "grandparents,"in the last pose

Anonymous said...

I could go on and on about our family traditions, they are definitely cherished, even as they morphed over the years. I think it's important to build those traditions, it's what holds the family together.


Peace <3

Michael Dodd said...

Because my immediate family, like yours, was Church of Christ, we had no religious investment in which day to celebrate. I think from the time I was about ten and my brother eight, we began to open gifts on Christmas Eve or earlier so that we could be with the big extended families over the holiday weekend. We had no unique traditions, but then when you are a kid you think everyone does it the way you do. I do recall that my grandmother made chicken and dressing, never turkey. She cooked the chicken, took the meat off the bones, shredded it and baked in into cornbread dressing. I was in my teens before I realized that was not what most people meant by chicken and dressing or stuffing.

At the moment, I guess my family tradition is hosting my partner's family -- ex-wife, her husband, four adult children and spouses. It is a motley mix -- Orthodox Jews, Antiochian Orthodox Christian, evangelicals, semi-Buddhists and nonbelievers. The real challenge is accommodating all the diets!

My favorite Christmas was a few years back when a major snow storm meant no one could make it, and Tom and I had a nice quiet Christmas with just ourselves and a couple of the family for the Eve and neighbors for Christmas dinner. I would like to make that a tradition!