Tuesday, December 13, 2011


There are a LOT of traditions in my family.  We're kind of wacky about them.  And this time of year, they kick in to high gear.  

First we have baking day.  That's coming up this Saturday.  We have a big crowd gather and we make an absolutely insane amount of cookies that we then combine all together and build cookie trays to give away.  It's a very fun day, also very exhausting.  I usually make between 8 and 10 different recipes.  Yeesh.  I have to start going through my books today and decide what to make, and I'll need to make a grocery trip Thursday or Friday.  We've been doing baking day now for 15 years, and it has evolved from being just me and my mom to a pretty big group. 

Christmas Eve at MOH's
Then there's Christmas Eve.  I have hosted almost every Christmas Eve since hubby and I got married.  We celebrate with my side of the family, then Christmas Day we do the hubby's side.  On Christmas Eve we have soup and sandwiches.  This started out when I was a small child, and my parents decided to have a simple meal, so there would be no cooking stress, not much cleaning stress, and we could enjoy the evening more.  Well, that was a nice intention, but the soups have evolved.  And so have the sandwiches, for that matter.  We have a pile of different meats and cheeses, fixings, and even home-made condiments to put on them.  The soups are a major deal.  It's not just opening a can of tomato soup.  We have two choices each year, usually a french onion made from scratch from my mom's old recipe, heavy on the burgundy and complete with a toasted baguette slice and gruyere cheese on top.  Then my brother makes another kind, and it changes year to year.  He has been known to make things like a seafood bisque that takes him the entire day to prepare.  It's lovely.  

I try to put out an appetizer spread, and it's very fun for me to do, but it also has the effect of making it so we're not crazy hungry at dinner and end up uncomfortable.  Not that I'm going to stop doing it, but I think I might cut back on the amount of food that's out.  The shrimp cocktail has become a staple, and my sister would protest if I quit that.  We have Christmas music playing, the table is all dressed up, there are fun drinks for the kids and yummy cocktails for the adults.  

We draw names to fill stockings.  Stockings have become one of the favorite pastimes, both for shopping and for opening on Christmas Eve.  I know--weird that we do stockings on Christmas Eve.  Whatever.  It used to be Christmas morning, but we don't all get together Christmas Day so it moved.  They are filled with goofy things like dental floss and candy bars, but they're so much fun!  Each little gift is wrapped, and it's fun to watch the chaos of everybody tearing into them.  It's especially fun for the kids.  We do that before we eat.  That started when the kids were little and it was so hard for them all to wait for gift opening.   

Then after we eat and the dishes are done, we all sit down for gifts.  My kids and the nephews pass them out, and then we take turns, youngest to oldest, opening one gift at a time.  It's kind of a marathon, but it's very pleasant.  Then usually we spread out trying to digest our food and clear out the mess we've made while Elf or the Christmas Story is on.  It really is always a lovely evening.

The kids go to bed after everyone leaves and they leave cookies and milk out for Santa (and sometimes glittery oatmeal for the reindeer), and Santa comes for a visit.

In the morning after the excitement of Santa, we hang out and eat a bunch of leftovers for breakfast (sometimes the kids have an all-cookie breakfast), and very possibly nap while the kids play with their loot.  We head out to Christmas dinner in the afternoon, unless we are hosting it, then I'm frantically cleaning the house. Christmas dinner moves around year-to-year, we kind of take turns hosting.  This year it's at hubby's cousin's house, which is one of my all-time favorite places to relax.  The kids enjoy each other there, and hubby's cousin and his wife are two of my favorite people.  They are so easy to be around, and fun to laugh with.  There is another gift opening frenzy there (I know, right?!?) after dinner, and then the night usually ends with a session of Rock Band on the XBox.  Awesome.  The night kind of changes around depending on whose house we're at, but it's always loud and fun.  

We used to go to the late night service at church on Christmas Eve, and I LOVED it.  But since we've moved out onto the farm, our church is an hour away.  And when the kids were small, it was far too difficult to get them there.  I keep wanting to find a church home close to home, but I love my old church too much.  So this year, I'd like to drag my family there (even with the long drive) for Christmas morning service.  And that should become the most important tradition of all.

Traditions are comforting.  It's nice to know what to expect, and to know what you're looking forward to.  The anticipation is almost as fun as the event.  And Christmas is the best one of all.  

I have so much to do!

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