December 23rd, 2006

lab gift

Holiday Traditions

My family doesn't have many traditions--we're not religious, and none of us are into big celebrations, so holidays are pretty quiet. That said, this is what we do for Christmas:

When I was a kid

We'd alternate Christmases between my parents' house and my aunt's house. Both families had a real tree and lots of decorations, which we set up at home a week before. No presents were opened before Christmas morning. We left out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa Claus and all the kids slept in the same room (there were usually only four of us--my brother and I, and my cousins who are two years older than me. The other cousins lived further away and didn't usually stay the night). Of course we'd be up half the night whispering to each other--my one cousin always wanted to figure out what my parents had gotten for her, and I had a hard time avoiding her questions. While we were "sleeping" the adults would wrap the presents and get them set up under the tree.

All the kids would be awake early in the morning, but we'd have a set time we had to wait until before we woke up the adults. Usually around seven or eight, getting later as we got older and they figured we could hold out longer. Then we'd run to the living room and gasp over the presents, and check who all the big ones were for (size was very important as presents went), and fidget on the couch or the floor until the adults had their coffee or tea and were ready to start. One adult would be the designated gift giver, and would take presents from under the tree and bring them to the recipient. We were always careful to make sure that gifts were distributed fairly equally--if you'd just opened one, you'd have to wait a bit before you got another of yours. And usually no more than two people opened a gift at a time, so that everyone else could pay attention and see what they'd gotten.

We'd have Christmas dinner in the late afternoon on Christmas day: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots, mashed turnip, and a plate with cheese, olives, and pickles. The kids sat at a smaller "kids table" and the adults sat together at the regular dining room table. We had crackers with little toys inside which we opened while we waited to get our food. And there were lots of Christmas cookies for dessert. My mom's specialty is whipped shortbread cookies with maraschino cherry halves on top. Yum!

Both Christmas Eve and Christmas day we'd watch the family's favourite Christmas movies (A Christmas Story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and Disney's A Christmas Carol) and listen to lots of Christmas music.

These days

Chris and I don't do any decorating in the apartment--there's no room for a tree, as much as I like them, and we're not big on decorations. We see our extended families on the weekends around Christmas. On Christmas morning, we exchange gifts between the two of us. Then we head over to my parents' place, where my brother and my grandmother on my mom's side also go. There we all put our presents under their little fake tree (I was the lone hold-out for real ones when I lived there), put on Christmas music, and, as when we were kids, someone is picked to hand them out, one or two at a time. Afterward we have a small lunch (usually crackers and cheese and fruit), and hang out and chat for a while. We have a relatively early dinner (turkey et al), and my grandmother's mince tarts for dessert. Then we watch a movie my parents think everyone will enjoy (my grandmother isn't big on violence or foul language), not usually Christmas related--last year it was The Sound of Music, another year Gosford Park.