Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Warm and Fuzzy Family Traditions Satisfy

A week from today my Christmas visitors will be arriving, all 17 of them. Yes, there will be 19 people here, sleeping in various and sundry areas of my home, including my husband and me. Is that a little bit overwhelming at this point? Yep. (Especially since I'm still decorating the living room and have yet to wrap even one of the many gifts stashed away in our guest room.) BUT...Am I feeling way more excited than overwhelmed at this point? You bet I am!

I happen to be a great lover of holiday traditions, and I was hoping that if I shared some of ours, you might reciprocate. It's always a good thing to get new ideas, right? And it's also kinda fun to peek in on someone else's celebratory silliness, sentiment, and spirituality. (If you're like us, you have plenty of all three!)

At our house, it all begins on the 23rd, when the men make the women a big batch of artichoke chicken fusilli pasta. I can't even tell you how good it is. Somehow, my husband was able to wheedle the recipe away from Willow Street Pizzeria so the Young Men in our ward could make a Valentine's Day dinner for their mothers several years ago. Of course, it turned out wonderfully, and we have been making the yummy dish ever since. (Or rather, my husband has...which is probably at least half of the reason why I love it so much!)

Christmas Eve is BIG for us. Maybe even bigger than Christmas Day. Everyone scurries around getting last-minute things done until 5 PM, when they are expected to be home. Believe it or not, we eat Mexican food, which is something I came up with when my kids were little so I wouldn't have to be in the kitchen all night long. Surprisingly, it stuck! (One year, I tried to make prime rib and yorkshire pudding with mashed potatoes and the kids and their cousins nearly had fits. "No. We eat Mexican food!" they reminded me.) *sigh* Anyway, my brother-in-law makes nachos with homemade guacamole (yummy stuff). My daughter-in-law makes the best chicken and cheese enchiladas you'll ever taste, and I make the chicken and beef tacos with refried beans. Sometimes we add taquitos.

After we're stuffed to that barely bearable level only Mexican food can produce, we hit the living room and assume our traditional places on the couch, chairs, and carpet. (Just like at church, everyone has sort of claimed a spot of their own over the years. This is also true for the present-opening on Christmas Day.) The first half of our program is the same every year and involves reading certain poems, singing certain songs, kids' nativity, etc. The second half is what we call "circletime" (explained in detail here), where I begin by reading a Christmas story I've written just for that night. After reading it, I ask a soul-searchingly spiritual question or two to the group (as you can imagine, the guys LOVE this, heehee), and we go around the circle "sharing." Incredibly, our men are willing to do this because it's (yep!) tradition. This is my favorite part of our holiday, hands down. And I think everyone else kinda likes it, too. (Though few admit it, which has somehow become part of the tradition.) When all of us have spilled our guts––or laughed and cried them out––we leave cookies, milk, and carrots for Santa and his reindeer; go out to "hear" the bells on Santa's sleigh; and then adjourn to the family room to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, which most of us have memorized. Quoting lines with the movie is acceptable, and singing all of the songs at the top of your lungs is required. Needless to say, we get to bed late.

And we rise ridiculously early, every blessed one of us beyond bleary-eyed. (This is a rule.) Christmas Day marks the present-opening and homemade-by-my-mom-and-stepfather-tea-ring-eating. We sit in a circle and open our presents one at a time, so everyone can check out what everyone else got, all the while eating the most delicious pastry known to man, the melts-in-your-mouth-and-sticks-to-your-hands variety. I can taste its warm, butter-and-almond-paste-oozing splendor now, just thinking about it! The present-opening ritual takes a looooong time, and when we're finished, we have turkey and ham sandwiches (warm out of the oven) on my mom's wonderful oatmeal bread, yours truly's signature Waldorf salad, the infamous but ever-popular "grapefruit stuff," and pumpkin pie. Again, this meal originated out of my desire to avoid the kitchen as much as possible during the festivities.

The rest of the day is spent trying on and modeling new clothes, playing with new toys, etc. etc. And it is sheer heaven, by the way, complete with towers of lovely white gift boxes. (By the way, the day after Christmas our family takes an early morning hike and spends the day in San Francisco.)

Can you tell that I love Christmas? I do. But not half as much as I love the family that helps make it so meaningful. (They'll be here in JUST ONE WEEK!)

Yikes. What am I doing on the computer?!



Jess said...

That sounds like a crazy,fun,noisy crowd of love. I love Christmas traditions. We read from Luke 2 on Christmas eve, and this year we're starting a new one. We wrapped a box,cut a hole in the top and all month we write things others have done for us, or things we're grateful for and put it in the box to be read Christmas eve.

p.s. we eat mexican food on Christmas eve too, I think that started for the same reason as well.

Amy said...

I LOVE your traditions! How fun!

Christmas Eve is the big day for us. I really would be okay if Christmas morning didn't happen so long as we have Christmas Eve. We go to my parent's house and have a Jerusalem supper. We eat things Mary and Joseph might have eaten. Grapes, figs, dates, crackers, fish, fruit, a cheese ball, grape juice... it is delicious! I especially love the goat cheese we have only then. Delicious! We then go to the living room and read Luke 2, while the kids act it out (always good for a few laughs) and have a talent night. I love it so much! Christmas day we go to my aunt and uncle's house for the traditional Chowder Down where we eat boston and new england style clam chowder. That is the only time of year when my extended family gets together, so it is kind of a big deal. Such fun times. The holidays are great because of all the family togetherness and traditions, aren't they?

karen said...

Your traditions sound like a lot of fun. We're just starting out with the grandparent traditions, but one we have done with the little ones is writing a letter to Santa and then placing it in the fire in the fireplace. The smoke sends their letter magically to Santa at the North Pole.

Darlene said...

Sue, I love it that we read Luke 2 as well. Traditions are what make Christmas special for me and I love how spiritual ours are. Over the years I have become reconciled that yours is the house of choice in our family, where everyone wants to come. It has been a long time since all of my chilren came home for Christmas. My house just isn't big enough to accomodate everyone and most of the family chooses to have Christmas with their own families. I can understand that, but it is unusual that Nikki and all her family still wants to go to your house every other year. Her chilren would feel tortured if they had to stay home for Christmas, I think. Just imagine, they have never spent a Christmas at their own home, it is always every other year with us at your house, and the other years at Perry's (the Mexican chef) parents.

We are so ready to come. We are done with most of the baking. Just one more day of making Danish tea rings. There will also be four different kinds of cookies, banana nut bread, pumpkin bread and of course the oatmeal bread. Dick tells me every year that I shouldn't bake so much, but each year I bake more. Oh well, I do expect to get a couple of days to really rest up before we come. Believe me though, it is worth it. That's what tradition is all about to me.

Sue said...

Thanks to EVERYONE for sharing such great traditions. Keep 'em coming, okay? I knew I would enjoy reading these comments.

True, Mom, we do read Luke 2, but lately I've been embodying it in my Christmas story. (In fact, I want Dick to read it this year when that part comes. I'll give him his cue.)

And I also forgot to talk about his beautiful singing of "O Holy Night" every year. That is a highlight for me and all of my kids, and it's one of the many things they miss when you guys aren't with us.

By the way, the only reason the family gathering has gravitated to my house is because it's big enough. Well, actually, even mine isn't big enough! That's why we spend the whole time tripping over luggage and bodies.


jen said...

Every year since Tucker was born (eighteen Christmases now) I've made my kids new pajamas. Except the year I was in bed pregnant with Micah. That year I cut them out and Grandma T sewed them together with my crappy old machine, fully knowing that Brad had purchased a new machine under her guidance and it was wrapped under the tree!
So many traditions. So many memories. And this Christmas will be my first, last, and only Christmas with just me and my kids. How can I help but be misty-eyed? I really want to be happy . . .

Momza said...

Traditions make the DAY! I love having certain things to look forward to!
Christmas Eve we usually have tri-tip and crab legs, but this year we're hosting my daughters' in-laws (that's 5 more peeps), so we're having a buffet instead.
Then we're playing a White Elephant gift game, going carolling, hot cocoa afterwards, open one present (not pjs), and talk till our talkers can't talk anymore!! Christmas morning is greeted by the kids waiting at the top of the stairs for Mr W and I to get our bahooey's in gear with cameras, and I get the orange cinnamon rolls and cocoa out to be served, then we let the caboose pass out the gifts and watch one another open them. THat's my favorite part! I LOVE seeing the reactions of surprise! The rest of the day is making the big meal and napping, and the kids tryin out their new stuff.
Love it! Thanks for asking!

Carolyn said...

Christmas at your house sounds amazing. I'll have to admit I'm jealous. I've always wanted a family like yours.

I started a tradition of making clam chowder on Christmas Eve a few years ago. We have crepes on Christmas morning.

This year I'm adding a curry venison tenderloin to the menu.

Em said...

love family traditions, especially at the holidays. we are currently stealing bits and pieces from our own families. the ones we like the best, and smooshing them all together;-) it will be interesting to see what we add on our own. still not sure what's on the christmas eve menu and don't know what meat to do for christmas day.

KC Mom said...

Aweseome traditions! You are going to have so much fun this year! Can't wait to see all the photos.

NBlake said...

Can't wait for the whole gang to be together soon!

By the way, thinking you should consider adding on a few rooms to your house... our family is groooowing! :)

Love you!

Joy For Your Journey said...

Nineteen people!! How fun is that!? I will have ten--which is my entire family--five kids, one grandbaby, two inlaws and me and my husband. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. But I hope when we are 19 they will all come home so we can have a party then too!

As for traditions . . . we have several of the same only our Mexican food is on Christmas Day. Our more traditional meal is on Christmas Eve. It is always at my house and we have fun games and songs and then move to the more spiritual. Also on Christmas Eve we open the presents the kids have for each other so they can get more attention. And we open PJ's --for everyone and have a pajama parade! This year my daughter is making them--as I write. They will be the first items she has ever sewed. Should be interesting.

Christmas morning we do like you do--open one gift at a time.

One idea I heard from a friend I like is--on Christmas Eve his family all begin their serious part of the evening in the dark. When the first person speaks, he/she lights a candle, the next person lights another candle etc. until they all have candles lit. (I like the battery powered ones:-) At the end they all sing Silent Night. I thought that was a beautiful tradition.

Have a Merry Christmas!!

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