It’s snowing and I’m excited. I love the snow, especially when it comes as we are preparing for Christmas. I’m keeping a few (Christmas) secrets and the snow, crisp air and that Christmas-type feeling make it just a little bit easier to hold out. I’m the type of person that wants to tell you everything. If I know something, I want to share it! Today is not the day though; the day will be Christmas. Friends and families will share the secrets and surprises they’ve kept over the last month or two while their children run around pink-cheeked and excited with the anticipation of opening their gifts.
This is how it always was for me growing up and is probably why I’m still such a sucker for Christmas today. The excitement would start weeks in advance, and by the time Christmas Eve would come along, I could hardly wait to get to my Gramma’s house where we celebrated Polish Wigilia . We always went early and stayed late, spending the entire day talking and laughing, my brothers and I playing Husker Du with our cousins, and the adults laughing and having a good time in the living room and kitchen in to the wee hours of the morning. There was always more food than all of us could eat, whether it was my mother having made pirogies and mushroom soup, or the later years where we just had roast beef and mashed potatoes. I still remember the year we all went out to dinner instead of going to Gramma’s (HEY! Where ya going with that cake?!). I think we all kind of felt cheated out of our Christmas Eve experience, and we never did it again.
Christmas Day was no different; my brother(s) and I waking up at the crack of dawn to see what was left for us under the tree. We were never disappointed. A long running family joke is my mother saying “Christmas won’t be overly spectacular this year….” because no matter what it always was. Christmas evening was spent with my other set of grandparents, on my dad’s side, along with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. My grandparents were always good for getting us exactly what was on our lists. There was a telescope for me one year, which I used to look at the moon, and another year, when I was in 7th or 8th grade I got my 1st real camera. It was a special gift for me because I shared my grandfather’s passion for taking photos of everyone and everything. In addition to our regular gifts, my grandfather would always give each of us kids an envelope full of cash. $10 when we were younger, much more as we got older. Again though, we stayed late in to the evening, talking, playing and laughing.
Christmas is much different now. For one, all of my grandparents have passed on. For another, the majority of my cousins and I have married, had our own families, and have started our own traditions. We still gather with my mother’s family; usually the Saturday before Christmas, and we have as good of a time as we ever did. The last 2 years have been hard, without my grandmother, who lived for this particular type of gathering—all of the food, family and fun you could ever want, but we’ve done it and we’ve had a great time. This year, our gathering on 12/15, will be extra special because it will include my cousin Bee’s daughter, Jordyn, for the very first time.
Ed and I spend Christmas Eve with his father’s family, another tradition that has been shaken by the death of his favorite uncle 2 years ago on Thanksgiving. Seeing the children, mine and Ed’s cousin’s, together and having a great time though makes it more than worth it. There’s doing shots of Crown with Greg too……(That’s not going to happen this year—I went home and still had to wrap gifts last year and I was wrecked)
Christmas morning has been spectacular for us since the kids came along. Ed and I get up early with the kids and open gifts. Later in the morning, my parents, brothers and SIL along with Ed’s mom and brother come over for a big breakfast and we all open gifts together. The kids, of course, are spoiled, and have a wonderful time. As the afternoon approaches, we head to my uncle’s house and spend the evening with my dad’s family. My cousins and their children trickle in and out as we have dinner and dessert and watch my younger cousins open their gifts.
I think that the point of all of this is that the more traditions change, the more they stay the same. We do all have our own lives now, but it is important to remember where tradition came from, and to keep it going in one form or another for as long as we can. I want my children to have the same fond memories I have of Christmas through the years, and keep them going for their own children……but in their own way.