Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How we celebrate Christmas

     This will post on Christmas Eve and we will have several Christmas traditions in the bank by then, and here's how we tend to celebrate this Season.....

     I was going to blog about the traditions that we have in our family, and then I realized that I could probably fill a page with just the things we do around Christmas, so I thought I'd peel that Ongion skin for you this morning.  The Christmas season starts for us about 3-4 weeks prior to Christmas. 
Nolan in front of our Christmas tree
 Our first tradition is to hunt and chop down our fresh Christmas tree.  No artificial ones for us, we have to see it standing, crawl underneath it with a hacksaw, sever it from the earth and then drag it through the mud or snow.  For as long as I can remember, this is how we get our Christmas tree.  I did a whole blog a few years ago on the year we lost a tree, the link is attached here if you want a true heartwarming story, but that's how we kick the season off. (On Christmas Trees, lost and found.)   When we get home with the tree, Dad strings the lights, and Mom and the kids hang the ornaments.  We're angel people, don't try to convince us of putting anything else on the top of the tree, in our house, that space is reserved for an angel.  We aren't pretty white light people either, ours are big, gaudy and brightly colored. We don't string popcorn to go round it, although the Boy Scouts keep us in good supply.  We have a small living room, but that's where we put it, so we can plug it in and enjoy it each night.  Char decorates the rest of the house with nutcrackers and wreaths and other assorted things, and our nativity set is simple and Jesus arrives on Christmas, and not beforehand. 

     We throw some lights on the house outside, but we don't aim to be the brightest lit house strewn with lawn decorations, timed to music and such.  My brother in law down the street, however, strings 
lights completely around his house and stages several blow up characters in front too.  I've been tempted to just take credit for his decorating, like the guy in this picture did, but he's too far away for me to do this.  Our church puts up a giving tree each year, and we participate in it, sponsoring 3 anonymous children so that they might have a better Christmas morning.  We volunteer a shift at a Salvation Army kettle on a Saturday prior to Christmas.  My wife's family had a winter house fire when she was small, so this is an important tradition for her, to make sure that we think of those less fortunate.  Our Boy Scout Troop has a great tradition of spending $400 of their hard earned money and making 40 fruit baskets to distribute to the needy, aged and infirm.  It's our 2nd biggest budgeted item each year and this tradition goes back decades and my family has both benefited from this tradition and met some amazing people.  I wrote a blog about one of them a while ago, and it's another heartwarming holiday story that you can share (The clothing lady with the one shoe story).  That's how we try to keep Christ in Christmas in our house.

     We have 2 other traditions that center around my family in the weeks prior to Christmas, our Men's Shopping Night and our Progressive Dinner.  Both go back over a decade, with the first being 
5 of my sisters at a Progressive Dinner
at least a 20 year tradition and the second encroaching that number.  My brothers, and brothers in law spend a Friday night out together and try and relieve some of the holiday stress.  We used to shop for an hour and then go bar-hopping, but now we don't even pretend to shop anymore, we just do a 12 station bar crawl.  Traditionally we stop in at Wally's Pub and try to eat 20 wings apiece, but only a few of us ever do.  We tear up our hometown of Canandaigua and we laugh and dance and just hang out with the male members of our clan.  I'll include the link here to the blog I did on this event, and you can read about our hijnks and shenanigans if you'd like  ( Men's Shopping Night) The Progressive Dinner kicks off at noon on a Sunday, just prior to Christmas and
we caravan through a 5 or 6 course meal visiting some of my sibling's homes and viewing their decorations.  This is open to all of my immediate family and we get a great turnout each year.  I did a blog on this before, see (Our Progressive Dinner).  I'm a big fan of this one, especially since it involves 2 out of 4 of the F things that my mother was thankful for, Family and Food, the others are Friends and Faith, but we'll get to those in the next paragraph.  Here's a shot of Mom and how she dressed for this event some years.  Sometime prior to Christmas my wife, children and I try to sit down and watch my wife's favorite movie "It's a Wonderful Life".  We've done this for so long that we all can recite the best lines as they come up and it's a special night for us to snuggle in.

     We celebrate Jesus' birth by attending church as a family, mid-day on Christmas Eve.  We arrive almost an hour early so that we can sit together, but it's tradition that my sons and I give up our seats to older parishioners or ladies that may be standing just prior to the service.  I don't even have to spot the people anymore, both my boys are on high alert for this opportunity to sacrifice a little and to make someone else's Holiday a little brighter.   I'm a little beyond getting excited on Christmas morning anymore, my kids are older and I've never liked the commercialism that is so
Nolan make armadillo eggs for the party
prevalent on this holiday, but I'm as guilty as the next husband and father when it comes to doling out gifts for this day.  What I do look forward to each year though, is the intimate party that we throw on Christmas Eve.  This idea, we blatantly stole from my best friend's family and made it into our own tradition.  We mix a few close friends and just a couple of our family members from each side whom we spend more time with each year, and we host an upscale evening complete with cocktails, singing round the piano, and tasty dishes that require a lot of prep and forethought.  We laugh and sing and enjoy the small gathering, and there are no gifts exchanged except the pleasure of the company.  We knock off the other two F's of my Mom's Friends and Faith that evening. 

     On Christmas Day, we arise early, get the coffee brewing and gather in our living room for the gift exchange.  Santa fills the stockings overnight though for some reason only my wife's stocking stuffers are wrapped each year.  A tangerine or orange is placed in foot of the stocking.  I always thought this was to take up a lot of room, but this tradition dates back to when citrus was hard to come by in this area in the winter, so it was a special treat to receive an orange in your stocking.  The
Watching a Christmas tree burn
gift sorting is done by me, the man of the house, and I pass out each present and we watch as each one is opened with oohs and aahs.  After we finish, I make breakfast for the family and then we travel to see Char's Mom.  We used to see her on Christmas Eve and my mother on Christmas Day, but now we just have the short trip down the street.  I miss my Mom, but it's nice to see Mary on Christmas Day so that we can hear about the gifts that her family got her.  Last year was extra special as one of her grandsons arranged all of her grandchildren to be in a family picture and we got to present it to her.  For all intents and purposes, that terminates our Christmas celebration, except for one small last tradition.  We drag our tree out a few days after Christmas, but it gets stored behind the barn for a while, drying out.  It becomes a home for rabbits or birds and when it is sufficiently dry, we donate it to a bonfire at a friends house or a family gathering and we watch the tree go up in a few seconds of blazing glory.  It's kind of like a Viking funeral for the Christmas Season, and it's spectacular, you should try it.  Those are some of the traditions in my family around this time of year, how about yours? 

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