How happy I am that you can join us for Christmas. Whether or not this is what you celebrate personally, we are glad to have you join in our celebration with us.
Our family celebration begins two weeks Christmas — we have a decorated tree in our living room, which you would have been invited over to help us decorate two weeks prior. Decorating the tree together is very important to us — we missed decorating it last year because I was ill, so this year will be a happy event for us. During the tree decoration, we snack together on gluten-free bread and hearty stew. I make bean-and-bacon soups or a beef-based stew with root vegetables, a little sriracha, and spices from our front-yard garden. I love making bread in my breadmaker, and steep rosemary in the oil for the bread so that the whole house smells of rosemary while we decorate. My son is fourteen and knows the story of every ornament on our tree — from the childhood ornaments that belong to my husband to the ornaments that we bought to commemorate the big events in our lives, or those gifted to us by friends and family. Last year’s present was a Doctor Who ornament, and a Minnesota Vikings one given by my mother. Decorating the tree is the first time we play Christmas music; we’ll put a Christmas mix station on and talk about the best things that happened to us during the past year. We are all very grateful for our lives and for your company and so we use decorating the tree as a time to talk about the best parts of the last year and how we can make next year even better. We have two big, black, peaceful dogs who will wander around and sniff hands, beg for crumbs, and snuggle with anyone who sits down — they are rescues and have so much love to give!
The night before Christmas, we take the dogs to the kennel in the morning, because we’ll be driving up to my mother’s house once work is over. We have a small dinner at our house around 3 pm, then pack up our car and drive up to the mountains where my parents live on 2 acres of mountainous forest in Pennsylvania. The house is small, snug, and smells of the wood stove that my parents use for their heat. My mom and dad make a cheese ball with gluten-free crackers and we eat this together while putting our presents under the tree and saying our hellos. My sister will have come up from the South with her tiny orange dog, and my other sister and her husband will drive out at some point during the evening. Some of us will go to the evening service at my parents’ small Methodist church — no one is obligated to go, but everyone is welcomed warmly there. My parents have been attending there for 25 years, and everyone there knows everyone by name and is warm and kind.
If you choose not to go to services, some of us stay home, and we usually play board games — Settlers of Catan, Trivial Pursuit, and Ticket to Ride are favorites — or watch movies in the basement, near the wood stove, so we’re nice and warm. Somewhere around midnight, everyone winds down and goes to bed, all bundled up warm as the house will get chilly over the night as the fire dies down!
In the morning, everyone gets up, takes their time getting coffee and getting dressed while my dad builds up the wood stove again. Be sure you have your warm and comfy socks because the floor is cold until the house warms up. My mom makes pull-apart bread with cinnamon and there is regular and decaf coffee. Once everyone has their coffee and is “picture ready,” we all go and sit down in the living room to open up presents. We do a round-robin so not everyone is responsible for buying for everyone — though the sole grandkid does get a little spoiled, and so you’d get to share in that, as a second grandkid! We have a tendency to buy practical presents for each other, nice things we would not buy for ourselves. Last year I got a coat that I never would have spent so much on myself — but I will wear it for the next twenty years. The price of the presents isn’t what’s important — it’s the thought we put into each one — but we do like spoiling each other a little in the way we wouldn’t spoil ourselves. I look forward to knowing what you’d like to have for yourself that you can’t bring yourself to spend the money on, and helping you enjoy that.
After the presents are opened and the wrapping paper cleaned up, we tend to relax and snack — pull-apart bread and cheeseball! — until dinnertime somewhere around 4 PM. My mother makes a huge turkey with gravy, sweet potato casserole, rolls… my brother-in-law makes several vegan options including home-made dressing for his salads, and at the end, my mother’s famous dark chocolate fudge with walnuts, peanut-butter oatmeal fudge, and at least three different kinds of pies including pumpkin, apple, and some sort of cheesecake. We take our time eating and spend a lot of time talking. Usually my sister’s dog will wander around our feet, pretending she’s not begging.
At the end of dinner, everyone helps to clean up, clearing away the dishes, helping wash by hand what can’t go into the dishwasher, and leaving my mom’s kitchen and dining room looking as clean as it does every day. Once that’s finished, we go back to the living room to play board games, drink coffee, and spend time together. We love to talk about our lives and you are an important part of our lives, so as we play board games together, we’ll be talking about your plans and ours for the upcoming holiday of New Year’s, and what you plan for the next year.
Late in the evening, we pack the car back up, and drive home with leftovers and full tummies. Usually we listen to NPR in the car, but on Christmas, it’s Christmas music all the time. We talk about what we enjoyed best about the day and go home to have a nice warm snooze after a long day spent with you – and the rest of our family.
I’m so glad you chose to join us for our Christmas celebration. We love you and are glad you chose to spend your Christmas with us.