When I was little, growing up in the Midwest, our Christmas holiday season had a definite routine and rhythm, and it became a 3-day Christmas Festivus every year:December 23: Christmas Eve Eve
That night, after dressing up in our finest Christmas fashion-wear and having a wonderful home- dressy dinner at the decked out dining room table, we opened gifts my original family of 4 with my mom, dad, and brother. We went around the circle one at a time opening gifts, with it being a full magical, memorable event of savoring everyone's presents to each other. We'd chuckle over the silly names we'd put on the package tags. Sometimes the names would hold clues about what was inside, and sometimes they were silly like "Mickey Mouse,""Snoopy," or "Holly Hobby." Sometimes the gifts would involve antics like boxes inside of boxes, or cans of corn or bricks that were wrapped to add additional weight and humor and disguise. (Some of those traditions have migrated into my own family now that I'm an adult.) With the gifts being from our nuclear family, often these were the best gifts of our entire Christmas!!
December 24 Christmas Eve:
That morning of the 24th would be filled with loads of excitement because that was the morning Santa visited. It made perfect sense to our young minds that Santa needed to come to our house a day early because he had such a heavy job load the next evening--we were helping him out by being available the morning of Christmas Eve. That afternoon we'd usually travel the 45 minutes to my maternal grandparents so that we could have Christmas with them. Dinner was always chili because it was quick and easy and ultimately tradition. My grandpa, a Methodist minister, had a pretty busy evening that night or the next morning with Christmas services (up until he retired). We'd go to church, then often stay the night at my grandparents, opening gifts at night with the lights all a-glow, and laughter would usually ensue with all with my uncles, aunts, and 2 cousins.
December 25: Christmas Day
Christmas morning we'd ready ourselves to head the opposite direction about an hour and a half away to see my Dad's family (although every few years it'd be hosted at our house). Dad's family was bigger than Mom's, and with my grandparents being Lithuanian, we had a lot of ethnic and cultural flair in the air. Dad's siblings (my aunts and uncles) would often talk to my grandparents in Lithuanian. We had more cousins on that side, so there was always a lot of rabble rousing at "the kids' table," the family togetherness, and all that comes with being part of a bigger family. Especially the annual family group photo by my one uncle--it was his self-appointed job. It was alway heavy with orchestration and getting us all in order, a lot of pomp and circumstance for photos I'm not sure any of us ever saw!
As an adult, the holiday season always has that wistful element of days and Christmas gone by and memories filtering around. Its' in the noticing the changes over time as grandparents and others passed away. Kids get older and eventually start our own families and family traditions. The timetables of fitting in everyone and everything had to become more flexible, especially since my family is still in the Midwest, but my husband's family and our now-nuclear family are both out East. So the timing of Christmas in my house has always been a little bit different every year now. In part, some of this contributes to Christmas as an adult not having the same magic as it once did due to things having an added layer of complication.
And then there's this year. 2020.
The melodic tune of "Have Yourself a Covid Little Christmas" is ringing through my ears this year. PNC Banking
, who for 37 years has been doing the true price of "The 12 Days of Christmas"
is strikingly cheaper this year as the 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 ladies dancing, 9 lords a-leaping are all unavailable due to Covid cancelations of large group gatherings. As numbers climb, the recommended travel and extended family restrictions of Thanksgiving continue even moreso. Our plans have modified and we won't be doing our typical Christmas break trek to my Midwestern Mama, who I have now not seen in person since last Christmas--the two times we were planning to this past year, numbers started climbing and it once again felt unsafe. Of course, in retrospect, both times, the numbers were no where near this high. I'll be honest, it's wearing on me. But prudence and a sense of caution are what's navigating all this year. We have our family unit and our lights on our Christmas tree, and gifts have been mailed and will be opened while FaceTiming. Locally with the inlaws it's beginning to look like the only safe and comfortable option for all is a Christmas Day outdoor bonfire (with prayers for warmish winter days in our future).
I know this holiday season is going to be very different for a lot of people. It's of course bittersweet as many of us aren't going to be able to be with our loved ones in the same way we've traditionally been. But if you don't have health, you have nothing. My hope for the world is that we all have faith & respect in each other to take care of each other through these hard days of the pandemic. Likewise, I hope the vaccine distribution and administration will be swift and successful and bring us brighter, healthier days for everyone of us. These are the items on my Grown Up Christmas List.... right next to world peace, an end to climate change, a world with no pollution and hatred, and no one cold, hungry or homeless.
May you have a wonderful December 23rd & Christmas Eve Eve, steeped in memories and anticipation and seasonal glow, filled with love, laughter, good health, and family togetherness (even if it's via technology).
Pictures created on Canva.com.