Thursday, December 22, 2011

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. - Garrison Keillor

My family minus me who is taking the picture of course.

As Christmas & the New Year draw near, we all get nostalgic, recalling and anticipating (or in some cases not so much) celebration of family traditions. In my family the traditions have morphed over the years due to death, divorce, & just shear survival.  We started out trying to be like a Martha Stewart version of the Walton's but ended up more like a southern version of A Christmas Story (you'll shoot your eye out).  Now in 2011 with the loss of parents & grand-parents, the addition of new spouses & babies into the family, & the logistical issues of sibling distance our Christmas has settled into new traditions. 

My mother (who lives with me now) loves Christmas & has always gone all out to make it special for me & my siblings. One change in Christmas tradition started about 25 years ago when my mom & dad became full-time pastors ministering to the kids in the migrant camps outside of Tampa.  The holidays were the busiest time of year for them.  Way back then my sister & I were waitresses who always had to work the holidays.  It seemed everyone had places to be & a harried schedule they were trying to follow to appease other family, friends, in-laws & out-laws. So to help ease the stress my hubby & I have Christmas with the family on New Year's Day.  Come on, it's a brilliant idea!  It buys me an extra week not to mention the after Christmas sales are when I purchase the lion's share of my presents. My plans for the holiday so far are:

  • Christmas Eve candlelight service with my church family.  Coming together to hear the Christmas story & take communion together keeps me centered on the reason for the season.  When we sing "Oh Holy Night" I always tear-up because that was my Dad's Christmas solo every year.
  • Christmas Eve shopping in the neighborhood drugstore to see what went 75% off that I probably don't need.  It reminds me of my mother's sisters Aunt Dunnie & Aunt Jewel who who sneak away from the family gathering on Christmas Eve for a few hours only to return laden down with bargain sundries.
  • I have to find the perfect Christmas card to send out.  It has to be beachy and say Merry Christmas not Season's Greetings.
  • At least one shopping trip with Mom.  This year's shopping day was fueled by not only McDonald's sweet tea but a large sweet tea from Chick-fil-A as well.
  • No Christmas tree this year. It was decided to take a year off from our usual live Christmas tree.  I weighed my options with the artificial trees.  They were nice enough but we decided to direct our time & effort in other directions. We decorated our big entertainment unit & hutch instead.  I'm pretty happy about it.
  • Wrapping my gifts with Mary Engelbreit wrapping paper. I found some at Michael's Crafts for &1.99 a roll, that's a steal.
  • I am baking like crazy this year. So far I have made Apricot Strudel, Chocolate Almond Bark, & Cranberry Nut bread.  Since I opted out of the tree I had some energy left to bake.
  • Mom's Rum Cake signals the start of the holiday season.  She made her first one on Thanksgiving & there is another one coming for New Year's Day.  She has a recipe but the cake never turns out the same from year to year.  Thankfully my eyebrows & lashes grew back from the time I checked on the cake in the oven & the amount of rum baking-off caused a small explosion.
Grown men have been known to cry when it is all gone. My sil made this beauty.  She is carrying on the Rum Cake tradition.
No tree this year - I decorated the entertainment unit instead.  Each shelf tells a story.

GeeGee added her holiday touch to the shell hutch in the kitchen area.

One of my oldest tradition's is wrapping with Mary Engelbreit Christmas paper.

This might sound corny & cliched but now that I am officially on the sunny-side of middle age, my favorite part of Christmas is all the family & friends that I get to spend time with or talk to or am reminded of.  My hybrid holiday traditions   are my touchstone to them all.
Wishing You a Beautiful Holiday Season
With Every Happiness in the Coming Year!