When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, we'd spend the day cleaning the house. My mother would always tell me that we didn't want Santa to see a dirty house strewn with toys. She would put on Christmas music and we'd clean. Later, I'd come to realize it was simply a clever scheme to get to me help out around the house more. At the time, it was fun. It was a day of anticipation and "getting ready" for Santa. I'll probably use a similar tactic with my restless natives.
Then after a day of cleaning we'd go my maternal grandmother's house for Christmas Eve. The house would be busting at the seams. My mother is # 6 of 8 children. Her oldest sister also has 8 children. My aunt's oldest 4 are the same age as her mother's youngest 4. So my mother grew up w/ nieces and nephews the same age and a little older. My grandmother became a wife at 14 and a mother at 15. Her oldest daughter was teenager as well. When I was a kid most of my family had children very young 16-20 typical age for having your first kid. At one point in time we had 5 generations alive at the same time. Needless to say Christmas gathering yields 50 people and was wild. We'd cram into the house and eat our meal in any little nook or cranny we could find. My cousins and myself, it was usually lining the steep staircase. And we'd peek down into our stockings which hung off the side. We'd giggle and talk about things that I've long since forgotten. After my grandparents went into the nursing home and their home sold, Christmas' were moved to the rec room of the nursing home. After their passing we now hold the gathering in the activity center of a church. It's nice to have the room. But really nothing beats the fun and laughter of being crammed into their old run down home.
On Christmas morning, I'd be wide awake at the crack of dawn. Of course, they'd tell me not to go look before they were up...but who can resist? Once or twice I snuck into the living room at 3 am to peek- but not touch. Then I'd go back to bed and wait on the sun to rise. I'm 9 years older than my sister. These early childhood memories of Christmas when Santa is real, I didn't get to experience with anyone else. By the time my sister was old enough- I'd already figured it out. But just because I knew didn't mean I needed to ruin it for anyone else. Playing Santa made my mom so happy that I went along with the whole gag. It was 2-3 years later before my mom figured out that I didn't believe in Santa. I like seeing them happy, what can I say?
After presents, then we'd dress and head to my paternal grandparents home. In which my grandmother would always have her lunch ready to go by 11am. My dad's family is significantly smaller than mom's. It'd be us, his two brothers and one cousin. And there would always be a fight. My grandfather was a master at making one of his sons mad just for the fun of it. I'd show off a favorite new toy that I'd received. Football would be on tv. Over the years, the one cousin disappeared for a few years. My grandmothers mental health deteriorated. My grandfather began cooking. She said he wanted to learn. Now we know better. They'd hidden her diagnosis with dementia from the rest of the family for a long time. He kept her safe and themselves from being told they couldn't live in their house anymore-independently.
On Christmas Eve we will still go to the church for my moms side. For the past two years, I've picked up the Christmas Day tradition of making a meal like my grandmother did. Although I've made my own modification of moving it to 5 pm instead of 11 am. This year I will have the honor of using her china and silverware set for the meal.
I'm looking forward to paying homage to the old traditions but creating our own and blending with Jay's to make this special for my own two little boys.