I want to hear about or see a holiday tradition, recipe or event. It can be any holiday you like or that is special to your family. With Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays coming up, those would be especially apt, but anything that is special for your family is fine. If you have pictures - it's a bonus! Whether it's your Mom's famous stuffing recipe, going caroling on Christmas Eve, Diwali dances, or even the inevitability of Great Aunt Polly having one too many brandies and knocking over the Christmas tree - I want to hear about it!!!
I've got to admit that thinking about this assignment actually kind of bummed me out a bit. The reason for this is that holiday traditions were grand in my family for a very long time, but in recent years, they've mostly all fallen by the wayside. Instead of focusing on that, however, I'll just go back in time a bit and share with you some of the family traditions that were.
Christmas was always THE HOLIDAY for my family. After my grandparents were able to bring their three children and their families over to the U.S. from Portugal, Christmas was a huge family affair. Every year on Christmas Eve we would gather at my mom's parents' house for dinner. The group would normally consist of my parents, brother and I, my grandparents, my uncle and aunt, and two cousins, and my other aunt and two cousins. Then, every year, there would be an assortment of friends, boyfriends, some years in the beginning my father's mother as well (when she still lived with us), and other random relatives now and then. My grandmother had a mini Christmas tree upstairs in her house, and at some point, it became tradition that we would buy little gifts (tiny, cheap things) and hand those out before dinner. Then we would have dinner, which would usually consist of lots of conversation, lots of alcohol, and quite a bit of singing and even some dancing to Christmas carols and such. We would always wait until midnight (at some point, we began attending midnight mass as well) and then, after midnight (or upon returning from mass) Santa Claus (my uncle dressed as such) would show up to hand out gifts. My poor uncle would spend hours in that get-up, handing gifts out to the kids (us), mostly for the benefit of my brother, who at the time was still young enough to believe, but also, for the sake of tradition...Santa had to be there:
(This is Santa with my brother, who was probably 6 or 7 at this time?)
Our family has always given gifts to everyone, so adults gift to adults, kids gift to kids, adults gift to kids...you get the point...there is never a shortage of gifts, and the biggest tradition is that we open gifts ONE at a time, so that everyone can see what you are getting...therefore the actual gift opening is a process that takes hours, and is the favorite part for most of us. We enjoy watching others open their gifts sometimes more than we do opening our own.
In those times, Christmas Eve would open up into Christmas morning, and we'd be up all night first opening, and then playing with our many gifts. With bags loaded with our presents we'd stumble our way home in the wee hours of the morning. We'd sleep until noon, and return to grandma's sometime Christmas afternoon for leftovers.
It was a time for family, laughter, conversation, music, love and gift giving. I have only fond memories of my Christmases growing up.
When my grandmother died about 6 years ago, everything changed. Still, we've managed to hold on to the most treasured bits of our traditions.
(Mom's Christmas Tree)
We now gather at my mother's house. Most years, my uncle and aunt and cousin M&M with her family will join us. We've been lucky some years to have my cousin PM and her family, who now live across the country, join us as well.
(My cousin M&M's Daughter Brainiac, and my cousin PM's son, Handsome)
We also tend to have random misfits who join us each year, my brother's friends, Lil' K, other relatives, friends, etc. We still have a late dinner, and still wait until midnight to open gifts. We still open the gifts one by one, paying close attention to what each of us unwraps. We still have laughter, and love, and family. Christmas is still one of my favorite holidays...it's just less so than it used to be.
Perhaps when I have a family of my own, it'll once again become a tradition heavy holiday. But for now, my friends are also my family, and since buying my condo 4 years ago, I've created a new tradition of my own. Every year I have my own "Christmas Party" with my girlfriends. We potluck it, we exchange gifts (Yankee Swap style), and we talk, and drink, and laugh into the night. This has become one of my favorite traditions for the holiday.
(My Christmas tree the first few years in my place)
(My Christmas tree last year)
Thanksgiving is another holiday for which my family still gathers, but again, as with Christmas, some of the magic was lost with my grandmother's passing. It was much like a preparation for Christmas, with the dinner, and the singing, and the talking, all at Grandma's house. It is now held at my uncle and aunt's house, and we still do the dinner, and the talking, and have added game playing into the mix. Every year we now play some sort of board game, with my cousin M&M, Brainiac, and whoever happens to be around. I enjoy Thanksgiving very much, even though it is a much more lowkey holiday for us than it is for most.
The Fourth of July has also become a huge family tradition holiday for us. Not the holiday you normally think of when you think of family, is it? Yet, every year, my parent's host a major cook-out, and not only does the entire family show up, so do most of our friends and family. It is much of a free for all, so my friends, my brother's friends, my parents' friends, and even friends of friends, tend to make it a point to stop by. The Fourth has quickly become one of my favorite holidays.
As far as traditions go, my family is running low on them right now, but the ones we do have, we thoroughly enjoy and appreciate.
I can't wait to read all about your family traditions. Please be sure to visit Deb for the full list of participants!
Happy Monday everyone!!