Monday, November 05, 2007

Fun Monday - Holiday Traditions

Fun Monday this week is being hosted by Deb, The Humble Housewife. Here's what she asked us to share this time around:

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 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'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!!


Beckie said...

I haven't been around to many of the fun Mondayers, but I am wondering if what you have described is happening a lot of places. (low on tradition) Then again maybe it is just that the holidays have lost some of the magic because we are no longer kids.

Sandy said...

I love the tradition of the little tree/little gifts!

Kaytabug said...

I feel ya on the shortage of tradition. It started when my Grandmothers died 8 years ago. My mothers side of the family that always got together and was heavy in tradition stopped getting together. I will continue on most of the traditions that I loved from my childhood. We always opened one at a time and we do the same here we take turns going a round one present at a time.

Sauntering Soul said...

I'm sorry thinking about this bummed you out. To be honest, it kind of bums me out too. My parents are in the middle of a divorce so all of our traditions will be pretty much gone this year.

Jenni said...

It sounds like the holidays of your past were very lively and fun! It also sounds like you've kept that element with your girlfriends night. Sometimes when the person who has been the tradition keeper passes, no one picks up the torch. Maybe you will be the one to do that in your family. When Danny's grandma is gone, I know there are one or two of us who will want to keep her traditions alive. Family traditions do evolve over the years though as new family members are added, mixing and mingling their traditions. And of course you can always make up new traditions of your very own. The most important thing is to enjoy the time with family and friends.

(Hey, saw the post below. I'm Schindler's List, too!)

Anonymous said...

Wow. You did midnight mass? Bravo. I never made it through one. It is SOO long with all the extra singing. We're not night people, so that may also be part of the problem. I've already got my son's outfit for Christmas day mass, tho!

Anonymous said...

I think the same thing happened in my family when my grandmother passed away - everyone just stuck to home and celebrated with their own immediate families.

Amy W said...

I love your Christmas Tree!!

Anonymous said...

The little tree is adorable.
What fun the gift opening must have be.
I'm suddenly reminded of that movie Christmas Story where the little boy gets the link bunny suit.
Thanks for stopping in.

ChrisB said...

Some traditions are bound to alter with different generations. But some continue, As a child we went to my grandparents after lunch on Christmas day. When they died and before I had children it was just immediate family. Then as soon as I had children we went to my mothers (my brother always went to his in laws). Now I have grandchildren they all come and stay with me for a week over Christmas. So in years to come as the grandchildren grow up and hopefully have their own family, I hope they will return to spend Christmas with their parents.

Rebecca said...

I'm so not ready for Christmas yet. Where'd the year go? Okay, that's not entirely true - I am ready for my Christmas bonus!! ;-0

Molly said...

I enjoyed reading your fond memories of Christmases past. Christmas must have been a very big celebration in your family.

Anonymous said...

It's a comfort to be able to develop one's own traditions. You do it one year, then the next because you enjoyed it so much the first time, and before you know it, you've fostered a whole new tradition.

the planet of janet said...

for you, this year, i wish you the gift of NEW traditions. create some more of your own -- like your potluck christmas party.

happy fun monday. as usual, i enjoyed reading your contribution!

Anonymous said...

We also open the gifts one at a time, at least at my house. Of course I always hate when it's my turn because I hate being watched.

Seems like you have a lot of traditions, they are just on the back burner for a bit. I really enjoyed hearing about your family. Mine is so small and it was just never so much fun.

Could it be the lack of alcohol? Just a thought....

my4kids said...

Your family get togethers when you were younger sound like a lot of fun.
We have always done the one person one gift at a time thing also that way everyone sees what everyone got. I've always thought it was a lot more fun that way.

BS said...

Thanks for the idea of having a Xmas party with the girlfriends. Now that my sons are grown and have families of their own, it doesn't feel like Christmas until I leave my house. Celebrating with girlfriends sounds great,

Dea said...

Great post Karina! Your childhood Christmas sounds amazing! We do the same thing opening the presents one at a time, takes forever, but so much fun!!!

Tiggerlane said...

I really like the idea of everyone opening their presents, one at a time...then you can really drag out the process!

I also like the idea of a "girlfriends" Christmas Eve...with beverages!

theotherbear said...

The girlfriends christmas party looks fun. I must go and find out what yankee swap style gift giving is!