I hope Santa was very good to you this year!
One of the things I love most about holidays in my family is that they are very low-key affairs. Of course, we always make enough food to feed three small armies, but everyone is relaxed and just enjoying each other's company, and that's what the holidays are all about.
Today, I thought I'd share with you a few of my family's Christmas traditions.
º We always go to church on Christmas Eve together. When I was little, the service would be at 11 p.m., then when we got out, it would be Christmas. That was the best, and even better when it was snowing. Now, the service is at 7 p.m. (I'm convinced it's because the congregation is aging and old people can't stay up that late anymore), so it doesn't feel as magical, but is still pretty special. The service ends with the entire congregation around the perimeter of the darkened sanctuary singing "Silent Night." The only visible light is coming from the candles everyone is holding; it's so peaceful.
º After church, especially now that the service is earlier, we go home, turn on A Christmas Story, and finish up any wrapping that needs to be completed. Since I now keep the hours of a senior citizen, I don't make it much past 10 p.m. without falling asleep on the couch.
º Every since I was little, the rule on Christmas morning was that we had to be "properly dressed" before coming downstairs. That really just means no pajamas. The rule came from when my mom, who was one of nine, was little. It sounds silly, but I was always so excited to lay out my clothes when I went to bed on Christmas Eve so I could jump right into them before heading downstairs to open gifts.
º After we are dressed and downstairs, we have to eat breakfast before opening any gifts (another rule from Polly's childhood). For as long as I can remember, Christmas breakfast has been Tastykate Pecan Swirls and orange juice. Now that we're not kids anymore, that orange juice often gets mixed in with champagne for Christmas mimosas. Pecan swirls certainly aren't a delicacy, but to us, they are Christmas and I look forward to them every year.
º When I was little, my middle brother and I always took turns passing out the gifts; we would alternate each year. Somehow, I've become the designated gift passer-outer; I can't even remember the last time my brother did it. So, I had out a few gifts, everyone opens, then we repeat until everything has been unwrapped.
º After gifts, my mom and I start cooking for Christmas dinner, while my brother goes back to his house to bake and do some of his own cooking. Polly raised some darn good cooks!
When my grandparents were still alive, our Christmas lunch/dinner was always ham, potato salad, some kind of vegetable, and of course, lots of baked goods. Now, we do the ham and I make cheesy potatoes. The past few years, we've also had asparagus, and some sort of roll/bread. I think I'm also going to make a sweet potato casserole.
We don't do anything fancy, but it's always delicious.
º After dinner, we will head up to my oldest brother's house so we can give my nieces and nephews their Christmas gifts. Everyone's bellies are full of food and hearts with Christmas joy. It's always a circus with eight people (plus two babies) opening gifts, but it's so much fun. Lots of squealing and flying paper.
º After all of the gifts are opened and the leftovers are put away, my mom and I just relax with the light of the Christmas tree illuminating the living room. Our Christmas festivities certainly aren't Pinterest-worthy, but they sure do make my heart swell with joy and gratitude.