It's no secret, I love Christmas. I love the spirit of the season, I love the decorations, I love the tree, the shopping, the baking, the celebrating, the love shared among family and friends, and I especially love the traditions.
My very favorite Christmas memories are those magical years back on Cohocton Place when everything was just right. When thinking back to what made Christmas, well, Christmas I think about the traditions that we had as a family. Other than receiving the JC Penney Wish Book in the mailbox and dog-earing every single page so that I might start crafting my letter to Santa and my wish list for my mom and dad, I don't remember much before Christmas Eve. As a family, we spent the day cooking, cleaning, and preparing for a house full of family and friends (in between we'd squeeze in a trip to the store with dad to finish up his last minute shopping...). Evening would come and our house would be buzzing with people. My mom hosted an open house every Christmas Eve and it was this that really made the holiday for me. I got to see most of my cousins, neighbors, and lots of family friends. We exchanged gifts, ate far too many cookies, and got to spend time with each other sometimes for the only time that year. Sometime during that night, Santa would swing by and hang for a little bit on his way around the world.
The party would wrap up, we'd clean up, and I'd shuffle off to bed so that Santa could return and leave our presents under the tree. As a child I was pretty frightened of the idea of a strange man entering my home, no matter how generous he might be. Because of that fear, I always slept on the floor of my brother's room on Christmas Eve....even up until 5 or so years ago. We'd wake up at some ridiculous hour...like 4am....and we were allowed to go and get our stockings from the fireplace and open them together. Of course, this was my parents' brilliant plan to keep me from jumping on their bed before dawn. It was pretty awesome.
Christmas morning we were up bright and early, presents open, hung around a bit, and then jumped in the car to head to the Tonks Family Christmas dinner. It was like Christmas Eve all over again! More food, more family, more presents, and more fun. I remember getting back in the car after our time at my aunt and uncle's house and just being so depressed that it was all over.
I can't remember exactly when everything changed but sometime in the last 5 or so years our Christmas routine stopped being routine. Cousins moved, aunts and uncles relocated, marriages, babies, and so on all started re-crafting what Christmas meant. I'm not going to lie, it took me a couple of years to be okay with it and I'm still not completely there but this year I'm able to reminisce and be nostalgic for years past while appreciating the present and all of the great things to come.
This Christmas is the first in my life that I did not travel home for the holidays and I've been surprisingly okay with it. Maybe it's because being away from home makes the absence of those old traditions less difficult and maybe it's because I'm so excited to be celebrating Christmas with my husband for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I wish my brother and his family were here and I miss the family and friends I won't get to see this holiday season but I know it'll only be a short time until I will get to hug them and wish them well in the new year. Tonight, Christmas Eve, my husband and I hung out with my parents and watched football, baked cookies, and had a great dinner of make-your-own pizza, salad, and a Rocky marathon. We'll get up tomorrow, have a delicious breakfast (recipe here..), open some presents, go pick up Parker, and get ready for a houseful of Phil's family. It's the first time in several years that I'm excited for some new traditions and that this has truly felt like Christmas. For that I am thankful.
Here's to a very merry Christmas to you and your family and to all of the traditions, both new and old, that make your holidays special!