Background: I grew up in the small town of Scranton, Pennsylvania-- where there is a church or bar on every corner. My mother's side of the family was always known for being incredibly close-knit and Catholic while my father comes from a distant family which he rarely speaks of along with any personal religious beliefs. Although my mother grew up Catholic she never pushed myself or my siblings to belong to a specific group or practice. This flexibility created a generation where we forged our own traditions and along with that, beliefs. I have learned to celebrate Christmas as the commercialized holiday where Santa is the true hero. Although the religious undertones shifted with my generation, my grandma and her siblings still attend mass and put mangers under their tree, my mom and I on the other-hand consider December 25th our annual family reunion or Thanksgiving part two thanks to the amount of food we make.
The weekend following Thanksgiving is a tradition I hope to one day add my own family to. From Friday morning to Sunday evening we decorate the house, cut down our Christmas tree and begin our cookie baking. My grandmother, mother, sister and myself are responsible for baking 14 different cookie types-- chocolate chip, white macadamia nut, sugar and peanut butter are my favorites. We each have our own monogrammed aprons that are only to be used in the sacred cookie baking ritual. My grandpa, dad and brother are to decorate the outside of the house with a multitude of lights so blinding you can see their house from a mile away. The midpoint in December we come home for another round of baking.
My grandpa and dad prepare our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. On the Eve (which also serves as my mom's birthday) we usually have handmade personal pizzas (we have every topping imaginable) along with shrimp, lobster and clams, butter-garlic chicken, risotto and broccoli. Each Christmas Eve my grandma gives us two gifts, one are matching Christmas pajamas. She gets a pair for all of the grandchildren and she arranges us by the tree in her solarium for her "Happy New Year" card. The second was usually one of our top gifts and she always slyly pretends to not have know we REALLY wanted the item.
On Christmas Day we eat our meal at 2 o'clock pm promptly which consists of: turkey, ham, lasagna, meatballs, stuffing, mashed potatoes, asparagus, rutabaga, yams, green beans casserole and mac and cheese. The leftovers serve as the beginning of our Christmas night buffet. After we finish our 2 o'clock pm dinner we start organizing the house for the rest of our family. We have roughly 80 people filter though out the house on Christmas night. We eat, drink, play games, watch football and laugh a LOT. It is a mad house but it is a house of love and one in which anyone can feel welcome. My friends sometimes even leave their relatives on Christmas night for one of my grandma's signature peppermint chocolate martinis.
I hope to continue each tradition my family has started and continue to modify what we do as new generations come in. Christmas is a time of year where all the doubts and stresses you feared during the year melt away and you are surrounded by love, light and warmth. These celebrations I only near and dear to my heart and give deep appreciation to what matters most in this world.