Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Traditions

My Grandma is at the heart of our Christmas traditions.  Her blue and green Christmas lights brighten her corner home that is the warmest, coziest place to spend a holiday.  Grandma and I both love our storms and hope for snow, gobs of it!  We gather at her home for Christmas Eve and have a late Christmas lunch with as many aunts, uncles, and cousins we can fit into her house!  Of course before lunch one of the family members leads us in prayer.  Grandma is the mother of my six aunts and two uncles, all of whom are married with children, adding up to 25 cousins, many of whom are married and have children of their own!  The boys make their way to the basement for poker games and football on TV, the girls cook and do dishes after each meal, as there is no dishwasher.  The cousins play games, try on any old bridesmaid dresses we can find in Grandma's upstairs closet, and exchange gifts in the living room near the Christmas tree that sits in a musical rotating stand.  She decorates the tree with icicles after all of the ornaments are on.  Many of the families wander off to in-laws' parties later in the afternoon, but some of us stay at Grandma's all day, eating leftovers, drinking, and playing games.  Grandma is a saint for letting all of this commotion go on in her home!

Around 9:00, we put away the last of the food and freshen up for Midnight Mass.  This year will be particularly hard because our priest was killed on his bike just a few months ago by a car.  Hopefully mass will be a celebration of him, among the usual Christmas celebration.  We all sit together and illegally save seats for the families who are still at the in-laws and are running late.  Cousin Jennifer and I sit together and giggle at ugly Christmas sweaters.  I awkwardly avoid receiving communion because I don't want to be glutened by the host.  We sing Christmas songs and listen to the choir.  I give hugs to old high school friends who are at mass and we all walk out through the snow to our cars, seeing our breath as we go, and haul ourselves back to Grandma's house.  It's now midnight and it's Christmas!  Tradition calls for doughnuts and pickled pigs feet, which, in reality, are something my Grandma makes called "sults," which aren't pigs feet, but a pork roast chopped up and put into a sort of pickly jello.  It's kind of like eating cold pork with sour kraut in the form of a loaf.  I LOVE it!  Grandma always surprises me with it, but this year, she is a little under the weather, so I might have to have her help ME make it!

Grandma sends out a Christmas letter each year with a story.  She is a wonderful storyteller.  This year she told us of how her and Grandpa, who died a few years before I was born, got engaged.  It was Christmas Eve of 1945 after Midnight Mass when he gave her a ring.  Now that I know this story, I understand even more, the traditional post-midnight-mass celebration that we have every year at her house.

Christmas morning we spend at mom and dad's house.  Mom makes breakfast and we open gifts, usually with Lampoon's Christmas on in the background.  We gather food, games, and pajamas, and drive back to Grandma's house to join the cousins from out of town who slept there the night before for a day of games and good food.  Grandma listens to us as we sing along to her Christmas music, "Come on Ring Those Bells!" and entertain ourselves with cards and board games and movies all day long.  She plays cards with the aunties, 7's, Kings, and Sheep's Head. 

Grandma's house when I was in my mom's tummy!
Grandma's house when I was a baby
Cards and Grandma's
Uncle Mike's outfit after Midnight Mass

Grandma's kitchen table

Grandma and mom 2012
Looking forward to another year to make memories with Grandma and the family!

1 comment:

NavyGirl said...

Awww... this is great :) I feel like I'm right at your grandma's house celebrating with you guys! Love the pics of you as a little kid - and your parents from way back in the day ;)