Christmas is my favorite holiday.
I think it stems from the fact that it is the only holiday my family has ever gone all out for. We have never been huge on birthdays – we send cards but rarely gifts. We also send cards for Mother’s and Father’s day – no gifts since I was young. So of the traditional gift-giving occasions, Christmas is it.
I should start by pointing out that I have a small family. Now, when I say small, I mean that as a child, a family reunion for my immediate family would have been 15 people: my grandparents, my parents, 4 aunts, 2 uncles, 3 cousins and me. Compare that to Randy’s family, who would have had to rent an entire park for a family reunion and wear name tags – yep, my family is small.
By tradition, the family would gather at my Grandmother’s house in Michigan for gifts and dinner. One aunt and uncle and their kids (the 3 cousins) were usually at home in Florida so it was only 9 people for the festivities. Don’t under estimate us though – it would take us at least 4 to 5 hours to open gifts among the 9 of us. It was over the top and wonderful. My favorite memories of Christmas as a child weren’t the gifts but the time we spent together as a family. I think those mornings are one of the reasons I love giving gifts so much. My parents and I would open our stockings as soon as I could get them awake (usually around 7 or so) then the rest of the family would arrive and we would start in ernest. It was usually around 9 am when the first gift was passed to the eldest member of the family. We would work our way down to the youngest, one person at a time. No opening in tandem unless someone gave the same gift to more than one person – we watched, we talked, we laughed, we took our time opening every single package and enjoying each other’s company. Then around noon we would break for a snack and the phone calls to the family members that weren’t with us. Then back to more gifts and finally Christmas dinner at 3 or 4 pm. This was how it was for years and years – nearly all my memories of Christmas center on that time with my family.
Over time the family has changed, as you would expect. My grandfather passed away in 1987. My Aunt Martha passed away this past April and her sister Linda has been adopted into the clan**. The Florida aunt and uncle now live in Louisville and the 3 cousins and I have all gotten married and moved around the country. 1 of the cousins has a daughter now as well.
This year Christmas was 11 people out of a possible 18: Randy and I, my parents, Grandma, 4 aunts and 2 uncles plus 3 dogs of varying age and ownership. We got phone calls from all those who were missing including one from my cousin Molly in Iraq. We opened gifts and played with the dogs, we had Christmas dinner and we laughed and we took our time enjoying each other’s company. It was lovely and it reminded me once again why Christmas is my favorite holiday.
**Aunt Martha was an Aunt by love rather than blood relation so Linda is now an aunt as well.