As a young child, I always looked forward to Christmas with great anticipation and excitement. The presents beautifully wrapped and sitting under the tree, glittering with lights. My mother almost always wrapped the presents on Christmas Eve. It is sort of tradition, but one I like. The presents beautifully wrapped and sitting under the tree would always taunt my brothers and I. Every year, my brother shakes the presents under the tree that are addressed to him, and every year he manages to guess at least one (usually more) correctly, much to my mother's chagrin. It is, however much my mother detests it, a family tradion. One that I always know will be there. One that makes me smile when I think about it.
The other thing that I always look forward to is seeing my extended family. Something that can be described as both chaotic and simultaneously wonderful. When we all gather, we are 18 by blood and marriage (plus 1 finance, plus 3 girlfriends, plus friends). The more the merrier. I love it.
Perhaps we have other traditions, but none that hold so strongly in my mind. I was recently on the phone with my mother and asked what was for dinner on Christmas this year, to which she replied, "Turkey. Dressing. What else would we have?" I seemed to have forgotten this tradition. I seem to remember having Honeybaked Ham, but perhaps that was Thanksgiving. I don't know. Whole turkeys kind of gross me out so perhaps I am just blocking that image out of my mind? Moving on.....
Now that David and I live a 10 hour plane ride away from my family, Christmas is very different, but at the same time very much the same. The only year we ever decorated for Christmas was the first year of our marriage. We put up a tiny two foot tree with a strand of garage sale lights. I only hung one ornament that year, one that was given to me by my sister-in-law. The rest of my ornaments we still stored at my parent's home at the time. For the last three years we have not bothered with a tree. It is too much to deal with and we are not home to enjoy it. The are no wrapped presents. We don't even exchange gifts with each other for Christmas.
We have fallen into a bit of a routine. A routine that is hopefully satisfiying to our families, albeit tiring for us.
On the 22nd we always have the office holiday party. This party is a bit of a legend. It goes from 4 pm until 4 am. Everyone then takes a nap, returns to work to clean up and polish off the leftovers, and then heads to the Christmas market for one last round of gluhwein. This means that the 23rd is usually spent recovering from said party and last minute Christmas shopping.
On the 24th, we clean the house and pack our suitcases before heading to David's parent's house for our German celebration. The 24th is the usual day for Christmas celebrations in Germany.We attend the children's christmas service. (Traditionally, David's family always went to chruch at 11 pm, but I do not travel with out a full night's sleep the night before. Therefore, his family has graciously altered their traditions slightly.) While we are over there, we decorate the tree with ornaments and candles. No electric lights here. We feast on leek quiche. Snack on german christmas cookie from David's aunt. Drink tea, chat. We sing songs. By we, I do not mean David. He watches. ;) We then open gifts, usually small things. Nothing extravagant. Just simple, samll, thoughtful. We then head to the kitchen to enjoy a lovely dessert before heading home and crashing, usually sometime around midnight or 1 am.
On the 25th we wake up insanely early (even for this morning person) to head to the airport. Once we check in, we relax. We grab a coffee and enjoy just being us two, our own family. We spend the next 10 hours relaxing, sleeping, reading, movie watching. I don't mind flying. When David is with me, i really don't mind it. It is our time. Our tradition. We arrive in the USA mid afternoon, wait in long lines at immigration, before heading out to the unnaturally clear highways. Once we arrive at home we are greeted by the dog. By greeted, I mean jumped on. She nearly explodes at the sight of David. We wrap our gift brought from Germany and place them under the tree. We then enjoy dinner followed by opening gifts. My family now has the new normal of opening gifts on Christmas night instead of the morning. We then fall into bed by 10 pm, ready for some rest.
Today, our 2011 Christmas celebrations begin.