Monday, December 14, 2009

Where Traditions Merge

My grandfather lived for Christmas. Loved it. On Christmas Eve, my mother's whole family-- her three siblings, all their kids-- would pour into my grandparents house for the yearly extravaganza. I've blogged about it before, but apparently when I did I cursed a lot so let me cut and paste...
In my family, we have a really fun tradition for Christmas eve. After dinner, Santa comes to visit our house. Now, as soon as we “hear the reindeer” we all rush to the bedroom to hide, since Santa only comes when we’re asleep. So the kids all pretend to be asleep, but they’re all peeking out the window. Then! All of the sudden, the least drunk uncle Santa comes around the house to admire our lights, and wave in the window (the year it was Hubs, my uncle made him sling the trash bag with the stinking turkey carcass over his shoulder, and Hubs had drank so much Jack by that time that we were really sure he was going to barf in front of the kids.) When we hear the the most drunk uncle shaking the heck out of some bells reindeer taking off, the kids all run out to the tree to see what Santa has left. This is usually an embarassingly ginormous pile (my grandfather used to go into 12 months of debt for this one day, and the stacks were to my chest as an eight year old.) There’s a frenzy of presents being opened, and batteries being scrounged for, and “thank you’s!!!” ringing through the air. It’s pretty awesome. The uncles mostly go back to drinking.
So, this was my history. Even after my parents divorced, this is how we spent every Christmas Eve. Eventually, of course, my grandfather passed on, and the torch was passed to my mother. It is still the same as I remember it-- a huge pile of gifts and food and chaos and love.

Hubs' Christmas is more... how should I say it... restrained. Their family gathers, a meal is eaten. There is no Santa show. Presents are opened, starting with the youngest and going in order of age, ONE AT A TIME. (My family would literally DIE if this was implemented at our Christmas.) Unfortunately, since Hubs' family has borne a lot of what he calls "God's downsizing" over the past few years, it is a small affair. My children are the only kids there, but they are adored and loved on. Quietly.

Pair family Christmas is a mesh of our childhood memories. There are still too many gifts under the tree, but Santa brings only one gift, the best one, and it is not wrapped. This was Hubs' tradition. We eat monkey bread (Hubs) and poppy seed bread (mine.) I do not force my children to eat breakfast before presents, as I was forced to as a child.

As we've come into our own as a family, we've been navigating what we will participate in at Christmas, and when. Until three years ago, we had never woken up in our own home on Christmas morning. We drove first to St. Louis on the 23rd, then to Hub's small town on Christmas day. It amounted to roughly 12 hours of driving in three days, with three Christmases thrown in. Each of us were desperate to take part in our own family traditions, and in the beginning we didn't spend much time trying to cultivate our own.

What we have now is a compromise, a work in progress. Every other year (the years my sister has custody of her kids on Christmas Eve) we are at my mom's big Christmas. We wake up at her house on Christmas morning, and Santa brings the kids their gifts there. Usually the next weekend, we go to Hub's.

On the opposite years, we go to Christmas Eve service at our own church, and wake up in our own home on Christmas morning. We drive to Hub's house (only 2 1/2 hours from us) around noon. My Mom's Christmas is rescheduled for a time when we can make it and my sister has her kids. (We did it one year without all the kids, and it just wasn't the same.)

I don't know if we'll do it this way forever. When Hubs and I start lamenting the idea of spending another Christmas morning in someone else's house, though, it is usually him who is staunchly opposed to missing my family's craziness. After all, the loudness, the cousins, the laughing, and the even the driving-- that's a part of their tradition, too.

How did you make it work melding your families for Christmas?


Heather said...

My husband's family didn't really have any traditions or at least none that he cared to we mostly do things as a mix of our own new traditions and the traditions I grew up with.

Jules said...

I'm in that moment, that one little moment, where I realize that we are setting the traditions for our boys...and it is hard to realize that there is little carry over from either side...