For me, holidays never had much religious meaning. For me, they’re are all about family, tradition, being together and enjoying one another more than anything else. We take advantage of the fact that most of us don’t work on holidays, and are able to be home, or travel to one another’s home, just to be together. We catch up, we laugh, and we stay connected this way. We may not see each other throughout the rest of the year, but we can almost always count on the holidays for most of us to be in the same place at the same time.
Easter Baskets and Eggs are always on the docket on Easter. They’re hidden all over the house, and when my Jewish honorary uncle came over for Easter, he was SHOCKED that we encouraged him to open cabinets, drawers and closets in search of an egg or basket with his name on it. We don’t go to church, we just spend the day with family. Digging through the house, and sometimes re-hiding someone’s egg over and over and over again (if we think they found it too fast)!
My Nana used to make a cake that was shaped like a lamb… complete with blue jelly beans as it’s eyes and a black jelly bean for a nose, about an inch and a half of white frosting and coconut shavings to give it just the right texture.
(You’re probably thinking, an inch and a half of frosting?!? Why so much?! — Well it’s because the lamb shape of the cake tended to snap at the neck, so Nana used up to a dozen toothpicks at a time to keep the lamb’s head on and needed that much frosting to cover the toothpicks… It was always a risk to get a piece close to the head or neck, because you had to search through it before you ate it to be sure you wouldn’t chomp on a toothpick! It’s ok: Laugh! We all did. Every. Single. Time.)
Growing up, on Thanksgiving at my parent’s house, we would have dinner at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and always went around to say what we’re most thankful for. After we ate, everyone piled on their boots, and coats and gloves, and we would walk a block and a half to visit a house that became known as our own personal “Wally World” because of the sheer number of Christmas decorations that filled their yard. As I grew older, and the inflatable Christmas decorations became a thing, this house began to integrate them into their displays as well. They had a Ferris Wheel with Santa’s Elves that rotated slowly, countless snowmen, animals all decked out in holiday attire, and more. We would spend at least twenty minutes just marveling at all of their exciting holiday cheer from the sidewalk, until inevitably someone needed to go to the restroom, or got too cold, then we’d walk back.
That little outing always made just enough room in our full bellies for pie! We’d share dessert with one another, and all settle in for our yearly viewing of Holiday Inn. Some slept through it, others sang along. Each year we’d try to guess what color the beautiful dresses were.
Christmas Eve is the absolute best with a little one around (I have 16 first cousins, and countless second and third cousins so this happened quite often) We track Santa on the online trackers either on Google or the tried and true NORAD Tracker. Sometimes we sprinkle reindeer food (literally just dry oatmeal and glitter) on the lawn. This is vital, if your little one is not quite so confident on which list they landed on with the Big Man in Red this year. We bake cookies, and decorate them. Sometimes, if I’m singing in a church choir that year, we’ll all pile in and head to Christmas Eve Service, which always delights with music, and a beautiful church lit up for Christmas.
Again, it varies if there’s a little one, but Christmas Morning always consists of “Cinnamon Puns & Eggs Tra-La-La” (as my cousin, Super Sock Boy coined the terms), presents and COFFEE, which at some point segue into Mimosas, which then turn into straight up Champagne and then everyone’s feeling just dandy.
I started this tradition with my Dad, where I find the most off-the-wall Christmas Album I can dig up at any used record store, and usually don’t pay more than a few dollars for it (sometimes, it’s actually albums that I’ve recorded through that year with whatever group I’m singing in at the time). That’s always the first gift I give him to open, so that we can listen to it, and laugh, love or cringe through it as we open the rest of our presents.
Now that Martin and I are married, we’re trying to make our own traditions. Taking the traditions we’re used to and making that tradition our own. With our new house, in a new neighborhood, I anxiously await the Christmas season to see which house will become our very own “Wally World”. That vital and absolutely essential destination for making room for pie on a day when we’re all thankful for the love we have for each other.