Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Christmas : Day 1 : Christmas Past

Welcome to Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas series I am co-hosting with Kelly from Exceptionalistic and Becky from Tales of Beauty for Ashes!  We'll be taking you through the next twelve days leading up to Christmas, discussing things such as gift ideas, decorating, recipes, and more!  What's more is we are giving you the opportunity to link up your stories with each post!  Here's our schedule for the series:

12/14: Christmas Past: favorite Christmas memory
12/15: Christmas Cookie: favorite cookie recipe
12/16: Christmas Decorations: picture-only post on decorations
12/17: Christmas Gifts: ideas on gifts for spouses or kids
12/18: Christmas Giving: how we're going to give back
12/19: Christmas Scripture: regular "Into The Word Wednesday" post, holiday-inspired
12/20: Christmas Tree: picture-only post of tree and ornaments
12/21: Christmas Song: favorite holiday song and why
12/22: Christmas Creations: last minute Pinterest-inspired gifts
12/23: Christmas Future: new tradition to put into place next year
12/24: Christmas Eve: favorite traditions, routines, or plans
12/25: Christmas Meaning: what Christmas means to us

To kick off this series, we thought we'd share some of our favorite Christmas memories.  As for me, this will be my forty-first Christmas, so I should have plenty to choose from!

For as long as I can remember, while I was living at home, our Christmases were filled with all kinds of family gathering.  Starting before Christmas Day, I remember going out with one or the other of my parents to various relatives homes to deliver Christmas presents from our family to them. We would stop in and visit for a while, then move along to the next stop.  Errands would be run to get everything prepared for the festivities ahead.  On Christmas Eve, we'd eventually wind down {my sister and I anyway} so that we could nap a little before we'd head out to midnight mass at our church.  For years, I remember being involved in one way or another.  This 1980 photograph shows me as the angel in the nativity.

In other years, my sister and I would be altar servers or be singing in the choir at midnight mass.  Once mass was over, we would head out into the wintery night {we lived in Canada} and head over to my grandparents house {my mother's parents} where we would gather with several family members to visit and wish one another a Merry Christmas.  There would be food and drinks, and after a while we would leave and head up the road to my aunt and uncle's home {my mother's sister}.  There we would visit and consume more food and drink.  After that we would head across town to another aunt's home {my mother's other sister} for more of the same.  You did catch that all of these visits were occurring after midnight mass was over, right??

Once the visiting was over, we would head back to our house.  We had a ritual of lighting the candles in our advent wreath, placing the baby Jesus in the nativity scene and saying a family prayer before our own festivities would begin at home.  We would open all our presents.  My mother would heat up a tourtiere for us to eat while we did so.  If you aren't familiar, a tourtiere is a French-Canadian meat pie.  While we are not French-Canadian, my mother's sister {the second aunt we would have visited after my grandparents} married a French-Canadian from Quebec.  There were a couple local French parishes in town and, if I am remembering correctly, the ladies of my aunt and uncle's church would sell these delicious meat pies before the holidays.  If you haven't had one, you should.  They are delicious.  Especially with a little spot of HP sauce on the side.  Oh, how I am craving one now!

1988 - Me in the middle of my pile of gifts, holding up my brand new Vivitar film camera with flash!
On Christmas Day, we would enjoy a family breakfast before heading over to my grandparents on my father's side.  We would spend most of the day there, enjoying a fabulous Christmas dinner prepared by my grandmother.  She is an excellent cook!

Being from Canada, we would continue our celebrations on the 26th - Boxing Day.  For years, my family would host a come and go style get together.  It would begin in the early afternoon and go on til evening.  Family and friends were all invited to come over at some point during the day.  We'd have an endless amount of food available all day long.  From little appetizers to more "main dish" items, we'd have you covered.  My dad would man the bar.  Drinks - alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike - would be offered to everyone.  My sister and I would be responsible for making up platters of all the Christmas baking that my mother had done.  We had so many varieties of cookies and treats.  The platters would be filled and re-filled all day long.

Things changed over the years as family members moved out of town or passed away.  But the traditions stayed mostly the same.  Then I moved out of town.  I'd met Ron and moved to Texas in 1998.  Until recently, with Peyton's health issues being of more concern than ever, we've tried to get back to Canada for most Christmases because the holidays up there were so incredibly meaningful to me.  1998 was the year Ron was introduced to the way my family did Christmas.  He had never known a Christmas like the way we did things!

My parents' tree 1998
1998 was probably one of my favorites because we got to introduce Ron to all of our family traditions.  All at once.  I think it was a little overwhelming for him!  We left our cat, Azrael, behind in Texas and made the trip north.

I asked Ron for a quote regarding his first Christmas experience with my family.  Here's what he said:

"These people are crazy!"
"They stay up way too late!"
"It's 3am!  I am going to bed!"

No part of the tradition was left out although, of course, by this time I was only an "attendee" at mass, and we hit the earlier Christmas Eve service.  Getting older, you know?!  Pardon the pre-digital camera photo quality.

Ron and I opening gifts in the wee hours at my parents' home.
At some point, we began having Christmas dinner at my aunt's home.  So much of the family had moved out of town and numbers were down.  Still, there were plenty of people to share the festivities with!  Somewhere along the way, games were introduced to the traditions.  I am not sure what game was being played in the photo below, but my aunt, uncle and father seemed to be seriously deep in thought over something!

The Boxing Day gatherings were still happening each year.  It was scaled back a little as the years went on, but my parents still hosted a ton of people throughout the day.  Mostly family.  The evening meal would be consumed and more fun and frivolity would ensue.  We'd gather 'round the out of tune piano for a sing a long consisting of Christmas carols and various fun Scottish songs {my mom's family is from Scotland}.  Some members of the family are legitimately and truly musically gifted.  Others...well...  But we had a wonderful time!

At some point, the annual Trivial Pursuit competition would begin.  We'd have a full complement of teams.  The photo below is just one of the teams.  The room would be packed and we'd have 15-20 or so playing at once on various teams.

 Just a little friendly competition.  Oh, and that's my sister in the photo below, not me.

My team may not have won, but we all had a great time.  I hope you've enjoyed a little taste of one of my favorite Christmas memories!  Feel free to grab the button below and be sure to link up your posts sharing your own favorite Christmas memories!

12 Days of Christmas 2012


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