Monday, December 19, 2005



Can you stand yet another blog about the Christmas season? No? Too bad! Now that I'm (mostly) done my shopping, and spent a frantic Sunday afternoon whipping up shortbread cookies and peanut brittle by the metric tonne, I'm feeling a little more relaxed and ready to enjoy the holidays.

I think this is going to be a great Christmas, because Tristan and Simon are finally of an age where they can understand what's going on. My brother and his family will be coming 'home' for Christmas, too, and his son Noah is just over a year old now, so it will be a Christmas with three preschool boys in the house. I remember the Christmases just a few years ago that seemed so sedate with nothing but adults in the house - a lovely time with family, but nothing compared to the delicious chaos that comes when energetic kids are set loose on mounds of presents.

For as long as I can remember, we've opened our presents Christmas Eve. We'd do Christmas Eve with my father's parents in our house, and do our family exchange then. On Christmas Day, 'Santa' would leave one present under the tree, and then we'd go to my mother's family's house for dinner and more presents with that side of the family. My Granda died when I was 10 and my Granny moved in with us when I was 12 (my mom's parents), and I think we mostly kept opening presents Christmas Eve because everybody in the family except me likes to sleep in. Lazy sots.

When we were in our twenties and living on our own but still coming home for Christmas, one year my mother suggested she would stop leaving the 'Santa' gift under the tree on Christmas morning. My brother and I were scandalized - no Santa present? Not on your life! So up until the last Christmas we spent in London, Tristan's first Christmas, there were Santa presents and stockings on Christmas morning.

Now that my folks are here, and since my living room is (marginally) larger, we have Christmas Eve at our place. We've toyed with the idea of moving to Christmas morning for the presents, but so far this works for us. We're a family resistant to change.

My mother, bless her heart, continues to make Christmas dinner at her place. I am not at all interested in assuming this task because - well, why mess with perfection? That's another tradition you can count on - turkey dinner with rice-a-roni and potato salad. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized this traditional Donders family dinner hauled out for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and a few rare treats in between, is a little different from the turkey with all the trimmings the neighbours might be eating. But there is no way on god's green earth you could convince any member of my family to eat anything else for the holidays. (One night, feeling particularly lonely and homesick shortly after my divorce, I cooked up a box of rice-a-roni as comfort food. You should never eat an entire box of rice-a-roni on its own. It took three days of drinking litres of water to wash the salt out of my system.)

All this to say, traditions in our family run the gamut from presents on Christmas Eve to rice-a-roni with the turkey. They are evocative of Christmases past and times shared in love.

What are your more unusual family traditions?

(Edited to add: you MUST go over to Dean Dad's blog and read his hilarious post on Lutefisk - I dunno, it's some kind of fish soaked in lye (!) - and other Scandanavian torture traditions. Really, go now.)