Growing up, my family had its traditions, usually reserved for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Passover. I don’t really many others during “normal” times. Once Deb and I started dating, I was introduced to her family traditions and we quickly adopted many of them, preferring home cooking over store bought holiday meals.
As we raised our family, the kids decided that anything we did twice was now a tradition and this grew month to month and year to year. As a result, last night we had our traditional Christmas Eve meal: ravioli, shrimp cocktail, garlic bread, and Christmas cookies. However, other portions of the tradition have been modified given the circumstances. We needed a series of activities to keep Robbie from vibrating with anticipation so we found things to do until the 4 p.m. Children’s mass. As he got older and began serving the Midnight Mass, we needed an afternoon activity so a trip the movies was added. After dinner it used to be opening the gifts from out of town relatives, a nice bridge between meal and mass. Regardless of age, and time, it always ended with a reading of “The Night Before Christmas”.
On Monday, we had the opportunity to sample another family’s traditions as we were guests at our friends, Jim and Deborah Gillespie, partaking in their holiday present from daughter Rebecca and husband Chuck Rozakis. It was an amazing meal, each of the four courses coming with its own paired wine (although I found the sparkling cider worked just fine throughout). Afterwards, we joined them for their annual viewing of the Claymation Christmas Special, complete with singing camels and the California Raisins. I’d never seen it but they cackled with every joke, making it feel instantly familiar. Then came the time to share our tradition.
Kate’s fiancé, Mike, apparently doesn’t have much in the way of tradition so joined us last night to partake. He admired the tree, ate heartily, and once we cleared the plates, we settled on the couch to watch The Muppet Family Christmas, the one Must See video according to Deb and Kate. It used to be, we’d watch a bunch of the classic Christmas fare in the weeks leading up to the holiday but once she moved to Maryland, we compressed it to her holiday visit. Personally, I always need to see Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol (you know, the good one with Alistair Sim) and wind up having to choose between one or the other. Well, he’d never seen this Muppet special so laughed with fresh appreciation while to us it was a warm comfort. We had time to fit in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which I haven’t seen in a while and continue to marvel at its purity of heart and faithfulness to the source material.
Mike went home while I accompanied Deb and Kate to their midnight mass since my talented daughter had a solo. Here, unlike Fairfield, Midnight Mass actually begins at midnight so it made for a very long day and we didn’t get to sleep until 2.
It’s different these days, as we now can sleep later; certainly more wistful with Robbie’s absence, with more than a few tears shed now and then during the season. He’s never far from our thoughts and closer than usual this week.
May you all enjoy one another’s company today and in the ones to follow.