What's that behind you? Are those sleigh bells you hear? Did you see something? I think it was wearing red...could it be the Christmas Ninja? Happy Holidays from the BlogNinjas. They are the crazy internet group behind the MTC. The members rock the blogosphere in varying degrees, and can sneak up behind you in a moments notice. You can join the clandestine group after undergoing a severe and heavily scrutinized Blog Ninja review that verifies your actual existence and BN worthiness (basically, we read your blog). Post an entry, vote, maybe win, and you may be selecting the next topic. It's like a blog party.
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This time, the topic was chosen by Scot-o-Rama: What are your favorite holiday traditions and why?
All of my favorite Christmas traditions are things that we did when I was little.
Christmas itself would start for us on Christmas Eve. We'd pile in the car and go to the family service at church, where they'd always have a Christmas Carol Sing-Along to add to the festiveness. After the service, when we got home, Mom and Dad would have one special present picked out that we could open that night before bed, usually with a plate of cookies and some cold milk at hand. When it was time to tuck us in, the bedtime story was always "The Night Before Christmas" as read by my Mom. I can still remember most of the words to that poem. As I got older, I also got to help my Mom wrap some of my sister's gifts from "Santa" since she still believed (we're five years apart). It was so much fun to hang out in Mom's room, wrapping gifts and stuffing candy into stockings, way later than I was normally allowed to be up.
Christmas morning always came early, with Mamie usually waking us all up long before anyone was ready. There was a rule in the house: no one was allowed into the living room (where the tree was) until everyone was awake. So we'd both go wake up my parents, eager to see what we'd find under the tree.
There were certain things that were the same every year. Mamie's gifts were always on one side of the tree, while mine were on the opposite side, with Mom and Dad's in the middle. There were certain wrapping papers that belonged to "Santa" while others were from the family. For some reason, neither of us ever noticed that Santa's handwriting looked a lot like Mom's neat hand. Our stockings, while mostly surprises, always contained the same two objects in the toe. A bag of chocolate coins, and an orange. These were part of an old tradition that I only vaguely understood, but the stocking would never have been the same without these items.
Once all the presents were opened, we'd find a parade on the TV and start cleaning up the shredded paper while Mom started breakfast. Before long, the sweet smell of Pilsbury Cinnamon Rolls would fill the apartment. To this day, I still haven't figured out how she always made them so gooey soft. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying.
Christmas day would largely be spent playing with new toys and trying on new clothes until early afternoon when we'd start getting ready for Christmas Dinner. This was a formal affair, and required our very best clothes. Mom, Mamie and I would go to my grandmother's house for an early dinner with her, my uncle and my cousin Jason. She'd always have honeyed ham with pineapple rings and cherries on it. It was always a treat to make any mouth water. We'd open gifts again, from Mom-Mom and my Aunt Linda, who rarely made it back from Texas for Christmas.
Once all the festivities there were done, Christmas was still only getting started. We'd all pile into cars and venture out into the icy weather to my Great Aunt Ann's house. There the extended family would gather for dessert, including Mom-Mom's two sisters and their children. There would be more sweets, cakes and candies than any army could possibly polish off, and we were allowed to have anything we wanted. Of course, there were more gifts there, and the kids got to help pass them out, and later to collect the wrapping paper. Most of the bows, of course, wound up on the dog, Shadow. Afterward, there'd always be a football game on, and sometimes there would also be a party game. Jenga was a favorite. Aunt Ann also would sometimes have word puzzles or jokes with Christmas themes printed out. By the time we got home, we were usually so tired and/or stuffed, that we all pretty much just went straight to bed.
There are so many parts from my childhood Christmases that I plan to carry on when I have kids. Among them are the entire Christmas Eve chain of events, the stockings, the cinnamon rolls, parades on tv, and spending as much time with family as possible. When possible, we'll even show up for Christmas dessert in PA, whoever happens to be hosting it by then...
As for the why part, that's easy. Christmas was always my favorite time of year as a kid. It was one of the few times a year that my whole extended family got together, so I guess anything that reminds me of those years is a good thing in my mind.