Like most kids, my internal countdown to Christmas was palpable.
The butterflies in my stomach and the agonizing wait for Santa’s Big Day, I wore on my sleeve.
Christmas couldn’t come soon enough.
My Mom and Dad, working hand-in-hand with Santa, did an excellent job filling my Christmas list every year. So, of course, the idea of new Barbies and Barbie accessories (all I cared about, really) factored in heavily to my idea that December 25th was, hands-down, the best day of the year. To sum it up very eloquently:
‘Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.’
- Ralphie, A Christmas Story
Santa has long moved on to a new generation of chimneys.
Yet, my heightened excitement for the holidays remains. As an adult, it’s obviously not about Santa and piles of presents anymore. Heck, who can afford an epic, Santa-level haul these days?
But, looking back, I don’t think it was all about the ‘stuff’ when I was a kid either.
I think what I love and have always loved about Christmas is my very close family, near and far, and our time-honored traditions that have remained constant throughout my 41 years, and for generations before me.
I give my Mom the credit for that.
My family doesn’t forget our traditions because she doesn’t let us. Her work to make Christmas work in the same loving way every single year never fails to deliver on lifetime traditions that fill all of us up with nostalgia, fun and a compass for what family means.
Some things that I depend on, love and will carry with me forever.
My Mom will always set up a big, beautiful tree with ornaments she's collected over generations.
My nieces always look forward to (and now excitedly expect!) my mom’s homemade apple pie.
My Mom will always whip up my aunt Maureen’s recipe for green beans and cherry tomatoes on Christmas Day.
I’ll always make the mashed potatoes.
We’ll always munch on my Nana’s very southern, Bisquick Sausage Balls. (Both days because they are awesome.)
My brother-in-law, Mark, will always come through on Christmas Eve dinner, most likely with his signature lamb and stuffed potato skins.
My Dad will always get up before everyone else on Christmas morning to plug in the tree and cue up the stereo. (A playlist that has always included The Beach Boys, Elvis and Bing.)
We’ll never be permitted to go downstairs until he does these things. (A very painful tradition for a child who has a glimpse of what’s under the tree from the landing.)
We’ll always say, ‘get the pocket knife’ in honor of my Grandpa Dev, who could make quick work of an impossible knot or a well-taped box.
My Mom will always say the blessing at dinner because she’s the best at it.
We’ll always extend our family and traditions to others, like Mark’s sister, Andrea, and her family.
I will always make my parents open my gifts first.
We’ll always draw out the process of opening gifts because we don’t want the time to end.
My mom will always stuff Shara’s and my stockings, giving us a motherly taste of our childhood.
My cousins, Jamie and Casey, will always insist on a viewing of Christmas Vacation, a movie their dad, my late uncle Demmy, loved.
We’ll always call my Uncle Wendy and Aunt Maureen every Christmas morning.
We’ll always remember, be thankful for and talk about my Uncle Demmy, who was the King of Christmas in every single way.
We’ll always keep close to our hearts, Demmy, and other family members who can’t be there in person, but who we all know are there in spirit.
So, what does Christmas mean to me?
The woman I am, as well as the little girl that still lives inside of me, both believe that the joy of Christmas is rooted in tradition and family (past and present), as well as in an appreciation for all of the things we have, and will ever have.
It’s not about gifts under the tree; it’s all about the gift of love.