(Picture above is Christmas Eve 1978. I’m in the bottom middle, age 9.)
It’s Christmas Eve, which has always been the big holiday celebration in my family. When my mother was growing up, her mother and father would host Christmas Eve, and many relatives would come over, including my mother’s uncle Cal and his family, who lived right downstairs. After all four of her kids grew up, they would bring their families to the house in the Bronx on the 24th of December and there would be antipasto, chicken soup, and lasagna.
For me, Christmas Eve meant going to Grandma and Grandpa’s place, with my parents, and then on Christmas Day, my father’s sister would host a smaller gathering that would include me, my parents, my aunt, and my grandfather.
My grandfather died in 1976, and the following year, my grandmother moved back to where she grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. Starting in 1977, my parents took over the Christmas Eve festivities. All the various relatives would come over, we’d eat the antipasto, soup, and lasagna, and then we’d open presents, and then there’d be various desserts and coffee. My aunt continued to host a smaller Christmas Day celebration with just me, my parents, and her (my grandfather at this point had retired to Italy, where he died in 1987).
Since the age of eight, that has been how I’ve spent almost every Christmas Eve, the lone exception being the one time I went out to Indiana to spend it with Terri’s family in 2002. (Our original notion was to alternate years between NYC and Indianapolis, which we abandoned after the first time.) And my aunt has continued to host Christmas Day for just the immediate family.
We’ve scaled things back the last couple of years, as my mother’s ongoing health issues have made it impossible for her to host so big a gathering in the house, so now it’s just me, the four parents, my aunt, and Wrenn and Dale, with pretty much the same crew going to my aunt’s house the following afternoon. We have the uncles over to a local pub on the 26th.
We also gather with many of our dearest friends on New Years Eve and do a gift exchange with them, which we’re very much looking forward to this year as usual.
This year has been — bizarre, to say the least. Personally and professionally, it’s actually been pretty good for the most part, even if it feels like the country as a whole is going to Helsinki in a handbasket. And our financial situation could afford to be a lot better (many people are getting handmade gifts this year cuz that’s cheaper, sigh). But still, we’re ending the year with our traditional gathering with loved ones, and that means we’re ending it the right way, dadgummit.
(Picture above is Christmas Eve 2016. There are five people who are in both pictures…..)