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Friday, November 21, 2008

My Way More Homemade Holidays

Ahh. The Holidays.

I usually hate when people say Happy Holidays, but it is an all encompassing thing to say, isn’t it?


I'm late with my post as I had a fairly consuming headache most of the last week. I feel, though, like I have finally come out of the fog. Better late than never, right?

I have been trying to think back to stories from my childhood and I really haven’t come up with a whole lot. At least not a lot that would make any sense to just tell.

Most of our family traditions revolved around Christmas. As I looked back through all our old family photo albums, I didn’t not see any pictures that seemed to be from Thanksgiving each year. It’s probably because Thanksgiving took a little bit of a back seat to deer season. That was always the weekend that dad took one of us hunting.

Yes, I went deer hunting as a little girl.

And I enjoyed it.

But Christmas… Oh Christmas was full of tradition for us. We’d go to my Nana & Pawpaw P’s house on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was almost always spent at home. Then Christmas Day it was back out to Nana & Pawpaw K’s house. Each event involved its own set of stories, traditions and, of course, food.

Nana P was the cook of the family. Nobody, I mean nobody, could make a chocolate pie like my Nana P. With the mile high meringue… oh my… whipped cream on top just doesn’t compare. My oldest sister, DD, is getting pretty good at it, though. And Nana K, bless her heart, she ALWAYS burned the rolls. Or maybe she did just once, but it seemed like she always forgot about them. Or maybe not, but we ALWAYS made fun of her for it.

It seems like poking fun was always a family tradition around my house, not matter what the occasion.

One thing that we always look forward to even still is our family game of Monopoly. We stay up late Christmas night after all the food, presents and everything is over and play until the last “man” is standing. I probably don’t have to tell you that it can get ugly sometimes. My mom usually gets disgusted and tries to lose after the first 30 minutes. Dad and my oldest sister, DD, are the most cut-throat about it. My middle sister, DN, and I just try to keep up.

The earliest occasion of us playing our annual Christmas game that I found photographically documented was 1983.

(That's me on the left in that AWESOME argyle sweater-vest. I probably got it that day as a gift from my mom. That's my oldest sister DD on the right. She was a senior in high school at the time and I'm sure was just thrilled to be hanging with the family playing Monopoly.)

And as our family has grown to include our husbands, so did the game. We even have some of our kids playing with us now.

Several years ago, my dad decided that he was tired of the “traditional” turkey or ham at Christmas. We do traditional at Thanksgiving… but we mix it up at Christmas. And it’s usually barbecue, which in Texas means brisket, and in my family it also means ribs. So, needless to say, there’s a lot of leftover rib eatin’ during the Monopoly playin’.

Now, jumping over to my hubbie’s side of the family… I wasn’t there, so I don’t know many of their traditions. But their food… I know their food. In his words the other day, “If I have turkey, crescent rolls and purple stuff, I’m set.”

“What’s purple stuff,” you ask?

It is his family’s favorite gelatin salad that makes its appearance each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can’t have the holidays without it. And it is, in fact, purple. (And I think technically the name is actually Bing Cherry Jell-O, but call it that around our house and nobody’ll know what you’re talking about.) You can find a recipe here.

As you can imagine, I’d love to cook the entire Thanksgiving and Christmas meal every year. But that’s not how families work at the holidays, is it? It’s almost always a coordinated group effort. I’ll cook the turkey, you bring the rolls and green beans kind of thing.

Last year, I did get to cook the bird as we had Mike’s entire family over to our house. I was large and in charge.

Well, I hope not the large part.

I hate to admit it, but this is what you get when I’m in charge of the bird.

It was actually quite delicious and I used this recipe.

This year we’re going to my Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving and we have yet to finalize any plans for Christmas. So my cooking role is much smaller. But I’m still making a big “Fat Apple Pie” as Mike has named it.

We have made some of our own traditions since having our children. One of my personal favorites is our Happy Birthday Jesus cake. We’ll make the cake on Christmas Eve and depending on when in the day we actually make it, we’ll either decorate it that evening or Christmas morning. Then on Christmas morning, we add candles, sing Happy Birthday, and have cake for breakfast.

We so desire to teach our children about giving to others as a way to show our thanks to God. We make it a point to participate in Operation Christmas Child each year. We also put all extra change in one jar as a way to save money year-round to use for the less fortunate. We hope that in the next couple of years, once Nathan is a little older, that we can begin to help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen during the holidays as one more way to teach this lesson to our children.

We look forward to the many other traditions we will build in the coming years as our children grow up. And I look forward to how they will build traditions with their own families.