Christmas, as I might have mentioned previously, was a tad bit overwhelming (in a good way) this year. It was a four day extravaganza, culminating in the Great Christmas Plague of '09. But before that, it was wonderful. I hereby present photographic evidence:
Always spent at my parents' house, Christmas Eve is full of family traditions, the newest one being the grandchildren (currently Jack and Brayden) opening their presents before bed:
Once they're asleep, the real traditions begin. First, there is food. A lot of it. We eat it around the fire--elaborate appetizers and antipasto and eggnog with lots of hooch. While we eat, we have a final advent service (when we were little, we'd have advent as a family every Sunday for the four weeks before Christmas). We each (now with our partners) light one of the four candles (hope, joy, peace, and love), and Mom and Dad light the Christ Candle. Then we go around the room and share our happiest memory from the following year, and our greatest hope for the coming year.
Then the games begin. In an effort to keep us interested in games well into our thirties, and because my parents have money and none of us do, there are cash prizes. Yes, I am serious. The games on any given year can include word searches, name that Christmas tune, crossword puzzles, word scrambles, or many others. Winner of each gets $10. My mom always has a thick stack of tens, I kid you not. The biggest, and most embarrassing game, is the Nativity Hunt. What I am about to reveal is the great guilty pleasure of Christmas, in which four adult daughters (partners mostly refuse to participate; I wonder why?) regress to unprecedented childishness.
Basically my parents hide all the pieces from the nativity set. That's right. The shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, angels and animals are all hidden somewhere in three rooms of the house. And we are to find them. For our efforts (shameful!) we get money. $10 for every piece, $20 for the baby Jesus, and $20 for the black wise man (in honor of Wes, who refuses to participate, again I wonder why?). I am deadly serious, my friends. We do this, and we do it with gusto. The competition is fierce. Sometimes there are accidents. Often there is muttered cursing. There have been efforts to bar me from the game because I am Jewish. But I participate because we Jews are, if anything, practical. And there is money involved (please, please pick up on the sarcastic nature of my monologue here, lest you be offended).
Once all pieces are found, and the money has been duly doled, we read the Christmas story. And for every piece one finds, one must tell that portion of the story. This year I hit pay dirt. I was lucky enough to recount not only Lo, the angel of the Lord bringing good tidings, but the tales of one of the (white) wise men, one donkey, Mary, and the baby Jesus. You read that right. I made $60 on the Christmas story. Jackpot!
After all the capitalist pig ruining of the true nature of Christmas, we sing carols. In five part harmony (also not a joke). The boys sing off key and quietly, all except for Wes, who has a mean tenor. Finally, we end the evening with presents. The daughters give their gifts to each other and to Mom and Dad. Because my parents' presents to us aren't opened until Christmas Day. Under the tree. Still. If you would like to stop reading my blog having learned this about my family, I understand. Even I am slightly repulsed.
Unfortunately I have no pictures of the evening's festivities beyond the babies and their presents, mainly because I was too intoxicated. So you'll just have to take me on my word that it is a rollicking good time.
Next up, Christmas Day. Stay tuned!