With our Internet down for over a week this is a little late, but it was ready to post so I will go ahead and share, you can read it now or next December if you wish.
Baking, shopping, wrapping, and celebrating complete I look back at many wonderful hours with my husband, children and our family and friends.
Our Christmas celebration began the Saturday before Christmas at my husband’s parents. Twenty seven people gathered in one room to give thanks and then share a delicious meal. After the clean-up was finished grandkids ages 2-21 spent time laughing and playing together while some gathered around the table with the adults to play card games or just visit.
Grandpa then announced it was time for the gift exchange. This was our first year with kids and adults combined in one exchange it seemed to be a hit. Grandma and Grandpa then passed out the traditional common gift for all grandkids. This year gum wrapped with Christmas cash for each of the kids to burn a hole in their pockets. We then move on to the $10 gift. This exchange is many times a highlight of the evening, adults and some of the big kids bring a used $10 gift. Not a white elephant from you house, but something from a garage sale, auction, pawn shop etc... It is always fun to see what shows up, which gifts are popular, but mostly which are not. We then start rolling the dice for the highest combination, the winner has the choice to leave the game with the gift in hand or trade for another and stay in.
The remainder of the day is spent eating leftovers, playing games and visiting. With the grandkids getting older this was our first year without the traditional sleepover or basement camp out. Despite some disappointment of the younger kids, the day was a success and all had fun even without the extra overnight hours.
The final Sunday of Advent
Sunday we celebrated the final Sunday of Advent, the kids eager to have all 4 candles in the advent wreath lit. We did have to lower the greenery to keep it from catching fire, but we made it, new candles are a must for next year. After church the kids went home with Grandma and Grandpa to have Christmas leftovers and my husband and I went home and started wrapping. Normally we end up doing it all on Christmas Eve so we appreciated this offer by my in-laws to get some of that done earlier and the kids enjoyed the extra time with them.
Monday, Christmas Eve brought excitement and last minute prep. We wrapped gifts, made sugar cookies for Santa and cleaned house; because we all know Santa doesn’t visit messy houses. That evening we dressed up for Christmas Eve mass, something more enjoyable for the girls than the boys. Though our second son showed his dimples when he walked in with his Christmas tie.
The beautifully decorated church and Christmas Carols really helped the spirit of the season come alive. The older two girls participated in the procession to lay baby Jesus in his crib and singing before mass. Both worried they wouldn’t know all the words but I never noticed a single mistake. The traditional mass, as always was amazing, the story of Jesus’ birth and what it means to all Christians. Our oldest got to play his trumpet with the choir. I was proud I don’t know that I have ever enjoyed Joy to the World so much. The mass concluded with Christmas greetings from other parishioners, we are really blessed to have a great church family.
That evening Grandparents visited our house for snacks and a game of Nertz. After saying goodbye to Grandparents and Relf (our Elf on the shelf) the kids eagerly headed to bed. With children snug in their beds, or sleeping bags since the kids all like to sleep in one room Christmas Eve, my husband and I finished the preparations. About 1:00 am the wrapping, setting out gifts, stuffing stockings, and 5 heavily decorated Santa cookies were complete. I feel bad throwing cookies away, but normally sick after eating them. Thank goodness we started on Sunday. It always seems to take a bit of time, carefully thinking through the placement of the gifts and proper wrapping paper to keep the mystery of Santa alive for even just one more Christmas morning. In the end I always love to just look at the tree for a few minutes before heading to bed with probably as much excitement as the kids.
We were awoken by 5 smiling faces, well 4 smiling faces and one half awake 2 year old. They all know the routine and play along with disappointed groans as my husband says, let’s all just snuggle a little bit first. All seven of us cover our queen size bed, which is a little more challenging every year, I think they like the moments together as much as we do. After a prayer and a Happy Birthday song to Jesus, upon request of our 6 year old, a phone call to Grandma and Grandpa to say we were up, and a few anxious moments in the hallway while Dad started the video camera the kids entered the living room with excitement.
The stockings were emptied first and what a nice surprise that the kids were more eager to hand out the gifts they had for each other and us before opening themselves. They quickly cracked “the gift code” a tradition we started a few years ago. Instead of putting the kid’s names on our gifts for them we come up with a code for each, so they can’t tell whose gift was who’s until the figure out the pattern. It could be the wrapping paper, a sticker, or the color of writing. They kids think it’s fun. The pace then quickens, and before you know it the room is filled with wrapping paper and smiles.
The rest of the day was spent building Legos, eating, and playing. Some never even got out of their pajamas. I enjoy this most about Christmas, the feeling of not having to go anywhere and just being together.
Christmas morning was not the end of Christmas for our family. Wednesday was spent wrapping, cleaning, packing, and loading the van for our trip to Colorado for Christmas with my family. With my husband only having to work half a day we were able to start our trek early afternoon.
Christmas was planned for Friday evening so Thursday was spent settling in and visiting. I don’t know who it was harder for the kids or my Mom to wait for the celebration. My sister, who doesn’t like keeping who you have in the gift exchange a secret spent the day trying to pick up on clues of who had who so she could figure it out before the exchange.
Friday we had our final family Christmas of 2012. Beginning with another yummy meal and then kids eagerly waiting for their uncle, my little brother, to get off of work so they could dive into the presents. When he arrived they all yelled Santa Claus is here as he walked in with his gifts. After one of my mom famous photo sessions, which despite our complaints we are always thankful for later, the gifting began.
We still buy for all the kids on my side, so we take turns each family handing out their gifts and watching them be opened. The final gifts for the kids from Nanna and Grandpa. Despite the attempt at organization with 13 grandkids age 13 down to 1yr it still gets a little crazy, but fun.
After the kids the older girls (my sisters and brothers girlfriend) have our gift exchange. Yes my sister guesses were right again. My parents then get out their envelopes. A few years ago instead of buying gifts they started putting cash in envelopes with one holding an extra dollar and one holding 2-3 times the amount of the rest. We randomly select the envelopes and play a game to see who gets which one. The Right family game was used this year. At the end everyone quickly opens to see who has the “winning” envelope and if you had it to start. This has been a fun tradition, for the givers and the receivers. The big boys (our husbands and my brother) then do their gift exchange. Normally a themed event, starting with the inaugural year of paintball gear (my dad included). Years followed by craigslist gifts and many other creative ideas. The last few years they played poker to decide the order of selection. The process seems to be more fun to them than the gifts.
At the end of Friday night our celebrations came to an end. Though it is sad for to conclude the magical season you always hold on to the memories. I’ll likely spend the week enjoying the Christmas decorations for a bit longer, if our tree lasts, as they will stay up until the Epiphany of the Lord celebration at Church, Jan 6 http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/holidays/epiphany.htm. On Jan 6 the kids will finally take out their 3 Wise Men in their managers. Then as we begin the clean up the excitement of the start of a fresh new year begins.
I hope this Christmas season brought your families joy, time together, and a chance for your relationships on earth and with God to grow. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year now :)