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Entries in Christmas Families Holiday (2)


What is Christmas Anyway?

Yes.  I said Christmas.  At my house, that’s what we celebrate and the gist of this post.  If your customs are around other holidays – FABULOUS.  Happy/Merry and all to you.

In chatting with someone at work this morning, we had the following observations:

Losing favor:

  • Holiday parties– while company parties seem to be back with style, neighborhood and friend parties are off.
  • Christmas cards – Yes, I sent Christmas cards this year with an annual letter.  Most of the people I know are connected to me on Facebook, so the handful of people staying away from social media is few.  Finding unique things to write about was problematic!  Are Christmas cards becoming extinct?
  • Big gifts – When divorcing my kids got the “guilt” Christmas of around $1000+ each.  This year my limit was around $125 each (includes grandkids and the in-laws) – still substantial enough for a nice holiday.  When my kids “need” something I tend NOT to wait for the holiday.
  • Baking – it seems the home-baked goods are off this year
  • Outdoor lighting displays – far fewer in neighborhoods.  In a bike ride from Bedford to Cambridge on the Minuteman Trail, NO outside displays were observed.

Gaining favor:

  • Family gatherings – getting together with family has never stopped, and in my family are now often multiple day events.
  • Charitable donations – As the year comes to a close looking at events in life where I have connection drive my donations (things like the Mark Fidrych Foundation & my fraternity) and organizations always there helping (includes church, the Salvation Army kettle, and the Girl Scouts.)
  • Believing – I just “may” be good friends with Santa, a good enough friend to often hear what he hears.  The size of the requests has dropped considerably over the years and in one case this year touched my heart, “I’d like Mom and I to have a house so we don’t have to sleep at different houses.”
  • Amazon – The poor UPS man is a huge part of my holiday.

In taking a giant step back from the list, I started to wonder what this all meant.  Part of me says perhaps we are returning to some of the key elements of the Christmas holiday and shedding some of the materialism.  Part of me says this is an offshoot of the great recession….the results of a new economic reality.

What are the realities in your family?


Christmas in Families

When I was growing up, Christmas was very predictable.  

Christmas Eve the Altzners would come over, and my parents would exchange gifts (often a box of cashews perfect for the empty nut dish.)  We would then go over to the home of my Aunt Sue and Uncle Dutch. There, we would have such stellar (blecch) family foods such as Bean Soup and Ground Bologna.

Thankfully these treats were saved for Christmas Eve only.

At midnight, we would exchange gifts with all the cousins. We did a 50 cent and a $3.50 gift…enough for everyone to get something, and not enough to break the bank.

We’d return home to our house around 2AM, ready for the Big Man to arrive.

The next morning, my sister and I would run to see what was under the tree. Overnight, magically the entire area around the tinsel covered evergreen would be covered with gifts. Many of our gifts were practical….socks, Scotch Tape, new pants, and a shirt or two. There would also be some toys, and always a single “big gift.”  The Papps would come over later in the day, and we would enjoy a nice dinner.

Alas, most of the Papps and Altzners are gone, and now the responsibility for Christmas falls to us.

When the kids were smaller, we would go “all out” decorating the house. Every inch had a holiday something on it. Out on the lawn, we had large Christmas displays….Santa and the reindeer, a Giant Snow Man, flashing lights….   Only the Homer Simpson Santa Claus was declared too pedestrian for the front yard, and was relegated to the back yard.

Hiding presents from latchkey kids always proved a challenge. In one house, we thought we had the perfect space UNDERNEATH the house in an enclosed garage. The only issue was the two “barn door” style doors couldn’t open with a decent snow fall, creating a bit of a panic one Christmas Eve.

Divorce created a challenge, and to my ex-wife’s credit she made it a non-issue. I spent every Christmas with them, and then a day or two later, they did an entire Christmas with her. It was a very generous approach, one I’ve always appreciated. We always tried to keep the kids as whole as we could during divorce.

As the kids have grown, Christmas isn’t quite as exciting. I’m writing this on Dec 10, and have a Christmas list for the Daughter in Law and nothing for the kids. A big tree seemed foolish, so I went with a tiny little thing.

One year, we were moving on Dec 31 and were not able to properly decorate for the holiday. A caring neighbor had us over to their house. It was…family. While not “our” family, the grandparents were there, the uncle with Alzheimer’s was there, the little ones were running around. It was family.

The only family I have in the area are my kids, having left Cleveland nearly thirty years ago. So at this time of year, I look forward to the time with my kids, spending some time together, watching A Christmas Story on WTBS. For me one of the great things about that specific movie is how a great deal of it was filmed in Cleveland. Those “Higbee” windows with Christmas displays really did exist.

So for me, Christmas is about family. Sure, there are solemn religious themes to the holiday, and we’ll go the church. For me, it’s not about the gifts (in fact, I wish we’d stop all the gift stuff.)  For me, it is about family.

What’s Christmas for you and your family?