As a child I started playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. This drove some of my family members crazy. But for me it made the Holidays come to life in a spirit of anticipation, and hope. The holidays meant setting aside personal disagreements, slowing down, and coming together as a family. In general I felt increased goodwill, I saw more people smile, and I was basically “in love” with the spirit of the season.
The holiday season started with a quiet, intimate Thanksgiving gathering with handcrafted crusts on homemade pies, slow cooked turkey, and savory gravy at my Nana and Papa Choo-Choo’s house—aka my Dad’s parents. It continued with decorating, shopping, gift-wrapping and the likes.
Christmas week would find us in the mother-in-law cottage at my Nana and Papa Boat’s house–aka, my mom’s parents. On Christmas Eve we would awake early in the morning for breakfast then my brothers and I would play the day away. It was larger than life fun for me seeing my cousins and spending time with my grandfather whom I adored with every fiber of my being. Next, it was dinner in the pool room with extended family. Then finally we’d move into the front house where year after year you’d see a perfectly flocked tree trimmed all in red. A 15 inch color wheel sat on the floor next to it. It was divided into 4 equal sections, and 4 colors. I loved watching the tree change colors as the wheel slowing made it’s rotation. In front of that tree at 9:00 pm we’d slow the evening down and open gifts with my aunt and our 2nd cousins. We’d then share our gifts, play and wait for linguica sandwiches to be served promptly at midnight.
Christmas day we made the rounds connecting with our gigantic, full blooded Portuguese clan . . . one household, one pie at a time. Each house was beautifully decorated, filled with the aroma of Christmas, family, and laughter . . . pumpkin pies, thumbprint cookies, eggnog (I never liked eggnog, but it was always there) games, chatter, and cousins playing who only saw each other a couple of times each year.
Those routines might sound simple, uneventful, and ordinary, but to me they were epic. I looked forward to them with anticipation and delight, and when they arrived, I breathed in every delicious Enchanted Moment, and felt deeply alive, connected and fulfilled.
Times have changed. My grandparents are no longer with us. We no longer make “the rounds”, and our pies are typically store bought. Now we gather at my house. If you come by on Christmas Eve, you will still hear laughter. You will still see cousins playing who only see each other a couple times a year. We’ll have linguica sandwiches at 6:00’ish and open presents at 8:00’ish. You’ll see family and in-laws so tightly bonded that you will struggle to know who is who . . . And, if you come early or stay late enough you will see me steal away a few minutes to listen to Barbara Streisand’s “Closer,” and connect with my mom and other family members who have passed . . .
“So on this silent night
I call your name
And suddenly all time and space disappears
I see your face in firelight
I hold you close in memory
And even though you’re gone
I know you’re here . . .”
What rituals and routines bring your Holiday season to life . . . What makes it epic?