But of all the times of the year, Christmas and the winter holidays were always my favorite. They're big celebrations, they last a long time, there's many different things to enjoy: the music, the food, the decorating, the lights, the buying of presents & the wrapping of them…
I'm supposed to choose 1 holiday tradition. I don't know if I can. I'll share many.
I grew up in a Catholic family so we always had an Advent wreath with 3 purple candles and one rose colored one. I always enjoyed the Advent wreath and I still have one as an adult. I've created my own traditions surrounding it, including singing the first verse of O Come Emmanuel while the candles are lit.
My mother and I take a trip to Bethlehem PA every year before Christmas… we've done it since I've been in 4th grade. When I was a kid, I was a lot closer to my dad, so this was the one mother-and-me time. It's almost always been a "no boys allowed" venture, and, when I got older, it was a "no partners allowed" deal. (Last year I broke the rules and spent the day with a good friend of mine. But it was very very nice to share with him the places and traditions I've loved.) We often times listen (and sing along with) the same Christmas music in the car on the way there. The length of the trip has changed over the years (starting as a day trip and turning into a 3-4 day trip), and we've stayed in just about every hotel in the area, but we like to eat at a lot of the same places (and throw in a new place or 2 each year), go to the same shops, take the same bus tour. As the years have gone by, we sometimes drop some of the traditions (like the bus tour… sometimes we drive around and I narrate a "tour" myself, with a lot of silly joking around) but add new ones in… like the house tour (which happens every other year) and seeing a play at their local community theater on the non-house tour years.
On Christmas Eve, one year my dad decided to do a buffet at home. It evolved into everyone having a favorite food for Christmas Eve dinner. I always requested Dad's cheese fondue (which he only made at Christmas) & which I brought tonight. My parents often times had shrimp.
When I lived in Toronto, I'd go to Neighborhood UU church on Christmas Eve. It's located in the Gerrard India Bazaar, and I have fond memories of taking the streetcar and watching the Christmas lights in the windows of the shops glisten in the sequins and jewels on the beautiful saris, while snowflakes fell outside. One year, me and my boyfriend went for Indian buffet right after church (because, why not?). I was looking forward to that turning into a tradition, but we broke up in the next year, and it was not to be.
On Christmas morning, I always open only my stocking before breakfast. Then we have breakfast, and then we open the rest of our gifts. Sometimes we'll go out driving around and looking at Christmas lights after the sun goes down.
My father always bought me just 1 gift. Well, he always bought me 1 main big gift every year. I usually have no idea what it will be. He also would lie to me about what Mom's gift would be, because he never trusted me to keep it a secret.
One year, when I was a child, we read a book called the Glass Angels. In it, Tilly, born poor to a widowed seamstress mother in the UK between the 2 world wars, goes and visits the elderly Mrs. McBride next door. Mrs. McBride has a large trunk full of trinkets and memories from the glorious time "Beforethewar" that she'll often times bring out things for Tilly. This time, when she goes to the bottom of her trunk, she finds 3 beautiful blown glass christmas ornaments… a pine cone, a bell, and a bird.
That year, on Christmas morning, I found a box under the tree. It was labeled "Mrs. McBride has been to the bottom of her trunk again." In the box were a few old fashioned glass ornaments. My mother explained to me that some day I'll be an adult and I'll have my own Christmas tree, and she wanted me to have ornaments for it. So every year, I would find the box from Mrs. McBride, with yet another ornament or 2 in it. As I've gotten older, my mother has not stopped the tradition. I've received angels, fruit & vegetables, a sun, moon, & star, candles and bells and snowmen and Santa Clauses and all sorts of animals of the land and sky. (And yes, I have a few birds, at least 1 bell, and, my favorite, a red pine cone covered in sparkles like snow.) And sure enough, over the years, I have amassed quite the collection of glass ornaments. To the point that my tree is almost exclusively these beautiful fragile treasures. As an adult, I will sometimes buy myself a glass ornament to add to my collection. (I have a beautiful Harlequin mask with rainbow designs that I bought at the GLBT bookstore to celebrate my Pride. I also have a slice of cake that looks suspiciously like the cake in the video game Portal.) Now, often times while in Bethlehem, mom & I will look at the glass ornaments in the Moravian Book Store, and I will go "ooh, I don't have one of these. Maybe Mrs. McBride will find one of THESE in the bottom of her trunk!" And, of course, I never receive that ornament (for Mrs. McBride had probably already been to the bottom of her trunk already), but that's still part of the fun… trying to guess what ornament Mrs. McBride will find at the bottom of her trunk THIS year.
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