When you have kids, routine and predictability is a very important aspect of their life. Knowing they can count on something being "the same" - each day, week, year, whatever - gives them a sense of security and control. That's what I think of when I think of our Christmas traditions. Since I moved to Rochester 23 years ago (can it be that long?) and Mark and I started forming our own new traditions. Now, Cameron is careful to ensure that each of these events is accounted for each year. They have evolved to include the following:
The Christmas tree cutting party - a great event we went to yesterday where we all gather at our friends Scott & Kay's house in Palmyra then head out to a field (on Hogback Road!) to cut a tree (any size: $18 - I can remember when, before Scott & Kay started this party 12 years ago, we paid $40 for a tree - outrageous!). After cutting down the tree we all gather back at the house for hors d'œuvres. For Cameron, this party is the official kick-off to the holiday season.
St. Nicholas Day - Grammie Versprille celebrated this tradition long before I came into the family, but since I had kids (and Mark's cousins Dan and his wife, Tina, had them about the same time), we've been celebrating this German tradition (wooden shoes and all) with our cousins, Peter, Abbie and Phoebe. Tina and I alternate houses, and it's a great opportunity to hang out by the fire and munch on treats. Our celebration will be at Tina and Dan's house at 3pm today.
Cookie Exchange - I started a neighborhood cookie exchange the first year we moved to Fourth Avenue, and that year invited moms and daughters on the street. Well, the little boys didn't like that too much, so the next year we invited moms, daughters, sons and dads, and it is now just a great excuse to get together with neighbors during the holidays and drink wine (and of course, exchange cookies!). This year the neighborhood cookie exchange will be at Sarah & Tim's house next weekend. I still need to figure out what to bake...
Christmas Eve - After going to church on Christmas Eve, we head over to Mark's Aunt and Uncle's house for a family Christmas Eve get together. In November we had drawn names for a gift exchange, so between much unwrapping chaos we have some of the most delicious treats around. Among their other talents (baking, arranging, playing of instruments, singing, decorating), Mark's family is full of awesome cooks.
Christmas Day - We try to make sure everyone stays in bed until a reasonable hour, then mom heads down to light the tree, and everyone follows. We check out our Christmas surprises, then open up our stockings and wrapped gifts (each in turn). For the last couple of years, Mark's mom, sisters and their spouses came over for an early Christmas breakfast (Mom Shiao has to sing in the choir each Christmas morning so she needs to leave by 10:30am), but this year we're heading over to Mark's sister Nara and her husband Jim's new house for the Christmas morning breakfast and gift exchange. Then we come home for a little while before heading over to Mark's stepmom Pat's house for an early dinner and gift exchange there. We are pretty exhausted by the end of the day!
That's enough celebrating for now. Check back later for our New Year's traditions!!