The traditions of our family on Christmas Eve were kept that evening as an honor during our vigil. We ate the family meal off the kitchen while dad lay in the hospital bed nearby.
Dad always took us downtown Seattle during the day to do our Christmas shopping for Mom. I particularly remember the suede coat with the mink collar. She was so happy and looked so beautiful.
Our traditions of Christmas included seafood on Christmas Eve; fried oysters – extra small for everyone but me. Mom always made fried shrimp with cocktail sauce for dipping. The appetizer was a fresh Dungeness crab cocktail. Greg and I each opened one present, sometimes from a cousin, but often a gift between the two of us.
Christmas morning was about eating a big breakfast and unwrapping presents; usually an overflowing gluttony of gifts. Each one was special. The looks on our faces and those of parents, or visiting grandparents are firmly ingrained in my memory (I hope!). I never met a Christmas morning I didn’t love.
Our tree varied over the years, but we have never had an artificial one. Many years were spent traipsing the mountains a day or two after Thanksgiving searching for the perfect one; Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, Shasta, and Noble have all adorned our homes. Sometimes we encountered snow; sometimes rain. Dad and Mom made this a tradition that lasted even for them until a few years before Dad’s passing.
The afternoons were consumed with food, fun and football – the Hula Bowl (since replaced with the Hawaii Bowl). We visited with friends, the Starks, the Westpfahl’s, the Lee’s and the Smith’s. It was always a day full of stories and laughter.
Pool, board games, many times playing poker (I call this Casting for Lots, while more appropriate for Easter, it was a tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas) became the afternoon entertainment. A Disney movie or pinnacle or bridge occurred occasionally as well. As often was the case, the genders separated to different parts of the home as the Christmas day dinner took shape. Usually it was turkey, but it was also interspersed with an occasional prime rib.
My immediate family traditions are similar today. Traditions often are embedded in our lives much like our values. When we are with my parents, we follow my childhood traditions, and when we are with Julie’s we follow hers. We go to the mountains for our tree when schedules allow, or a tree farm when they don’t – weather has never stopped us even when miserable.
We take days decorating the tree, and leave it up until the fire marshal implores us to “be safe.” It seems it never comes down until the day before curbside pickup.
We don’t have a set menu for Christmas Eve dinner but it is always a favorite food (yes – the list of my favorite foods are too long to include here J). Tonight it is spaghetti with Julie’s homemade sauce.
As I write this with tears in my eyes, I see my dad smiling and laughing at a story or joke. I love you and miss you.