My family celebrated Christmas Day. My memories of Christmas Eve was that it was a work day for the main event. My mother would cook be up all night in preparation for our guests. Christmas day started out with my father offering our company a “high ball” cocktail. I have no idea what that concoction was but it seemed to be the drink of the time. Then came the appetizer portion which was usually an array of Armenian goodies that were always made on special occasions and took half a day to prepare. Grapeleaves, spinach pies, lahmajun (meat pies) and homemade string cheese appeared along with dried fruit and pistachios. Somehow, we managed to find room for the main meal which most likely was a stuffed turkey and sides. I still don’t know how my mother managed to cook everything all by herself. The men of the house were not required to help. I might have been too young but maybe she, like her daughter, was a control freak who would not ask for help. I’m guessing the later.
Truthfully, I can’t recall exactly what we ate as all my brother and I cared about was opening our gifts. My father had this rule that gifts were not to be opened until after Christmas dinner was done and dishes were cleared. That was around 5 pm. Christmas was almost over. I would just stare at the gifts under the tree, not caring about what I was eating just hoping the guests would have pity on me and eat fast.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized that everyone in the world opened their gifts either Christmas Eve after midnight or Christmas morning. That revelation comes under the heading of what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you. The scene at Tony’s house was very different. It was a festive holiday that lasted two days with people coming Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were five children in the house so they were never invited anywhere else. In the years when Tony’s grandmother was alive, she would make the dinner. After she passed, the task was left to my mother-in-law. She and my father-in-law worked nights at the printing plant and couldn’t leave the job on Christmas Eve until around 6 pm. The meal didn’t even start being prepared until 7 pm and would be served at around 11 pm. Their meal consisted of a pasta dish and fish – you know that seven fishes thing. But they would be opening gifts as early as 12:01 am on Christmas Eve.
The traditions were merged after Tony and I married. First it was Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas Day with mine. We opened gifts Christmas Eve and the children on Christmas Day. The Eve was celebrated at a friend’s home and Christmas Day at our house with family. Then my youngest son was born Christmas Eve. An early Christmas gift for sure. He was suppose to be born in February but this kid wasn’t missing Christmas so he came eight weeks earlier. Luckily he didn’t have to be incubated and after three weeks, came home. He grew to be a healthy, strong man turning 30 this year.
This year, I decided the Christmas decorations I collected during their childhood belong to them. Their first Christmas balls, Hallmark decorations depicting their interests – Anthony – hockey & baseball figures, Thomas – his football career and Star Wars, Christine – dance interest and Barbie. I gave it to them this year to adorn their own trees and remind them of their Christmases gone by.
Now, I look forward to decorated our tree with memorabilia of trips I have taken and hopefully to be taken. So for now, we will look forward to a year where vaccinations overcome the fear we have struggled with all year long.