Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and good tidings to you, whatever you may celebrate this time of year.
Christmas has always been steeped in tradition for me and my family. When I was young, my grandparents’ house was the hub of the family all year, but especially at Christmas. Christmas Eve was spent not just with family, but friends. I grew up in the middle section of Granville Road. There were – and are – no sidewalks. The houses are farther apart than other areas of the very long road, and hanging out with friends after school or in the summer included risking your life on your bike. But on Christmas Eve, the neighbors gathered at the Murray house.
We ate, we drank, and we truly were merry.
Christmas Day was all about family. I have eight first cousins and the closest to my age is nine years younger than me. So, I was the babysitter and played the role of Head Elf on Christmas, handing out the gifts to everyone.
The living room was a sea of wrapping paper after everyone tore into their gifts. I remember there were mountains of presents under the tree. I’m not sure if there really were that many, or if it’s just my childhood recollection. And honestly, I don’t care to know the truth because in my mind, it was all magical.
I try to bring some of that magic into my children’s Christmas and hope that as adults they will look back and believe it was the most wonderful time of the year.
My family now gathers at my house Christmas Day, but in recent years, our numbers have dwindled. Two of my first cousins live on the west coast now, one lives in Massachusetts but further away, and two of my aunts left the snow behind for the sunny south a few years ago. But the rest of us still spend time together – usually for brunch – and our family now includes a new cousin who is still more interested in the wrappings than what’s underneath.
This past weekend we received a Christmas surprise – my aunt who moved to Alabama showed up at my door! I had no idea she was coming and although she was only here for the weekend, I couldn’t ask for more this year (except, of course, for my aunt in South Carolina to knock on my door Christmas morning). I miss them both every day, but the holidays are especially a time when I miss those who are not here, no matter the reason they are not with us.
I know I am lucky. The fact that I have family to celebrate with is not taken for granted, and I hope the best memories my children have in the future are that they laughed, they ate, they played games and were surrounded by family on Christmas.