Anyway, today I have another guest blogger for you sharing her favorite family Christmas traditions. Whitney and I met in college. I'd seen her a lot in the Liberal Arts building and she became a familiar face, as we were both English majors and in the same circles. But our friendship didn't really form until one lovely semester when I had Dr. Carrell as a professor (SUPER hard but one of the best ever!) and Whitney as an SI instructor. She was basically a tutor for all of us in the class (and the best tutor ever as I recall). It was during our over-caffeinated, over-stressed, laughter-filled, SI sessions that our friendship flourished. Between swapping stories about our cat-children and coming up with bizarre phrases, "Stalk it like a hawk," we became friends.
I'm so thankful for facebook for allowing Whitney and I to keep in touch and I knew when I asked her if she wanted to be a guest blogger, she would say yes, and I was immediately looking forward to what she had to say. So without further ado, here is Whitney with her favorite family Christmas traditions:
I am quite honored that Regina asked me to be a guest blogger, and I was especially excited when asked to write about my family’s Christmas traditions. However, I feel that, before I go into our traditions, I should offer one disclaimer: Christmas in my family is no small affair, topping the other ten federal holidays and thirty-some nationally observed holidays as the biggest celebration throughout the year. Like most American families, though, the Christmastime merriment begins as soon as we all awake from our post-Thanksgiving dinner nap, beginning with the decorating of the Christmas trees. No, you didn’t misread: we have more than one Christmas tree in the Vandiver house. Last year was a record setting thirteen trees with a blend of full-size artificial pines in corners, half-size pre-lit ones in windows, table-top ones on countertops and the dining room table, and three small artistic ones that my mother bought for me but that somehow never made it into my possession.
Among our many holiday festivities, three have been melded over the years to become traditions in our household, the first of which is our family portrait for Christmas cards. My mother and I love cards—sending them and receiving them—as there is little that is more personal than a handwritten note of any kind (at least, so believeth the English major in me). While this is not a tradition in the consistent sense of the word, it is something we do every few years. What began as a simple family picture to give us something to look at in the distance future became a creative way to share a special moment with our close friends and family. This year, however, we decided to take the “special moment” mentality to a new level and add a single element to the photo: humor…in the form of Santa hats with ear flaps. Among our pleasant family portrait, the trimmed tree in the background aglow with small, white lights and colorful stockings decking the mantle, emerged a rather entertaining photo of my parents and I not only with Canadian Santa hats but making faces at the card recipient. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like three Oklahomans with red and white ear flaps sticking their tongues out at you.
Thus begins our holiday season, but the true wintertime spirit doesn’t well up inside me until the tender time spent together for the sake of a very competitive Gingerbread House decorating contest. This event is only in its second year and will not technically be a tradition until it is sponsored by my mother’s pantry sundries in two weeks and second annual competition is welcomed with the opening ceremony of tearing open a bag of Jelly Bellies. The rules, you ask? Only one: Don’t touch an opponent’s project, lest you be the bearer of its destruction. The arsenal? Anything you can find in the kitchen, while edibles are highly encouraged for inclusion. The winner? Whomever best represents his or her theme. Last year I chose to do a winter cottage with shaved almonds as shingles, cut pretzels as a chopped wood pile in the yard, and thin noodles as blades of dead grass sticking up through the snow. My parents, taking a tag-team approach against me, created a tropical hut complete with a grass hut and sand and shells. The winner of last year’s competition is not important (me). The important thing to focus on this year is the new challenge of incorporating that extra “oomph!” to make your gingerbread house stand out. My parents’ choice: colored LED lights. Mine? I’ve no idea and two weeks left to figure it out. (If anyone has ideas, let me know!)
Our final tradition—and my favorite—centers on our Christmas Eve gift exchange. Rather than cooking a large meal, we snack on Christmas Eve while opening gifts from each other. While none of us can remember exactly when the tradition morphed into its current incarnation, we’ve been opening our gifts on Christmas Eve since I was in elementary school. Somewhere along the way, a buffet of snacks was introduced which always include slices of sausage (the Wal-Mart version of Hickory Farms), several types of cheese, crackers, pickles, chips, dip, and the occasional addition of boiled shrimp (for my mother), fresh whipping cream and strawberries (for my father), or a good dry merlot (for me). As if such a wonderful plate of food wasn’t enough, the classic of all Christmas movies is played in the background: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And the gift giving begins as we each take turns opening a present, my dad snapping pictures of us donning our new scarves or admiring our long-awaited Linguistics books. The night usually ends with a pile of wrapping paper and opened boxes, my cats digging their ways into the mountain of torn colorful paper and our stomachs full of delicious food. It’s a simple tradition, but it is the highlight of my holiday, offering an evening with my parents filled with surprises, smiles, laughs, and hugs.
But what more should we ask of the Christmas season? A healthy family, a full heart, and the blessing of the reason for the season is more than enough to bring a smile to one’s face—and keep family traditions in the family.
That sounds awesome! I'm definitely adding "Making gingerbread houses" to my list of "Christmas things to do with the kids". Sounds like a load of fun!
Thank you Whitney for sharing!
Does anyone else do the gingerbread house tradition? I'd love to hear about it and see pictures. :)