Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in the Real World

Here are all the 2006 Christmas photos.
My Dad's cousins' families have celebrated Christmas together every year for almost 60 years. It all started at maiden Great Aunts Natalie (us children called her Nathy) and Doris' house one Christmas Eve sometime in the early 1950s and continued there until they were too old to cope. Then Dad's cousins Grover, Wilbur, Floyd Barney and our family started taking turns hosting Christmas Eve until the torch was passed to my generation in the 80s when the four oldest girl-cousins, Vera Anne, Marie, Beth and I were grown up with our own houses. Sometime along the way we switched from Christmas Eve to a week-end day before Christmas, but the formula hasn't varied much otherwise: we have lots of food, and most of us bring the same dishes every time - mine is a fruit compote - do a Yankee Swap, and take family photos.

This year it was Vera Anne's turn to host the party at her house in Harvard. Her two boys, Tom and Joe, hadn't made it home from California yet. Only Beth's girls, Samantha and Andrea, and Michael and Jan's son Michael Robert, were there from the youngest generation. Our kids don't really know each other well and are scattered all around, so most of them don't regularly make it to the party - except for Michael Robert, who is in 7th grade and comes with his parents. James hasn't made an appearance at this gathering since his freshman year of college, I think. Not with us this year were Vera Anne's sister Ellen who lives near Seattle. Her brother Dan, who lives near Chicago, did make it, but not their mother Vera, who spends winters in Florida. Stanley and his son Patrick are both on the Lunenburg police force and had to work, and Stan and Susie's daugther Stephanie was away. Of our parents' generation, only my parents, Therese (Wilbur's widow), and Floyd (and Vera in Florida) are still with us. Anyway, it is a celebration still held dear by us girls, and none of us wants to be the one to put an end this long-held tradition.

Here in Lunenburg our Christmas celebration officially started with the beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church. I sang in the choir and Rick played some descants on his trumpet.

At our house, the holdiay was particularly special this year because James brought along his girlfriend Leonora. Her excitement to be celebrating Christmas was contagious. Being Jewish, it's something she has never had the opportunity to do. We loved having her and James with us for three days.

All the parents and my brother Rick were here as always for Christmas dinner and this year we had a Yankee Swap so Leonora could see how that works. This is the 2nd year we have forgone a gift exchange with the grandparents. None of us really need anything, and with our parents aging, finding the right gifts had become more and more difficult and somewhat of a dreaded chore, so last year we all agreed to remove that source of stress from our Christmas observance. It felt a little weird the first time, but we all agreed it was a relief that contributed much to our enjoyment of the holdiay and that we would continue this unconventional practice.

I cooked the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner. We had lots of pies for dessert. Everything was delicious and it was fun for me to orchestrate.

We realize how fortunate we are after 34 years of marriage to have celebrated every single Christmas with both sets of parents and for James to have been able to enjoy being with all of his grandparents for this special holiday every year of his life. We have missed having Rick's sister Linda and her husband Craig with us since they relocated to the Seattle area.

Here are all the 2006 Christmas photos.

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