One niece was born on Thanksgiving – our Thanksgiving baby. She always spends the Thanksgiving weekend with auntie. She takes her birthday loot and wakes me early on Black Friday. She used to like Toys-r-Us and Target. Now that she’s a tween, we go to Aeropostale/Wet Seal/Forever 21 – where I am the oldest person there. However, it is nice to know that my nieces and nephews don’t mind hanging out with their auntie.
When my nieces and nephews where born, I was in college, living on the west coast or in law school. Therefore, my visits during holidays were not long and we had a short period of time to get all of our Christmas fun in. So began the tradition of putting up the tree Thanksgiving evening. My nephews would have the special task of assisting in setup. My young nieces would pretend the garland was a feather boa and parade around like old Hollywood starlets. Playing in the background, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” When the theme music would play, we would all stop decorating, pick a character and dance their dance.
When I would return home for Christmas, we’d bake cookies. I started the tradition of letting my nieces and nephews open my Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. I knew I wouldn’t see them at the wee hours of Christmas morning opening their presents, so this was my alternative. Christmas Eve is always at auntie’s house.
After dad passed, I felt the need to make sure certain things and memories of him did not fade. The first week of December we cookie bake. The older nephews stopped coming over when they hit teens, but boy do they still want their cookies. Christmas break they come to my house and we go sledding down the hill, take in the Christkindl market, drink hot chocolate and re-watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. Sledding is always hilarious. One niece always falls before making it up the hill. The young nephew is so excited because this year he will go sledding. The first snow of the season was this weekend and he had a blast.
A few years ago, one niece called to tell me she received a high grade on her paper and her teacher let her read it out loud. The theme was Christmas traditions. She read her paper to me over the phone. I was close to tears. Her paper was about spending time with me – baking cookies, sledding, watching a Charlie Brown Christmas.
Although I like Christmas Eve to be immediate family, the nieces and nephews have told friends of Christmas with auntie. In the past years, there has been a parade of hungry teenagers who come to join in the holiday cheer. I have a one bedroom apartment and last year, about 15 teenagers and 5 adults squeezed in. We were stuffed like sardines, but we laughed the whole time.
I start mulling over Christmas Eve dinner in November – it can’t be anything we’ll eat Christmas and I try to include some ethnic or international fare. I take out the good china and stemware. My mom used to protest that this should not be taken out for the kids. I said that if good china and stemware can’t be used for family then it can’t be used for anyone. Plus, I use this as an opportunity to go over table manners with the nieces and nephews. After eating, we reminisce about loved ones gone and Christmas past. In a nod to my dad, we watch O.Henry’s Full House – The Cop & the Anthem, Gift of the Magi, and Ransom of Red Chief – commenting how we thought one nephew would be as precocious as Red Chief when he was little. Definitely, my most favorite time of the year is now.