On Christmas Eve day as I was simultaneously interacting with my kids, baking goodies, cooking dinner, cleaning house and preparing to host thirty people later that evening, I had an epiphany. I’ve morphed into my mom. And it’s a good thing.
My mom has the gift of hospitality. Many of my childhood memories involve a house full of people, both family and friends, hovering around casual potluck meals on paper plates. My mom’s no-nonsense, casual, doesn’t have to be perfect approach to entertaining is one I’ve completely embraced. Not that I don’t appreciate all the wonderful talents of my crafty friends, but I don’t have the skill or patience to ever aspire to be like them. Even if I set a “fancy” table, it never has those… help me out?... name plate thingies at each place. This Christmas Eve I DID pre-label all thirty plastic Solo cups with a sharpie and stacked them on the counter so people could play a treasure hunt game to find their cup. Does that count as a name plate thingie?
In my house growing up, what we lacked in fanciness we made up for in warmth and love. Our door was always open and since we lived far from any extended family, our holidays frequently consisted of other orphans and friends coming together for fellowship and celebration. Our Christmas Eve tradition evolved into a meal of cheese soup and mini pizzas, often eaten cross-legged on a plastic tablecloth on our family room floor. My Dad would read out loud the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and we’d alternately laugh at the Wise Men bearing ham to the Jewish King and cry with Imogene as the miracle of Jesus’ birth washed over us all. We had candles and little paper holders to catch the wax and one of my parents would pass out candles to each person. One by one, we’d light each other’s candles and say something we were thankful for. As the circle of light grew, so did our thankfulness and when it was complete, we’d sing Silent Night acapella. It was a bit déjà vu as MY home filled with loudness and laughter and we dined pot-luck style on cheese soup and pizza and read the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It was almost magical when my Mom pulled out those SAME candles, twenty-some years later, and passed them around to my husband and four kids, her newly acquired blended family and our compilation of friends and orphans. Poor Jon got the shortest candle and I was convinced his fingers would be singed before we sang.
We’ve started our own Christmas traditions too. After the chaos dies down on Christmas Eve and the last goodbyes have been said, Santa’s elves miraculously deliver wrapped jammies for each of our kids. This year they left some for Mommy and Daddy too! Christmas morning, the kids wake up to full stockings and presents under the tree and even though they know Santa isn’t real, you can’t miss the awe and wonder in their eyes as they see a family room transformed. We open presents slowly, taking breaks for coffee refills and a breakfast of caramel rolls, sausage and scrambled eggs. Christmas dinner is ham with all the fixings, just like I remembered as a child, and this year we shared that meal with my Mom and Terry and our good friends, Jon and Melanie. I had great intentions of having the table prepared with our china and silver, but got lost in the relaxed atmosphere of Christmas day. When our guests arrived the dining room table was still functioning as a runway for Lego planes! We did eventually dig the china and real silver out of the cupboard and the adults enjoyed a quiet, fancy meal while the kids played. My Mom and Mel provided the entire meal, except apple pie and cranberry relish, and it was such a blessing to not spend the afternoon cooking in the kitchen.
Our Christmas extravaganza ended on Saturday with a wing-it-as-you-go brunch with the Buchstaber’s. After the initial feast, we lounged around while the kids played and rummaged through the fridge for leftovers as we felt the need. It was a wonderful mixture of chaos and calm. Casual and fancy. Family and friends. And much like the Christmas’ my mom hosted years ago.