For the past forty-something years I have been having Christmas Eve dinner at my parents' house. I may have missed one when I lived in Chicago, but I can't remember it now. Even after all my siblings and I got married, had children, and convenience would demand we stay at home Christmas Eve, we persisted in tradition. This year was different. Mom asked everyone before she actually sent the invitation for the day before Christmas Eve dinner.
The change in date was the only noticeable difference. I still provided appetizers, dessert and kitchen assistance, Baby Bear decorated the mantles and tables with beautiful greenery, Susan produced the perfect salad and reminded us about social intelligence, the sons-in-law and my father manned the grill, sister-in-law brought a dessert, and my brother and his family were late (he always has a valid excuse). Even with the activity of a full house and the chaos of the Christmas season, this cooperative can usually pull off a celebration worthy of a food and entertaining magazine. This year was no exception.
We started with goat cheese souffles in phyllo, cheese ribbons, and a champagne toast. My nephew, who toasted, "Let's bump to the future.", many years back has obviously gained some maturity and made a lovely toast. Because it is a standing joke, Susan toasted, "Let's bump to the future."
Since we have outgrown the dining room, Mother set an extra table in the living room that is visible across the foyer when both sets of double doors are opened. We felt together. For dinner we had Susan's Crunchy Romaine Salad, Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame Seeds, Grilled Salmon, and Spoon Bread (a fancy cornbread). For dessert we had chocolate cake, coconut cake, ambrosia, and buttermilk fudge. Delicious!!
Then, a singing and piano performance and the PRESENTS!! I'm glad I took extra time to find great gifts. I like the faces when the gifts are a perfect match. Though the gift that captured the crowd was given by my sister - a set of metal puzzles.
Next, tradition was broken. Mother had a dirty Santa game for the men. A couple of the men wear ties every day and a couple almost never, so the game had that interesting twist. After all the ties were exchanged, maliciously re-exchanged, and exchanged again, the girls and women gathered for the yearly bow picture. Then, everyone gathered around the piano for a sing along - traditional, not so traditional, and down right silly.
As the years pass, the traditions seem to gain in importance. The time with my brother and my sisters becomes more precious. I appreciate my parents' efforts to make special memories, and I know I am lucky.
I am over-filled with holiday spirit, and I still have two more celebrations this weekend.