Well, it's that time of year again. It's time for Christmas. People are putting up decorations, cleaning the house, buying gifts and trying to remember the true meaning of the season. And while Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, it also has multiple different meanings for different people, and it's important that we remember that what might be important for us isn't important for everyone.
For me, Christmas is all about tradition. When I was younger, every year my family had a tree. Often obtained last minute (once we cut it down from our back yard on Christmas Eve), it was nonetheless filled with a hodgepodge of ornaments and lights. It would fill the house with the scent of pine, and would light up the living room in the evenings. A few ornaments I remember specifically (and still have); like the Ukrainian spider web and baby's first Christmas. Others are lost somewhere in the recess of my memory, but they all come together to form a beautiful tree.
Then, every Christmas Eve after Mass my mom, my dad, and I would head over to Baba's (my grandmother) and enjoy a small feast. Sometimes we'd share this feast with many other people, sometimes with just a few, but the priest was always there. We'd enjoy a wonderful cucumber, tomato and onion salad, followed by Borscht and finished with Pierogies. You see, Catholics don't eat meat on Christmas Eve, so we had a potato dinner. Sometimes I opened a present or two at Baba's house, but typically I'd just sit and admire her small, potted tree. At the end of the evening Mom and I would go back home while Dad would go to Midnight Mass (something I always wanted to do).
Christmas morning would find me just like any other kid, awake at dawn and ready to open presents. I'd tear open gifts from Santa, Mom, Dad, and grandparents and feel like I'd just hit the jackpot. There are a few gifts that really stick in my mind (mini gardening set, a certain stuffed animal, etc.) but really I just remember the excitement. At some point after the gift opening, while Mom and Meemaw (my other grandmother) cooked, Dad would pick up Baba, and the priests would arrive (one from the Ukrainian church, one from the Roman church). Oddly enough, even with my love of food, I can't for the life of me remember what we ate. I'm sure there was stuffing and sweet potatoes (a lot like Thanksgiving), but I don't remember the main course. Discussion over different cultures and foods and Christmas in general would ensue and we'd all have a lovely meal. At some point after dinner, everyone would go home and the family would relax. After that my memory's foggy, but I do remember being tired and satisfied...and extraordinarily happy.
Around the time I turned 10, however, that all changed. Like any divorce, this one ruined all the traditions. I'd still go to Baba's on Christmas Eve, but Mom wasn't always there. Only a few short years later, Baba decided she couldn't cook for Christmas anymore and that tradition died too. I'm fuzzy on when the big Christmas meal stopped happening, but I'm sure it was around the same time. With less money, we couldn't afford a Christmas tree (and we'd already cut down the one in the back yard). Everything was different, and with a world already torn apart I was looking for things that were the same. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to blame my parents. They tried as hard as they could, but things were still extremely different. Eventually, I decided to spend Christmas with my friend Jessica, because she still had her family traditions. If I couldn't have mine, I'd at least adopt hers for a while (something which I still do for Thanksgiving).
Now, it's my turn for Christmas. I get to plan it and see it goes off without a hitch. I'm blessed by the fact that Hans has very similar traditions to mine. It really helps things out. I've also started to realize that Christmas doesn't have to be celebrated on December 25th. Yes, I'm doing something special that day, but the real celebration will be on the 28th. And yes, I'm still having a pierogie dinner on the 27th.
Sometimes I wonder why my parents aren't as eager to keep things exactly the same (and why I have to remind my dad that ribs on Christmas Eve is a no-no), but I suppose the change in traditions wasn't as big for them. Sure, I'm certain they felt the difference, but they were adults when things changed. Plus, I'm sure their Christmases had changed before. I'm just happy that after fourteen years of fighting and struggling to get back my Christmas it looks like it may actually happen. Yes things will be different. I mean, I'm married and have in-laws. That's a huge change right there. However, it will be the closest thing to a Christmas that I've had in years, and I can't wait.