Christmas Eve as a child meant sliding around in slippers and tights under a velvet Christmas-coloured dress on my grandparents’ hardwood floor. It was in the house that is now my parents’ house. There wasn’t a formal dinner on the 24th, only a table overflowing with cookies, cold-cuts, a massive platter of prawns, chunks of homemade fudge that was my grandpa’s favourite recipe (besides the chowder we’d make in the backyard every September).
It meant a day for grown-ups talking and me, my brother and our cousins poking and prodding the wrapped packages under the tree, waiting for the moment when the adults announced it was time for someone to play Santa and pass them out.
When the fun was over, it was late and we nearly fell asleep in the car. The ride was only two minutes long, past houses with colourful lights strung around windows, Christmas trees sparkling inside. The back of the car was full of cardboard boxes piled high with unwrapped toys and leftover cookies. We went home, scribbled a note to Santa on the kitchen table and left him some cookies next to a carrot for the reindeer to nibble. Even though we were excited for Christmas Day, we were always too exhausted by then to stay up and try to spy on Santa. The next morning brought all the fun of Christmas day.
Those were times of truly magical Christmases, filled with laughter and family who travelled to be together from across the States. They were Christmases when frost crackled across the windowpane in the morning light and snow was heaped up along the pathways, Christmases of surprises, and excitement and competitions to see who could make the wineglasses sing the loudest.
There comes a point when it becomes obvious that Christmas is mostly for kids and that you’re not one anymore, but you enjoy it in a different way, welcome new traditions and experiences. Now, it’s about the little things: stringing cranberries and popcorn, receiving cards in the mail that make you smile, filling the kitchen with the scent of freshly baked cookies, making handmade cards to send home, wrapping the gifts, finding a present you know someone will love, a bit of time away from the routine of daily life to relax.
Today, Jorge and I are flying to Tenerife to spend a Spanish Christmas with his family, which I am looking forward to since they are soon to become my family as well. Next year, to North Tonawanda. I just realized I have not spent a Christmas in New York since 2009!