Friday, November 24, 2006

Christmas Rules

The Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Yule (did I miss anyone?) season has officially arrived. This time of year always makes me get sentimental and start thinking about traditions. My family doesn’t have very many, but I am pretty hard core about the ones that matter because the holidays just don’t feel ‘right’ without them. Some of them have evolved into a set of Christmas Rules. (Bet you thought when you read the title that I meant Christmas Rules as in "Christmas is Awesome!")

Actually, my stepdad calls me the Christmas Nazi after the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld because of my staunch adherence to the Rules. It’s one of his favorite shows, although I could never figure out why. Like the Soup Man, there are rules, but that’s just because doing things in a certain way makes it easier on everyone and people don’t have to wait as long in the cold for their clam chowder. For me, Christmas is more enjoyable when a couple ‘guidelines’ are followed.

I’ll share my neurosis with you today...

1. Christmas lists must be posted by November 1st.

2. Posters of said lists in item 1 are not to purchase any items for themselves off posted lists until after such time that all presents are exchanged.

3. Any gifts that are guessed or peeked at will be immediately returned to their store of origin. (Santa keeps receipts). A replacement gift may or may not be purchased, depending on how annoyed Santa gets by your impertinence.

4. Only one gift is to be opened on Christmas Eve. Just one. The gift is to be selected by the giver, not the recipient, so Christmas PJs, etc. get opened instead of the big surprise PS 3 or something.

5. Christmas decorations are put up the day after Thanksgiving and taken down New Years Day. Epiphany at the latest. Live trees throw a wrench in this plan, but all non-living decorations are included.

6. Christmas cartoons, even the old cheesy ones you've seen a million times, must be watched. It doesn't matter that I can sit and recite them. I have to watch - at the very least - Charlie Brown and Garfield. Oh, and the Grinch. And Mickey's Christmas Carol. And...

7. On Christmas Eve, we will make crab wontons, eat boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce, have a cheese, sausage and crackers tray, etc., sip champagne or sparkling cider and listen to carols with the lights dimmed and the decorations twinkling. If we can get the darn thing open, we will also have chunks of fresh coconut.

8. Mariah Carey’s Christmas album is wholly unsuitable background music for this. Christmas carols must be sung by the classics – Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives...I don’t want N*Sync doing their rendition of Santa Baby while I’m opening presents.

9. On Christmas Day, serve any of the big three meats - turkey, ham, prime rib, I don’t care...but there will be green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. This is not the day to experiment and have a Mexican fiesta for dinner. If that’s your tradition, fine, but not mine.

10. Stockings are not an afterthought. Their fillings are to be planned with careful consideration, not a 1:30 AM run to the gas station on Christmas Eve because you forgot. Slim Jims and Honey Buns are not appropriate items.

I don’t know why they call me that nasty name. :) Anyway, those are just a few of my hang-ups. There’s probably more I’ve forgotten. I guess they all develop from times when the rules weren’t followed and I walked away from the holiday feeling let down or unfulfilled.

One year my grandmother whined until we opened all our Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. The next morning, there was nothing. My mother had even grown tired of the Christmas tree and got up early, took the decorations off and threw it out so it would stop shedding pine needles on her floor. When I woke up, it was like Christmas never even happened. I hated that Christmas.

Another time my great grandmother made chicken breasts and burned one of those little preformed hams for Thanksgiving. Might as well have been any other dinner any other night. Phooey.

And that thing about Slim Jims in the stocking...1992, baby. Yuck.

And yet, for all the planning and plotting, I always walk away from the holidays disappointed. I build it up in my head to the point that it can’t possibly fulfill my expectations, then I get let down. It would be like Jello wrestling with Johnny. I’m sure it would be interesting, but it probably couldn’t touch what I imagine it would be. Then I’d be depressed and have a big ol mess to clean up once he high tailed it back to France.

Do you have any special holiday rules or traditions? How about the post-holiday blues? Do you get those too? What suggestions do you have to keep them to a minimum? I guess the “rules” are my way of helping hedge against disappointment, but they don’t always work.

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Doh! I'm only one page up from last week. Let's call it a case of Turkey Brain...

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Minna said...

I think here in Finland just about everybody opens their gifts on Christmas Eve, in the evening when the Santa arrives from Lappland (yes, from Lappland. There is nothing for the reindeer to eat in the North Pole). On Christmas Eve we decorate the tree, watch Christmas programs on TV, in the evening there is Christmas sauna and after it we eat Christmas foods and open the gifts.

Meljprincess said...

Congrats, readingissomuchfun!
I get the post and pre holiday blues. I think I have SADD. As far as rules if I've sent packages to my Ma and Sis they have to open them with me on the phone.
And, yea, only one present opened on X-mas eve.

Tam said...

WTG! readingissomuchfun!

We always go to one of the relitives houses for
christmas Eve dinner & desert. Then we all open all the gifts after about 15-20 minutes after we've opened the gifts Santa shows up for the kids & us bigger kids too. Santa passes out gifts to everyone, has his picture taken with all who wants to, then he leaves. We all visit for another hour or so before we all go back to our homes or hotels.

Instigator said...

There are several Christmas traditions that absolutely, positively must happen for it to be a good holiday. The first is that we must have a live tree. Sorry, there just isn't anything like it. Until I was in high school we'd always go to the Christmas Tree farm and cut one down ourselves. It was a major outing - not to mention a miracle - when all of us agreed on which tree was perfect. Sometime in my high school years my parents decided going to Lowe's and buying a real tree was good enough. It wasn't. I didn't forgive them for a long, long time.

Our other tradition is getting up Christmas morning, having Daddy check to make sure Santa came while Mommy pops our breakfast caserole into the oven. That way by the time we're done opening our gifts breakfast is piping hot and waiting.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

Ah, Christmas traditions. I'll admit, I do get into Christmas overload in preparing for the holidays, but I wouldn't say I get depressed. Here are a few of the things I must have.

1. Homemade gingerbread cookies. I've been making these since 1974. No matter what else I cook, or how easy I try to make preparations, these homemade cookies are required.

2. Rock and Roll Christmas carols. I usually play them when I'm home alone, because they are not hubby's favorite. I sing, dance, bake and wrap to Merry Christmas Baby and Santa Baby and Blue Christmas and all the rest.

3. Fruitcake. Not in the way you think. My family (parents, brother, sisters, kids on all sides, grandkids) does Dirty Santa, because we've gotten so large buying gifts for everyone would break the bank. When you choose a package, you want something small, because one of the big packages contains The Fruitcake, which has been circulating in my family since 1986. (It is now hermetically sealed, along with a list of ingredients which includes nails, cement, and cherries). He who ends up with The Fruitcake has to keep it until next year. The trick is to put The Fruitcake with something really good so people will actually have to steal it if they want the attached gift. Ha. It's also good to remember who ended up with the fruitcake the year before and then keep an eye on the packages that person carries in.

4. Pigs in a blanket.

Other Christmas traditions come and go, changing as the kids grow older.

LJ -- Who was HOME from shopping at 7:20. :-)

Dannyfiredragon said...

Big congrats readingissomuchfun!

On Christmas Eve my whole family meets at my Grandma's home for dinner and the exchanging of gifts. On Christmas day my grandparents come over to us for Christmas dinner and some quiet time together. That's a tradition that we have since I can remember.

ChristyJan said...

One of my "rules" is that everyone must wrap their own gifts for giving - no pawning it off on Mom (me) or someone else.

We used to always go to my parents home for Christmas Eve and have a program and food, etc., but then the last few years our families have gotten so big that we started going to my Sisters house. But my 2 of my 3 sisters have little kids and my teenage sons hate it anymore. So, last year we just stayed at home and watched Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation and SNL Best of Christmas Shows.

robynl said...

congrats readingissomuchfun!
One tradition was Mom's 2 different kinds of fruitcake. Now that she has passed away I am going to try to make the one; it is a white fruitcake with cherries, coconut and blonde raisins and doesn't have to ripen.

Problem Child said...

The Christmas sauna sounds like something worth adding to my tradition :-)

I have a rule carved in stone: One present at a time. AC is allowed to open all of the presents from Santa first. Then we all take turns opening one present from our pile. This allows everyone to see what everyone else got, and makes sure the giver gets to see the reciepient open the gift s/he has so carefully chosen. It also helps stop the "suprise ruining" small presents. (You know, when someone has bought you the Playstation, opening the games that go with it first ruins the suprise).

This one-at-a-time present opening drives DG crazy. But it makes the morning last so much longer.

And LJ, you and Instigator are insane. Mom took AC for a sleepover last night and I just got out of bed a few minutes ago. Ahhh...

Instigator said...

I was home by 6:30 :-) After braving the bloodbath at Wal-mart, KB Toys and Sears. Of course, I was up at 3AM... But I got everything I needed.


Minna said...

Well, Problem Child, we Finns can't live without our Saunas. Fortunately I live in countryside, so the sauna is heated with wood and not with electricity. By the way, sauna is a Finnish word.

Maureen said...

What I do to enjoy the holidays is keep things simple and try to enjoy the moments as they happen. Sometimes the best part of the holiday might not be Christmas day but it might be baking with your children or shopping with your husband. You never know so just enjoy things as they happen.

Rachael said...

Well I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. I did NOT go out for Black Friday today and I dont plan to. The stores are just WAY too crowded today. I dont have any Christmas rules really. I go to my mother's in the morning to open presents and then we go down the shore to my fiance's family's house. I wouldn't want anyone to open anything on Christmas Eve, I like to wait till Christmas.

catslady said...

Congrats, readingissomuchfun!!

I have two traditions - a dinner party combined with tree trimming (with lots of homemade ornaments)and reading "The Littlest Angel" and sobbing through it lol. I always get a real tree - hated it when my parents switched to the fake kind. and I keep it up for as long as possible - most of January. My two girls used to get a gift on christmas Eve - well sometimes pajamas too but new crayons and coloring book for quite a while. Oh, and the stocking is the last thing they open. I stuff it 'til it bulges with all kinds of things (I also collect freebies through the year and I get so much now that I have a box that they take turns with.)

Everyone is older now and my daughter is coming after christmas this year for the first time which is sad. I also don't exchange gifts with as many people because others think there's too many of us now. I really hate it when all the decorations are down - the room always looks so empty.

ellie said...

We get together with family and reminisce. This special time together with a lovely home cooked meal is our holiday celebration.

Playground Monitor said...

I don't have a lot of rules but I like some of the ones I've read here. I may just have to institute a few.

We had a leisurely post-Thanksgiving breakfast this morning and made Christmas lists for everyone so that will help with my shopping. I'm not sure what the Christmas schedule is yet -- who will be at who's house and when -- but I'm sure it will all work out.

My sister's husband's family is Finnish -- my brother-in-law is only second generation American -- and they have a sauna in their vacation home in Minnesota. My sister also makes a few Finnish foods. But my BIL doesn't speak a word of Finnish that I know of.


Anonymous said...

My big Christmas Eve tradition is pizza. I have to have a pizza while we sit and watch old movies, usually A Christmas Story; National Lampoon's Xmas Vacation and Santa Claus the movie. Then we open one gift. Usually its whatever my grandma sends me if it arrives in time.
Christmas morning we open the boxes of chocolates while we open presents to Elvis playing on the record player :)

alissa said...

We cook a beautiful but simple meal with all the favorite goodies and treats and relax together. It is rare to spend quality time catching up so this is very meaningful.

Minna said...

Some of my relatives in Canada don't speak any Finnish either, but I think I managed to get one of my younger cousins interested in learning Finnish when I visited there few years ago. Oh, and if you are interested, check these out:
Finnish Christmas traditions and foods:
All kinds of Finnish stuff:

Lois said...

Alas, I could never get my Mom since I got older, high school on, to follow the one on Christmas Eve rule. It's all on Christmas Eve morning.

And it's a lovely repeat of Thanksgiving meal for Christmas. . .

And you forgot the Pinky and the Brain Christmas special. ;)

And we have a live tree. . . when I was younger we didn't, but not sure if it's because my asthma was bad or not. But once we dumped the fake tree, we went for live. We get the smaller one. Not exactly the ratty Charlie Brown one, but we go for the 9.99 rack. LOL :)


bamabelle said...

I get the post-holiday blues. For me it is more that after taking the tree and decorations down, the merriment over, everything feels a little dreary. After Christmas, I'm always ready for Spring to get here. I guess I need to work on keeping the spirit of the season alive on the inside, even when the ribbons and bows are history. Now as for that Johnny Depp in Jello thing, I would think that would live up to expectations lol! That is, unless someone asphyxiated on the jello. I always hate when that happens. :)

Angel said...

I braved the shops this morning and had fun! Hey, I don't care how crowded it is if it means I can shop sans kids and save almost $75 and finish almost everything on my Christmas list.

Funny, we have a lot of the same type of traditions, SP. We don't have the same food, but we always get together the day before Christmas Eve and make a bunch of finger foods/desserts for Christmas Eve when my husband's extended family gets together.


Jeanette J said...

My family is Danish so we celebrate on Dec 24. Everyone usually arrives sometime in the afternoon, coffee is served, dinner is at 5:00. After dinner the dishes are done and presents are opened around 7:00. At 7:05 the unwrapping is done...ok maybe that's a slight exaggeration...but by 7:30 anyway. While toys are being examined and/or played with the adults have coffee and liquer. Years ago the one tradition we never failed to follow was watching Scrooge 1952 version with Alistair with VHS or DVD we can choose the time to watch it