Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: New places, old traditions

Christmas ornament commemorates our new home

I love the holiday season and all it brings: the cherished memories and the new celebrations. Even with the seemingly never-ending list of to-do's to get done and the unpredictable weather which can change well-laid plans in a New-York-snow-squall-minute, it all works to a crescendo of festive fun times with family and friends with a mix of traditions, old and new.

New tree in its predestined corner

We knew last Spring, when we moved to our new condo, that Christmas would be mapped out a little differently than years past (22 to be exact). Gone is the four-bedroom colonial that could accommodate overnight guests with extra comfort and the large kitchen with an abundance of counter space for large pans of pasta and French silk pies. But, in its place, we have a much bigger "great room" with more seating and optimum views of the fireplace, the snow-covered woods through the back wall of windows, and the Christmas tree, with a corner all to itself. 

(In fact, the first time we saw the mostly vacant condo last year, before we had even formalized a bid to purchase, I knew exactly where the Christmas tree should reside - and it made it to its predestined spot earlier this month.) 

The "Under 40" group at Uncle Glenn's, the start of the Tour

But most of Christmas went the way of tried-and-true traditions. We started the Christmas Eve Tree Tour as we always do, at my brother Glenn's.  Along with eggnog and Foosball, the "under 40" crowd and the "(way) over 40 crowd" took turns lining up in front of the Christmas tree for group photos.

"Over 40" gang (but who would have guessed that?) at Glenn's

However, the tour missed one very special stop this year - our annual visit with Auntie Betty. She passed away last March and, although we would typically see my aunt many times throughout the year, Christmas Eve was always very special with this funny, outgoing, lady.

Final stop, the "new condo" and raising a toast to our family

My mom's youngest sister by one year, we've always been extremely close with Auntie Betty and her family. Growing up, our families spent all the holidays together, until us “kids” started having kids. When that transition took place, Christmas Eve belonged to my Mom and she hosted the annual bash with a home-cooked dinner and more tolerance and enthusiasm for a room full of grandchildren ripping open presents and putting on puppet shows than anyone I know.

My Mom surveying the fun chaos

Waiting for the Christmas eve dinner and treasure bath/chaos

At that time, she too, had moved out of the home I grew up in, and started anew in a condo with less bedrooms and a smaller kitchen, but with a much bigger great room with better views. 

That sounds familiar. .  .

My children knew of no other way to spend Christmas Eve except at Grandma's condo, so when she passed away in 2004, we decided to start some new traditions - hence the Christmas Tree Tour began and so did our stops at Auntie Betty's along the route.

Our favorite Christmas tree tour stop (circa 2014)

So, we move on to new traditions, but retain the wonderful memories of Christmas past.  (For a glimpse into how my Dad decorated for the season, see our blog story from 2012, "Visions of Sugar Plums unite generations with holiday traditions".)

As the Christmas tree tour finished at our house, (now the "new condo"), we held on to our customs of Secret Santa gift exchange and dining on lasagna and tasty pies. But, as we gathered round the new Christmas tree, in its designated corner, we raised our glasses (and our cups of tea!)  to toast our dear Auntie Betty, our Mom/Grandma, our Dad, and my Uncle and all those who, for whatever reason, can't be with us to celebrate Christmas.  Cheers to cherishing those great memories and the influence they have in  launching new ones.

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