January 11, 2014

It's A Different Kind Of Christmas

As we get older, things start to change. That goes for all things in life. There are different seasons for everything. we graduate, we move on, we close one chapter and open a new one, friendships fade out like a candle that burns out (without warning, but slowly dies the longer it’s on), people move away, and sometimes it’s just our perspective and everything that has happened around us that changes the way we see people and our world. Christmas is one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed now that I’m an adult, and I see that I’m not the only one, judging by conversations on Twitter and Facebook or even just talking to my own friends and family about it. Sometimes Christmas tends to lose that magic and you have to find it again.
Christmas has always been my absolute favorite time of the year and my absolute favorite holiday, even more than my birthday. I loved being able to celebrate Christ’s birth and being reminded that we always have hope, because that little baby changed EVERYTHING about our world. He brought light. I’ve also just really loved the decorations, the music, and the warm and fuzzy feelings that having all of my family together used to bring and all of the cliches that would come with the season. And let’s not forget those classic Christmas episodes of shows, like Growing Pains and Full House. Ah, those never get old.
As a little girl, it seemed like every part of the season was filled with magic. Our days at school were kept busy with plenty of Christmas themed activities to do or Christmas plays to get ready for (which usually meant lines or songs for me to memorize, which I loved), and Christmas vacation to look forward to. I’d count down the days leading up to the occasion with Christmas movies, helping decorate, watching Dad put up the lights, spending time with my grandparents, going around to look at houses, or making my own projects at home to pass the time.
Then, on Christmas Eve, my mom’s side of the family (my grandparents, aunts and uncle, cousins, my parents and I) would all gather at my aunt’s house, which usually had Subway deli trays for dinner, olives, and other treats to munch on. We’d open presents, then visit for awhile, as my cousins and I anticipated Santa’s visit to our houses; my stomach filled with butterflies, with each passing moment. We’d also have to find the pickle in the tree, and whoever found it first won a prize. That was always the real highlight to us, haha!
The next morning, I’d crawl out of bed with anticipation to see what was under the tree, being able to differentiate which packages were from Santa and the ones that had already been there. A lot of people have been saying that they don’t think they’re going to tell their kids about Santa, because it just messes with them and blah, blah, blah…But, honestly, I don’t consider it lying. I feel like it’s just part of the tradition of Christmas, and it’s a fun little game to play. I think it helps kids use their imagination a little more, and just reminds them to believe in the excitement and magic. I don’t think it scars them or messes with them, it’s just intended to be fun. Don’t read so much into it, people. But, I digress. Then,  I’d tear open the packages, wondering what was inside and not being able to wait to play with my toys. Then, we’d hurry and get ready to go to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner, while I was usually sad I had to leave all of my gifts and only choose my most favorite one to bring with me, where my other cousin and I would compare presents or play with each others gifts. Later on that night, my mom’s parents would come over to see what “Santa” and my parents had gotten for me, and I remember one Christmas specifically where I serenaded everyone with “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin, thanks to my awesome new Karaoke machine. Man, those really were the days.
Christmases over the years have drastically changed. My mom’s parents passed away about 11 years ago, which left a big hole in the family, especially around Christmas, because their house always felt a lot like what I imagined Santa’s Workshop probably looked like. My grandma loved Christmas so much, and especially baking around that time…So, not having her around to do that stuff with was kind of depressing, looking back on it all now, and I wonder how things would be different now, A LOT. Then, in 2009, my dad’s mom passed away and that was also just really hard. She was always around, especially during the holiday get togethers. She was always the first one there, and suddenly she just wasn’t anymore. I never realized how much grandparents are the glue of the family, and when they’re gone, it’s tough to keep things going, almost like there’s no obligation in a way. Finding a groove without them will never be the same, but you can make it work. I was a little bitter about Christmas for the last few years. Not because I hated it or anything, it was just hard coping without all of them.
When we moved into a new house, we started doing Christmas Eve and Christmas day at our house, so my dad’s mom was able to spend one or two Christmases with us here, and it was a fun change. My aunts and uncle came over with my cousins and their boyfriends, and now my cousins and other aunt just come, and we go out to dinner. Or we’ve gone to Christmas Eve service at our church. It’s usually pretty “up in the air” as to what we do, but as long as we’re getting together, that’s what really matters. It doesn’t need to be a tradition to be Christmas. As for the morning of, my parents and I open gifts still, then the family comes over in the afternoon, which usually consists of my dad’s brother and his wife, my mom’s sister, and my dad’s dad and my other grandma. Sometimes my cousins make it over, and other times they don’t. That’s life, you know? As you get older, you start to branch out a little more.
This year was one of the best I’ve had in awhile. It might have had something to do with having gotten out of school back in November, so I’ve had all this time to watch movies, listen to music and to reflect on what Christmas is really about. My mom and I have watched just about every Lifetime/Hallmark movie out there, we baked a lot, we decorated and put up the lights, I listened to all of my favorite music, we looked at lights around one of the neighborhoods in town, went to our Christmas program/service at church, and I had Secret Santa with my friends. So, I’ve done just about everything there is to do, and the most important thing is that this year, I really didn’t get distracted by all of the things that I wanted and I missed the reason that we even celebrate altogether. I was reminded of God’s hope for my life and how He is the ONLY thing I need. Period. It’s relying on people and material things that ends up making me feel disappointed when my expectations are too high and they can’t fill the needs where I need Jesus.
Our Christmas gatherings were a bit smaller than usual, but still just as good. My mom and I baked just about all day long on Christmas Eve and set the table for dinner on Christmas. Later, we went to dinner with my aunt on Christmas Eve, then opened presents with her and watched The Santa Clause. One of my cousins came over with her boyfriend, and we all talked and hung out for a bit. 
My new squirrel pjs that I opened on Christmas Eve!
Christmas morning, my parents and I opened gifts, after my mom and I prepared a breakfast casserole (Monica Potter’s recipe), then watched the Disney Christmas parade. We all got ready, finished getting the house together, then my grandparents and aunt came over for lunch/dinner. We had prime rib, cheesy potatoes, zucchini casserole, green jello and rolls, which was absolutely delicious. My grandma, aunt, mom and I watched a Lifetime movie, while my grandpa and dad talked with some of our other family in Utah, then my grandparents fell asleep for a bit. We had cake and ice cream, and visited with one another for awhile, while watching Family Feud and the news (and I almost fell asleep). After everyone left, my parents and I watched Jeopardy and the I Love Lucy Christmas special, and I kept eating just about everything in sight. You’ve gotta love the holidays, right? I was cherishing every second of it, because like I said…Life is a series of changes. Sometimes it takes a long time, and sometimes things change in the blink of an eye. I am very content with the way everything happened this year, and I’m so thankful for my family and friends that are always there and love me unconditionally. 

And honestly, I’m pretty sad that I didn’t really take any pictures and no one else took any either… :( Oh well, at least my birthday is coming up soon, so we’ll probably all be together again.
That’s all for now,
I hope you all had a fabulous and very merry Christmas!
Shelby :)

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