Following my article on SharpHeels, It's Tradition, a look at holiday traditions celebrated around the world, I began to think of all the hilarious traditions my family repeats year after year. With a mix of both Roman Catholic and Jewish relatives, the holiday season has always been such a fun mish-mash of both Christma-kah and really just eating and baking as much food as possible.
Growing up Chanukah was always much earlier than Christmas. Over the last couple of years they seem to always be a week apart or overlapping each other, but as a kid, the first week of December always marked the Jewish holiday. My mother would make sure we were all together to light the menorah each night and take turns reciting the blessing of the candles over the 8-days of celebration.
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam, asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu, l'had'lik neir shel Chanukah. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukah. (Amen)
I always loved when it was my turn to recite the prayer. Although I did it all from memorization, and never really knew what it meant until I started paying attention in my early Hebrew classes, it was always such a warm feeling to sing the praise in our intimate living room. I would look over at my young brothers, for they are the only reason I happen to be slightly Jewish at all, and smile at how much joy they bring to my life. My mother would continue with the blessing of Chanukah, kiss us all and proceed to give us gifts. Mine were usually Nancy Drew computer games. I was weirdly obsessed with the detective games as a pre-teen and still to this day wish I could just sink under my desk at work and play them, ignoring all emails and phone calls.
Christmas was always spent at my grandparents in Carleton Place. They owned a huge red house with a beautiful wooden porch for many years, next to a small lake with trails that led right to the water. My cousins, brothers and I would snooze during the 4 1/2 hour drive there and arrive wide-eyed and full of excitement when the Christmas lights decorating the house appeared through our eyelids. Even as a teenager driving up in my 2006 Toyota Matrix with my cousin Sarah was still just as exciting. We even happened to create a tradition of our own by stopping at Wendy's on the way and singing Christmas tunes loudly all the way there (literally for 4 1/2 hours straight…not joking). Christmas Eve would be celebrated with a dinner of tourtière and some type of dessert that was literally just baked as the excuse for all the whipped cream we would ingest. A Christmas Story would finish off the night and all us children would drift to sleep, waking as early as 7am to open gifts as my papa played Santa. The entire day was spent eating junk, watching the Star Wars trilogy, enjoying our new gifts and the day would end with a massive meal of roast turkey, potatoes, veggies and a piece of every famous holiday dessert.
I was hoping to post some photos from Christmas' as a kid but due to my upcoming move to India, I was unable to find anything adorable to show. Luckily Facebook had tons of silly photos from the last couple of Christmas'. Especially of Ethan, my middle brother, chowing down on a turkey leg. Definitely another holiday tradition.
As we all got older, Christmas began to slowly drift into a new pattern, as my grandparents sold the big red house and my aunt’s home in Oakville seemed to become the new host for Christmas. As the years went on, we added three extra dogs, a marriage and a half, a few boyfriends here and three and three new children - this is how our new Christmas traditions were born. This including drinking glass after glass of rum and eggnog, wine and other Christmas themed cocktails on Christmas Eve while watching It’s a Wonderful Life. The week before Christmas includes us all going to pick a fresh pine tree, usually over seven feet tall, that stands over us in my aunts living room (pictured above). To this day these traditions still stand strong and are looked forward to by everyone all year.
I am so thankful for my family. I take for granted the limited amount of time the holidays give us to spend time with family, it always goes by so fast year after year. Luckily we also celebrate a second round of Christmas at my second-aunt Lisa’s house after Boxing Day, where we (once again) eat and drink until we can’t stand up or sit down. The ‘slap shot’ was introduced a few years ago involving four shot glasses strapped to a hockey stick. All four participants taking the shots have to go at the same time otherwise someone ends up with booze spilt all down the front of them. Although it is hilarious, you either end up sticky or wasted within the first hour of arrival.
It’s bittersweet to count down the days until Christmas as the closer we are, the sooner it will be over. I hate the thought of it coming to an end. There’s nothing I want more than for every holiday moment spent with my family to last a lifetime. Not knowing if I will be home for Christmas next year makes it even harder for this years’ to come and go. I'm definitely a family girl. And a mamas girl.
This holiday season, don’t forget to savour every moment and be sure to see all your loved ones before the month comes to an end. A new year is fast approaching and no one knows what it may hold, but I do hope that it’s a year full of accomplishing goals and reaching your dreams. Cheesy yes, but I sincerely wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy 2015.
And remember, every time a bell rings an Angel gets its wings.