Gena Raymond’s Christmases have changed dramatically over the years, but they’re still centered on the people she loves.
I grew up celebrating Christmas in a very traditional manner. As children, my 4 siblings and I would wake up at the butt crack of dawn to open presents with the family. After that, we’d have a big breakfast that usually included ham, hot chocolate, and pastelles (a traditional Trinidadian delicacy made with ground beef and cornmeal and wrapped in a banana leaf). We would enjoy our gifts and each other for the rest of the day and end the festivities with a big family dinner (even though we were usually still stuffed from breakfast). We also had our own little traditions like taking turns playing Santa and wearing Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve.
Although I have very fond memories of these yuletide celebrations, they have changed over the years as my family members have evolved. One of my sisters, a mother of 7, and one of my brothers are part of a religion that does not celebrate Christmas. My other siblings can take it or leave it.
As for me, it means less and less to me as the years go by. I can see why people with children and certain religious beliefs find meaning and tradition in it, but since I have neither of those, that’s just not the case for me anymore. I have no problem celebrating it with and for the people around me, but I probably get an F and a lump of coal for Christmas spirit.
That leaves my mother. Christmas is still very meaningful to her. For a few years, we tried celebrating without the family members who had different beliefs, but what’s Christmas with 7 absentee grandkids? The void was noticeably felt by all, especially my mother.
Over time, we’ve all grown to accept and respect each other’s values and beliefs. We’ve also come to appreciate one of the most important principles that we all still share: the importance of being together as a whole family as often as possible.
So this year, we’ll get together on December 25th since no one has work or school on that day. We’ll have an UNChristmas family dinner of lentil soup, Greek salad, fresh bread, and homemade cake. There will be no stockings, gifts, or decorations. And no one will mind because we’ll all be together.
Photo: Flickr/mjtmail (tiggy)