Christmas wrapping is officially done. We’ve bought all the presents, and I spent an hour today wrapping them. I hate wrapping; I hate wrapping very very much! My dad used to foist all of his Christmas wrapping on me. Come to think of it, he used to foist all of his Christmas shopping on me too. I seem to remember him celebrating the year I turned 16 because it meant he could hand me his shopping list last minute and order that I get it all done and wrapped in time for Christmas. It feels like nothing has changed; while Dad no longer gives me his list, Tyler does. I went and got/ made/ wrapped the all the presents for his family and mine. I even wrapped the presents we’re getting from his family.
Yep, you read that right. I wrapped the presents his family is giving us. We purchased them to. It is quite possibly the strangest tradition I’ve ever heard of. While they didn’t do it when he was young, as he got older they gave him a budget, took him out and shopped for what he wanted, and then wrapped it up and put it under the tree. Tyler and I live too far away to go shopping with them, so they give us money, we buy the gifts, wrap them up and take them down. It really weirds me out. On occasion my family has allowed us to pick out a gift for our birthday if it’s something we need beforehand or it’s something we’re going to pay for part of ourselves. But, they always just give it to us, even if it’s 6 months before our birthday. There’s no wrapping or waiting to use it involved. But with his family we have a pile of gifts we went out and got ourselves that we couldn’t use but had to wrap up and wait until we’re together to open them. Then, when we do open them, I hardly know how to act. Do I act surprised? Do I shake it and try to guess what’s inside? Do I exclaim “Gee thanks! It’s what I’ve always wanted!”? Also rather strange to me, they don’t take turns opening gifts and ooing and ahhing over when each person got. They just say “go” and everyone starts ripping.
My family has some interesting traditions themselves. When we were younger, we couldn’t just get up and open our gifts. No matter how early you woke up, you had to stay in your room until mom and dad got up. They would assemble us in the hall, and we would wait until they said we could go look at our presents. We would race down the hall while they took pictures. There are dozens of pictures of us at Christmas and Easter in our pajamas or sometimes matching sweaters running down the hall. And when we got the presents, we had to wait our turn patiently and ooo and ahh over everyone else’s gift while mom took pictures. Then there’s the Christmas pickle. Have you ever seen a green glass pickle ornament at the store and wonder who in the world would want a bumpy, ugly pickle on their tree? Well, apparently it’s an old German or more likely German immigrant tradition (I swear I’m not making this up!). Christmas eve, my parents hide the pickle on the Christmas tree. Then Christmas morning the first to find it gets an extra gift. We would always forget about the pickle until the presents were opened and we were contemplating breakfast; one of us kids would remember it. As soon as that child jumped up and raced towards the Christmas tree, the rest of us would suddenly remember and it was all elbows and jostles and we fought to search the tree. It’s a miracle we never knocked the tree over or broke any ornaments. Then we would eat breakfast, bundle up and head off to whichever grandparent was hosting Christmas dinner that year. Sometimes my parents would leave us at said grandparents later that evening to go off to a tradition they started when they were younger: The St. Stephen’s Day party. St. Stephen’s feast day is Dec 24 on the Catholic calendar, and my parents celebrated it because he was the first Christian martyr to get stoned. And no, it is not a religious celebration (I remember seeing pictures one year, after they'd had to much egg nog, they went around forking peoples' yards, including the governor's mansion…) The other major Christmas tradition my family has revolves around food (duh!). Christmas Eve dinner is always chili. I’m not sure why, that’s just the way they do it. Christmas dinner is prime rib roast. Mmmm prime rib roast! And, no one does it quite like my dad. I’ve had it in all sorts of restaurants, but it never compares. I get excited about prime rib weeks in advance. It is also my husband’s new favorite holiday tradition. He was skeptical about our full contact Easter egg hunts, he wasn’t sure (at first) about shooting off illegal bottle rockets on the 4th, he still dislikes singing the birthday dirge, but a hunk of perfectly prepared prime rib he can get behind.