It's interesting how traditions change and are adapted. I barely remember Christmas's when my parents were married. However, the Christmases after my parents separated hold the traditions and memories that I love most.
After my parents separated, we would spend Christmas eve with my father and his family. It was a pretty full house, my aunt, uncle, dad, cousins, second cousins, grandma and anyone else who was around. It was always a special time. We always loved spending time together. There were always lots of hugs, talking, lots of stories and a ton of laughing. The women folk would spend the afternoon making bierocks for dinner (think German empanadas). A very important tradition with our family. After dinner we'd roll out into the living room to watch a little television and relax a little before opening our gifts...essentially torturing the younger kids. Eventually we'd open our gifts from each other and just have a good time. The night would end with mom picking us up late for midnight mass.
Christmas day was just my mom, sister and me. We'd open our gifts from each other and Santa. It's funny how Santa had the same terrible handwriting that mom had. After the living room was a complete mess and breakfast was eaten either at our house or our neighbors across the street (our other family), we'd get in the car and drive. We'd always start in San Francisco and end up in Carmel. The long drive down the coast was always beautiful and quiet. When we got to Carmel, we'd walk around the village a bit and check out the shops. Then we'd drive around looking at all the different amazing homes and choose which we wanted to live in when we were rich and famous. We always ended up at the beach. That's where it seemed everyone would eventually end up for an Christmas evening walk. Some Christmases would be warm, some would be cold, some would be rainy...we'd take it any way we got it. We'd always end up a little more sandy and wet than we intended to, but everyone was happy and content just walking on the beach. Eventually, we'd head back to the car to watch the sun set. We'd cuddle up and eat a bunch of random and yummy stuff mom had picked up. Smoked salmon, meats, cheese, crackers, salad. We'd just sit there passing around food, giggling, and watching the sun go down. The sun would set and it would grow dark, we'd be full, sleepy and ready to head home. It's my mom, sister and my favorite Christmas tradition.
I love the long standing family traditions of Christmas eve with my dad's side of the family. I love even more how Christmas with my mom contrasted with it. I think some people thought it was sad that it was just the three of us for Christmas, but we loved it. We made it ours. We had tradition and we also learned how to make a our new traditions. I wouldn't trade those years for anything.
Now that we my sister and I are married, Christmas traditions have changed again. I'm sure there are more versions to come.