At I sit here during the early evening on Christmas Eve, I am quite bored (Side note; that should make you feel good, I blog only when bored.) I am not sure what to do right now (especially as the rain picks up) but for most of my life my Christmas Eve plans were standing... Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were intertwined days with a 6-hour nap in between.
From as early as I can remember from the mid-1970s on, Christmas Eve was spent at my maternal grandparent's house in West Allis (near 65th & Lincoln). Me and (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Dumb Siblings would wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait until it was time to get there around 6:00 PM. We would eat dinner with the aunts and uncles and cousins, listen in bored anticipation through the adult conversation and eventually get to the presents. My immediate family would then do gifts on Christmas morning (after Santa arrived), and on Christmas evening we would usually go my dad's sister, Auntie El's house. There weren't usually any gifts for us (although Uncle Vince was my Godfather, so I would get a little something), but even as a youngster, going to Auntie El's house was just what we did. I learned about tradition before even becoming a teenager!
My grandfather died in 1983 and that tradition ended, but within a couple of years I was dating a girl, and her family celebrated with the gift exchange on Christmas Eve. Name a teenager that doesn't get excited about spending time with a boyfriend/girlfriend... That appointment replaced Grandma's portion of the schedule, but the Christmas Day events remained. At some point, the yearly visit to Auntie El's house ended, too.
I got married in 1991, and had Mitten in 1992. The Devil Reincarnate's parents conveniently held their family gathering on Christmas Eve. Having a small child, I was excited to start the new cycle... Grandparents on Christmas Eve, home Christmas morning, and somewhere else Christmas evening (my parent's). Other than a few years of estrangement from her parents (Side note; the absolute worst was in 1993 as I moped about breaking my son's tradition before he was two, sitting home and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken for our Christmas Eve meal), this tradition survived until we separated in 2002.
So now I am in the eighth year of not having any specific Christmas Eve plans. My gifts have been purchased, the house has been prepared (the entire family is coming to my house this year), and here I sit. Blogging. If the weather doesn't get too bad, I'd expect a trip to Midnight Mass, but other than that, it looks like dinner at Johnny V's and an airing of A Christmas Story.
Tomorrow should be fun, though. 19 people piling into my house with wet shoes and coats (including four kids under four). We have no dining room, it is the Christmas Tree room. Mom is bringing the Italian Beef and the ham, I've got Granmammy Evans macaroni and cheese ready to go in the oven, and unless the basement floods, I shouldn't have to work too hard. Thank goodness my mom didn't take me up on my offer to cook Italian sausages and brats on the grill for Christmas Dinner...
(Side note; you know who I feel most sorry for? The people who don't celebrate any part of Christmas. My counterpart at one of my company's other factories - for one - has sworn off everything to do with Christmas. She says that she is Christian, but as she claims she is not part of a bastardized version of Christianity. This woman says that the entire spectacle of Christmas is based on the [and don't expect me to get the entire story right] "fact" that a pagan god Yule was a nogoodnik that pegged December 25th as the start of the "heathen" year, and oh-by-the-way, Yule apparently believed in sacrificing children.
It is reasonably certain that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th, but that doesn't mean that most arms of Christianity don't honor that day anyway. I also understand that other religions don't celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but as a secular culture, Christmas is hard to avoid. You don't have to celebrate Christ to have people visit your house, to exchange gifts with the ones you love, and wear a lot of red and green. It's the people that can't even set aside creative licensing with the Christmas story to spread joy amongst themselves and others.
For example, Barry Manilow is Jewish. But he has produced Christmas albums, and Christmas songs were a large part of his recent concerts in Chicago (which I was lucky enough to attend). Absolutely he did it to make money. Christmas music sells and he wanted to get his cut. But what resulted is that a hugely popular entertainer produces music and concerts that make many, many people happy. Clearly, Manilow gets it. Pity those who refuse to get it.)
So everyone reading this... have a Blessed Christmas . If you are faithful, I hope that your Mass or Service is worth the travels into this winter storm. Stay safe, and I hope your Christmas traditions last for years and years.