I love December. The holidays are precious times. The last few years I haven't decorated my house however. I go to LA in early December to visit Jill and her family for an early Christmas. Then I go to Quincy to be with my sibs and extended family. We have a Christmas Eve that is awesome (my opinion), scary (new guests' opinions), overdone (everyone's opinion), and wild. I LOVE IT! Most of us still buy for everyone, but we don't keep score to see who doesn't. Doesn't matter at all. I feel so blessed when I'm at that gathering of 40 people or so. (I don't have the energy to count.)
My brother and sister-in-law from Aurora may not make it this year--his job has him on call at that time. There's a definite void when someone's missing. And you definitely need a note from someone in authority if you do miss. It is a rare and wonderful experience. And I always think that National Lampoon had us in mind when they produced Christmas Vacation. (Have I mentioned I love it?)
Many of us go to early Mass on Christmas Eve--some at 4 PM, some at 5 PM--then we gather at the designated house. One brother's house isn't big enough to hold the gang, but I've never heard anyone say anything negative about it. Whoever has enough room just takes turns. When I lived in Quincy, I had the gang over, but that was before everyone's kids started having kids. I know the group wouldn't fit in my old house now.
So we begin with food--everyone brings something and we eat and drink and laugh (and sometimes choke on our food and laughter). The kids (including a few of my brothers) begin anxiously saying, "Can we open presents now? Can we? Huh?"
And that's when the real craziness begins. Words can't describe it. I once made the mistake of asking if we could just give out one present at a time, so we could enjoy watching everyone open their presents. One of my brothers yelled out, "Only if we stay here two weeks." So we continue the tradition of a few people sitting on the floor near the tree, grabbing presents and yelling out names. Then it becomes a free-for-all. Such fun.
Many times we'll play some games. Usually not Jer-games on Christmas Eve. We save those for other occasions--like New Year's Day. I'll save those comments for another note.
People with little ones leave fairly early because the kids are anxious to get to sleep so Santa will come. Those of us with grown kids stay around and play games or talk. Then the rest of the crew goes to midnight mass--at our parish back home it begins at 10:30 PM. Kind of a faux midnight mass.
I can't wait for Christmas!