Everyone has their own traditions and these are the more recent ones shared by my family. Since my brothers and I have grown up (at least in age) and moved away some of our holiday traditions have had to change, but the following are a number of my favorites.
You Can Take That Turkey And Stuff It!
For the better part of a decade our family has forsaken the traditional T[giving] and Xmas day food of choice, turkey. I vividly remember my mother asking us (the boys) one year, “would you guys rather have turkey or steak this year?” It seemed like a no-brainer at the time and it still does nearly 10 years later. We’d all always rather have steak than bird. Always.
We don’t just have steak, but a family dish we’ve affectionately named, Teriyaki. Hughes Family Teriyaki is older than our holiday tradition. I’ve asked my mother where the recipe came from and she told me that my grandmother picked it out of the newspaper when it used to publish recipes and that kind of thing. I’m not sure about the actual dates [and I’m sure my mother will clarify in the comments] but I like to think of the recipe being in the family for centuries. Or at least being around since before I was born.
The recipe is essentially cubed chuck roast marinated in a home-made teriyaki sauce [brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, etc.] and then grilled. It might be the best way to eat a roast and I prefer it over a tender ribeye every time. Turkey cannot hold a candle to the flavor of this dish and anyone that has had T[giving] or Xmas dinner with my family could testify to it’s greatness.
Dinner and a Movie
This one is associated with T[giving]. After an outstanding meal on Thanksgiving the ‘kids’ go to a movie while the grandparents put the grandkids to bed, which I suspect, to them, is more fun than a movie anyway.
It’s a fairly simple tradition, but I look forward to it every year. The trouble is finding a movie that we can all agree on. This year I had to put my foot down on seeing A Christmas Carol because A) I already know the story and I’m not paying 10 bucks to see it, and B) animated movies that lack a strong cartoony look are flat out creepy (see Polar Express). We saw 2012 and it was great. Here’s the others we’ve seen on Thanksgiving day.
Beowulf – I had no idea it was animated unitl 0:20 into the movie.
James Bond: Casino Royale
James Bond: Quantum of Solace – movie was as bad as the title.
Ok that’s all I can remember. Not a particularly long-standing tradition, but one that I happen to enjoy.
All I Want For Christmas Cola
Growing up, my parents would not buy us the ‘good stuff’ in regards to soda. Probably due to the fact that little boys leave half-drank (grammar? help me out Charissa) cans of soda all over the house and as it stands is a huge waste of money. We had to settle for Big K, the Kroger cola knock-off. Except when Xmas time came around (along with family members to treat right) they splurged and bought the real deal, Coca Cola Classic. My mouth waters just typing that.
One Christmas, we had dumped what seemed like 1,000 cans of this nectar-of-the-gods in a family sized, blue cooler with enough ice to keep it chilled for days. Whenever you were thirst or whenever you remembered there was delicious coke available you could just grab one out of the cooler without worry of depleting the vast supply. My older brother and I were watching a movie…probably National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and I get up to get a Coke. He says to me, “Hey brother, would you get me a Coke too? Would you get me a Christmas Cola?” I replied with the largest grin in history ever associated with fetching cans of soda, “yes, I will get you a Christmas Cola!”
He didn’t know it at the time, but he had just coined a phrase that would last in our family for all time. Most people believe that our family calls it Christmas Cola because at Christmas, Coke decorates the cans most festively with Santa Clauses and Polar Bears and while that certainly helps people draw logical conclusions, we are certainly more creative than that! The truth is that we call it Christmas Cola because we only got it at Christmas! I laugh when I think about interested people have been about this quirky little thing our family does.
Since I got a full-time job working for a church, I’ve always approached the Christmas season a little disgruntled. It’s probably the reason Xmas music is so important to me, keeping my spirits lifted. While many are taking time off to spend with their families, church workers are putting in over time and for my family it means no Christmas on Christmas. The kicker is that the last 3 years I’ve actually had to work on Christmas day. This bugs me because I feel like the best worship service you could have on Christmas day is the one you participate in your own home. Which brings me to my family tradition.
Since I can remember we have taken some time on Christmas morning to celebrate Christ. The most prominent piece is our reading of the birth of Jesus from the gospel according to Luke. There are no instruments, no pastors (well, you know what I mean), no scripted services, just our family reading and remembering the Story. Other than the togetherness of family, it is the most important thing we do that day. You don’t need a church and its staff to worship. You can be drawn to the presence of God in your own living room.
Be On Your Best Behavior
Since I was in school my parents have always found someone to invite over to T[giving] or Xmas dinner. I don’t know where they find these folks! It’s always some couple that doesn’t have family in the area and clearly has nothing else to do on Xmas than to spend time with a wacky family that is fowl-atarian and thinks Coca Cola is a gift from the good Lord himself.
There is a particular couple that spent Xmas day with us for several years in a row. This was during the technology era of our house when all we’d get Dad for Xmas was the stuff to help him evolve out of his VHS, cassette tape, and record player phase. Every year we’d get him a new gadget. A DVD player, a home surround sound system, and that kind of thing. Then after dinner Kevin (part of the mystery couple) who worked in technology and computers would help us set up the gadgetry. Then we’d all play video games and laugh our butts off while dad and Kevin attempted to fly Xwings and snowspeeders.
All in all, it’s been a great joy to include another family into our own over the years. Sometimes that includes people getting married and having kids (not me, of course) and other times that means bringing in outsiders to enjoy our craziness. Hopefully via this blog you can feel like a part of our family this year too.
UPDATE: I forgot one of my favorite traditions! Christmas morning my mother always makes some kind of egg & cheese casserole and every year I refuse to eat it. So gross.