Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Traditions

Last year, at this time, I was in South America for the holidays.  My family flew to Peru to visit my sister for Christmas.  Celebrating in a country where I only know a few basic words of the language and it wasn't even cold outside was such an interesting experience.  It was a wonderful one though.

I soaked up as much of the culture, the language, and the traditions as I could.  I absolutely loved how Christmas is celebrated in Peru. The community there just captivated me. We went to mass on Christmas eve, then had Christmas dinner, then at midnight fireworks are set off all over the city - it was amazing! Everyone was in the streets at midnight watching the fireworks - I mean our 4th of July didn't even compare to this.  While the fireworks are blazing through the city everyone is wishing each other Feliz Navidad, hugging, kissing, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  It's only after this display that then the gifts are opened.  The celebration is a whole evening affair.

Being there and experiencing something completely new got me thinking about traditions. We have always traveled for Christmas because family lives far away.  We have done different things depending on if we were in Jersey or staying in the Carolinas but we try to bring the foods and the culture of all our family together each year.

Christmas Eve is with Mom's side of the family where we blend an Italian & Polish meal together. We have the whole family come together for a huge meal.  We exchange the oplatek or a polish wafer along with well wishes for the new year to every family member.  Some time during the evening one of the men always seems to disappear with indigestion and the magically Santa comes to visit! He brings us all of our KK [kris kringle] gifts for each other to exchange after desert.  

Then my immediate family will head out to mass and drive across the state of Jersey to visit Dad's side of the family.  Everyone always gathered at my Grammy's house.  She always had cookies baked for us and the most delicious meals in the oven.  Her house is the house I dream of having when I grow up.  The back door was always open to guests who knew to come in that way.  People just seemed to gather there.  There was always someone just stopping by to say hello. She built a family and a community that I will always admire. 

Things look a little different now though.  My parents are in a new house.  My sisters both live far away.  More of our family on Dad's side is in Georgia now - or spread around the world.  Traditions are lovely ritual that keeps us fulfilled. Blending now some Irish, American, Peruvian, Polish, Italian and even creating some of my own is something that brings joy to my heart.  

One thing will always be true.  Jesus' birth is the reason for this holiday.  Reading the Christmas story from the bible, attending mass, finding a way to incorporate my faith to really cherish this time with friends and family is what it is all about.  Oh and a Christmas cookie or two :) 

What are some of the Christmas traditions you celebrate and hold dear? 

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