Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Well, the annual chaos of the Christmas Eve gathering at our house has subsided, and, as seems to happen frequently, tradition reigns, like it or not. For those unfamiliar with our family, Christmas Eve is always marked by a large gathering at our house. Since this is usually the only time that we have a gathering of this magnitude at our house, a lot of preparation is involved. Usually, this results in a process of a lot of running around, yelling, stresssing, and generally making a big deal out of things. I find that it's usually best to just do stuff, and wait for someone to inevitably tell me to get out of the way, then get out of the way. Around 6:30 or so, the deluge of people begins. Before we know it, there's 40 people in the house. What follows is something of a blur, but usually involves a whole lot of food. One observation I've made over the years of watching this is that the amount of food present is inversely proportional to how hungry you are. If you're really hungry, there's never enough food to go around. It just happened that today, Me, my brother and his girlfriend went out to Red Robin a couple of hours before the gathering started, and had a late lunch. This, of course, meant that there was tons of food, and I wasn't hungry at all, so I pretty much stuck to grazing.
After enough family holiday gatherings (the particular holiday varies) you eventually start to see a lot of the same foods over and over. There's always the cream puffs on one table. They used to be one of the most popular items, but now a good number of them somehow ended up splattered on the driveway as people left. Then there's the meatballs. At first, only one person brought them. Now it seems they've started multiplying. At this rate, by Christmas Eve of 2010 we'll be eating nothing but meatballs. Then there's the sandwiches, the cold cuts, the relish tray... Traditions are a nice thing to have, but I've noticed that there can be a fine line between tradition and just plain stuck in a rut. I think we're starting to hover dangerously toward the rut in the food department. The interesting part about this is that nobody really acknowledges this as being any sort of tradition, or even a recurring theme. It seems that the most deeply ingrained traditions in a family can be the ones that are not acknowledged as such. On the other hand, this is the only day of the year when we are allowed to eat food in any carpeted space in the house, much to the dismay of the rebellious types in the house (do we even have those anymore?)
Anyway, once the food was eaten (well, some of it at least), we settled down in the living room for the "program", for lack of a better term. This involves a few Christmas stores, some singing (we even have a few people who can actually sing, believe it or not), and finally, the gag gift exchange. The gag gift exchange is the source of some of the more dubuious traditions. A lot of these come and go often. Some of the more interesting ones:
- The toilet seat. This one started a few years ago, when someone (I believe it was may late Aunt Christy, who succombed to pancreatic cancer earlier this year) brought in a raised toilet seat found at a medical supply place. Exactly what it would be used for is unknown, but speculation seems to indicate it to be the kind of thing employed by old people with bladder control issues. Nobody has really put much effort into finding out much on the proper use and care of this object, and I don't think anyone cares to. All we know is that without warning, it'll strike an unsuspecting victim at the gift exchange. It has disappeared over the past couple of years, but the memory of the notorious toilet seat has made people wary of selecting larger boxes.
- The cheese-shaped present. This is another one that appears every year. One present will come in a wedge-shaped box, which bears a striking resemblence to a wedge of cheese. I believe that this one started accidentally about three years ago. Immediately, everyone proclaimed it to be cheese-shaped, and it became a frequent target of the present stealing (an integral part of the gift exchange). Ever since, it has made a repeat appearance, with accompanying popularity, and even the occasional "take the cheese!" chant among the younger cousins. In a somewhat ironic turn of events last year, the cheese-shaped persent actually contained a block of cheese last year.
- The fruitcake. Yes. As anyone familiar with the legend knows, there is actually only one fruitcake in the world, and it gets passed on to someone else every year. We are now in possession of the fruitcake. Every year, it finds its way back to the gift exchange. This particular one now bears names and dates of its recipients back to 1998. I don't think anyone would dare to actually eat it.
Finally, when all the festivities have been completed, and everybody leaves, it's time for another dubuious tradition: The call. My mom's sister's car has broken down on the way home. AGAIN. Fortunately, this doesn't happen every year, but it's happened far too often for our liking. And it happened again this year. The clutch on my cousin's Geo Metro went out on 520. The end result is usually that we have to go out and rescue them, and tow the car back here to fix it. It has only half jokingly been suggested that we buy them AAA memberships, and make sure they're in effect on Christmas Eve.
Oh well. Guess I better go to bed, on the off-chance Santa has something other than 47 metric tons of coal for me this year. Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!