I love the holidays and I am a sucker for traditions. I look forward to all the holiday celebrations, and even more so I look forward to knowing what we will be doing from Thanksgiving through New Years Eve. What I mean by that is it is comforting to know that we will be celebrating our Girls Christmas a week of two before Christmas day EVERY YEAR and that I will get to see my aunts and female cousins at our cookie exchange on a week day in the beginning of December. There is so much going on, and I really like traditions because they keep things familiar and there are not many last minute surprises. It also helps ensure that you get to spend a little bit of special, quality time with all the important people in your life. I have Girls Christmas, and Blue Christmas, and Boyle Christmas, and now Taynor Christmas, and I love each one of these events because each is different from the other. Every Christmas brings a little something special that I always look forward to from year to year.
When Mike and I started dating, we had a very hard time figuring out our holiday "schedule". We both have great families and a ton of holiday traditions... and neither of us really wanted to make any changes. It has taken 6 years, but I think we have finally figured it out (for now at least)! And then to make things even more interesting, we are not only combining our traditions but we are creating new ones for our children to grow up with. Here is a little taste of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Getting the tree- I grew up with a real Christmas tree. We would all go out as a family, pick out our favorite, and cut it down (Jackie, we did this at a Christmas tree farm, not just in the woods randomly haha). Normally we did this the first weekend of December and we would go back to the house and decorate the entire space all in one day. The house would go from nothing to a Winter Wonderland in just a few hours. This is one of the traditions that Mike and I have decided to continue!
Girls Christmas- This year was our 13th annual Girls Christmas. The tradition started when we were juniors in High School and I am so excited that it is still going on. The people who have attended has changed a little bit over the years, but it has been myself, Jackie, Kim, Heather, Kelly, and Laura pretty much from the beginning. I love this Christmas! We rotate whose house it is at, we get all dressed up, we have a nice sit down dinner, and then we do presents (really awesome presents). The gift exchange goes like this: each person buys for one person and then everyone buys a smaller gift for all of the girls (hence the name Small Gifts). Because you are shopping for one of your very best friends, everyone tends to be extra generous in their gift giving. It is also a great night for everyone to get caught up on all the craziness going on in each others lives. Girls Christmas always leads to a bit too much wine and a whole lot of laughs. I hope this tradition continues until we are 80 years old!
Christmas Eve- Growing up we would go to Nanny's house for Christmas Eve and this was my favorite night. Santa would come early and we would sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus and we would watch for Rudolph's red nose as we drove home. Then as Nanny got sick we started to spend Christmas Eve with just our immediate family and celebrate Blue Christmas at different night (more about this is a minute). So then Christmas Eve turned into a night were we would go to church and then have a quiet dinner. Megan, Brian, and I would also exchange presents to each other just for some fun. When Mike and I started celebrating holidays together, he would come spend Christmas Eve with us.
This year was a big change for us, Christmas Eve became Taynor family Christmas. It really worked great, so I believe this plan will stick. We went up to Mike's parents house at around 1pm. We watched the Giants beat the Jets, we had a big dinner, and we exchanged lots of presents with Mike's entire family. My brother and sister in law were there, Mike's grandmother and uncle stopped by, and we skyped with Barbara and Wayne from Florida. We pretty much did everything we normally do on Christmas Day, just on Christmas Eve instead. The best part about it was that we were not in a rush to go anywhere... the day/night was all about spending time with Mike's family. I think it was one of my favorite holidays I have spent with my in-laws so far.
Christmas Day- As kids, Christmas day was pretty similar to what I imagine most kids Christmas day was like. We would wake up early, wait for my dad to give us the o.k. to go downstairs. We would open stockings and all our Santa presents. We had a big breakfast which included cinnamon buns, eggs and bacon (as we got older we added mimosas to our breakfast). Then we would go through all of our new, fun toys and get ready for Christmas Day part 2. Mid day we would leave and go spend Christmas dinner with the entire family and DeeBee and Poppy's house. There was about 30-40 of us for dinner and it was always a full blown party. I LOVE being part of a big family. Gift giving is always simple because there are so many people, once the cousins got older we started just doing a secret Santa. Even though every person only gives/receives on gift, the exchange process is always very loud and very wild (I'm going to add a small video of this years exchange soon so check back). When Mike and I started celebrating Christmas together, things changed a little bit. Instead of going to my parents on Christmas morning, we would wake up super early and go up north to be with his family first thing.
As you can probably guess, this year was another big change. I made it very clear last year that once we had kids, we would be waking up and spending Christmas morning at our own home. That is why we went to spend Christmas Eve with the Taynors. This year we woke up when Ryan woke up, we opened his Santa presents, we had a big breakfast (Cinnamon buns included), and Mike and I exchanged when RJ napped. It was perfect and relaxing and exactly how I imagined Christmas morning to be with my own child. Around noon we left to see my parents, Brian, and Meg. We then did Christmas morning part 2 with them; exchanged presents and had lunch and just watched Ryan enjoy his first Christmas. Last but not least we were off to our Boyle family Christmas. This might change in the next few years and that makes me sad. More cousins are getting married, having their own children, starting their own traditions and it makes it very difficult to get everyone together at the same place on Chrismtas Day. Currently our immediate family is about 40 people... its crazy! I really do understand that things will have to change, but I am not ready for it. I really hope we are able to get as many of us together for Christmas day for as long as possible.
Blue Family Christmas- This is that Christmas that use to be at Nanny's on Christmas Eve. Now we do it a few days after Christmas and we change who hosts it this year. I was able to host everyone this year, and it was a great night. For this tradition, we get together with my dad's brothers and their families, we have a nice dinner and we do a "White Elephant" type gift exchange. This particular event is the one that has changed the most from my childhood, but it is still really nice to catch up with my dad's side of the family.
Obviously, I am very blessed to have SOOOO many people to spend the holidays with. Things can get hectic and sometimes stressful but its all worth it to have such wonderful holiday memories.
In short, now the Mike and I have our own family, we will be celebrating Christmas Eve with his family, Christmas morning at home, and Christmas dinner with my family. I really really hope that as Brian and Megan get married, they are able to make their traditions similar so that we can spend time with them and their future families too. Now we have to decide the little things... like are all the presents from Santa or do mom and dad give gifts too? Do you open any gifts on Christmas Eve? Do we do a Secret Santa with our brothers and sisters now that the family is getting bigger? Do we wrap the presents in the stocking or just put them in? What will we serve for Chrismtas breakfast? When will we fit in Christmas mass? I guess some of these decisions will just work themselves out over the years!
**Check back for this years Christmas pictures and videos in a few days... I am getting there!