1. Extreme Wood Floor Olympics
When we first put down wood floors in our family room, my dad created a new pastime, which he refers to as the “Wood Floor Olympics.” This involves sliding in his socks in the open stretch of floor behind the couches, trying to get as far as he can without hitting the window.
Most of the year, my mom worries that he’ll fly out the window, but at Christmastime, she worries that he’ll knock over the Christmas tree and take it with him. See, in December, the stakes become higher and the Wood Floor Olympics become the Extreme Wood Floor Olympics, when participants have to be able to stop on a dime so as not to crush their own Christmas presents. It’s quite the thrilling sport.
2. Home Alone
Okay, so this one isn’t terribly unusual, but it’s central to my Christmas experience. Growing up, my sister and I loved Home Alone so much that we did not consider it to be a movie limited to the Christmas season. It was always a good time to watch Home Alone—and usually, we were watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, because that’s the one we owned on VHS. I remember one time my aunt and uncle stayed with us over Easter and were surprised to find that not only were we watching Home Alone 2 while waiting for the Easter Bunny to arrive, but even the toddler could recite the lines. (Her favorite scene was when Kevin says, “You guys give up? Have you had enough pain?” and Marv replies, “Neverrrrr!” At three, she thought he was saying, “Liverrrrr!” and would yell it along with him. It was pretty adorable.)
3. Christmas Eve gift swap minefield
My dad’s side of the family does a themed gift swap every year, and every year, my dad brings a photo of himself. Sometimes it’s a framed photo, sometimes it’s photo coasters or photo ornaments or, one year, even a poster. His six siblings are always less than thrilled to end up with a photo of their brother, and so whoever gets the photo brings it back the next year in the attempt to re-gift it. This has been going on for several years now, and as a result, the gift swap is a total minefield. Half the gifts are photos of my dad.
4. Lots and lots of driving
Every Christmas Eve, we drive to Philadelphia to visit family, and about every other year, we drive back and forth on Christmas Day as well. It’s about an hour-and-a-half trip each way, depending on traffic. I have many memories that involve listening to Christmas music on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Recently I’ve discovered the existence of such terrible-Christmas-song gems as Taking Care of Christmas and the Christmas Macarena, which I use to annoy my sister for the duration of the car ride. (Or for the few minutes until she pleads with me to turn them off.)
5. Watching the Disney Christmas Parade on TV
Two years ago, I actually stopped by the live taping of this at Disneyland. They film at the beginning of November—I remember it was the day of the Notre Dame–Pitt game in 2012. You couldn’t really see me in the background, but I was wearing The Shirt.
6. Accidentally burning the Crescent rolls
A holiday tradition! Always unintentional, always ends up happening anyway. I can’t eat these myself anymore because of the gluten, but it wouldn’t quite be Christmas without the smell of burnt rolls.
7. Christmas Eve children’s Mass
Somehow we still haven’t grown out of this one. The one and only Christmas I spent away from home, I attended Midnight Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome:
But back home, the children’s Mass still hasn’t lost its appeal…probably because it’s a familiar tradition. After Mass we always take family photos in front of the manger and take a piece of hay with us as we leave.
Merry Christmas, everyone!