The weeks after Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas break are probably the worst school days of the entire year.
In a matter of three weeks, students must complete all final assignments and finish up with final exams.
For me, that means turning in four research papers, a final project and reading discussions all the while being sick with the stomach flu.
These have been the worst two weeks of the year, but that’s life. We get those weeks sometimes.
In order to maintain my sanity, I’ve been writing to Christmas music and taking breaks to think about all the amazing Christmas traditions I’m going to take part in when I pack up my blue Mountaineer next Friday and drive all the way back home to Michigan.
Christmas with my family is quite literally the most wonderful time of the year. It is when my immediate family is at their best.
This year, my mother keeps saying we’re “Putting Christ back into Christmas.” Now, when my beautiful, talented mother puts her mind to something, she gives her whole heart to the idea.
I have now been preparing myself to come home to new Christmas rituals.
Last year, out of the blue, my mother bought a pickle ornament and hid it in the tree. She heard the idea from a friend and thought it’d be a cute little thing to do, thus starting (I think) a new Christmas tradition: the first kid to find the pickle ornament receives a “special prize!”
She also gave each of her four children a little gift at the dinner table, so we sat and had Christmas dinner in paper crowns.
Although each year brings new surprises, there are certain traditions my family has stayed true to since the start.
Since we’ve all grown up and have our own relationships, the family usually isn’t together until Christmas Eve day. When we are all fully present, the fast-paced kitchen work begins.
My sister and I bake holiday cookies with my mother. We usually stick to the basics: candy-cane cookies, gingerbread men, orange-drops (Dad’s favorite) and classic sugar. I would prefer if we made the equivalent mass in chocolate chip cookies, but for the holiday’s sake, I always let it slide.
If my mother wasn’t in an absolute rush to decorate the house, the tree would still be ornament-less, only being clothed by the colored lights my father placed the night before.
We usually have a late start to decorating the real tree my father cut down on some friend’s property, so we take time on Christmas Eve to fill it up with old and new ornaments including a half-broken nativity scene made of popsicle sticks and two “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments (because apparently only the two oldest children deserved them…Mom…Dad).
That night, all six of us get dressed to party, because midnight mass is definitely a party.
We wear dresses and suits, and sit down to a nice, late dinner before going to hear the most beautiful angel, my mother, sing in the choir. Her “Ave Maria” is unbelievable.
Christmas Eve was the first time I sat at the table, all dressed up, and had a glass of champagne with my family (I will not disclose the age I was when this occurred at this time). It was a moment of pride. I had embodied enough maturity to hang with the adults while drinking, even if I drank a little too fast for my parents’ liking.
After mass the kids all rush to bed and wait for Santa to come, but when we wake my parents better not catch us in the living room by the tree.
The tradition stands that the first one up climbs into bed with Mom upstairs and we wait for everyone else to slowly trickle into her bedroom. My father will already have been making coffee and preparing the video camera. When everyone is present we sit at the top of the staircase and wait to take a photo and hear my dad say, “Go ahead.”
Christmas is a very special time in my house, as it is for many others. I will always hold these traditions close to my heart, and as I lay here studying my life away and writing papers, I remember Christmas, and my family, are just around the corner.