Merry Christmas everyone! Or should I say Mele Kalikimaka, but more on that later.
Jenna who writes at That Wife had the idea of having her readers document their Christmas Eves and Christmas days and share them. I liked the idea and thus decided to play along. Plus I’m laid up in bed with cramps that leave me with nothing to do but complain.
This was my first Christmas with my in laws so I will be sharing hat that was like as well as what Christmas is like for Catholics. I realize being Catholic isn’t incredibly unique but we do a few things differently that I thought would be fun to share.
In typical Jackie-fashion my camera broke and so we have instagram photos for you to enjoy of one megapixel or less. Welcome to 1999!
Most of the day we just took it easy. Shopping had been wrapped up weeks (okay days) before and the wrapping was well, also wrapped up.
We did crosswords, a weekend ritual at my in-laws.
“In-law” sounds so cold and formal, doesn’t it? I usually just say “John’s folks” but that’s longer to write out.
I got the hankering to bake, a Christmas eve ritual with my family (that is, family-of-origin family). We usually make spritz cookies but John, his sister and I made blondie bars.
The first caramel batch was a disaster which I think came from my suggestion to cook it on low heat. So I made butterscotch which was a bit on the rich side.
After our baking adventure, we went to Mass. Catholics always go to church on Christmas since it is one of the holiest days of the year. Catholic “days” work similarly to the Jewish calendar – they begin at sundown. So you have the option of going on the feast day itself or the night before, which is called the “vigil” mass. Traditionally, many people go to what is called the “Midnight Mass” which used to begin at midnight but now more commonly ends then. John’s family’s tradition is to go to the children’s mass at 4:30. Although churches may have five or six masses in the weekend, you still have to get there pretty early to find a seat. This is how full it was about 45 minutes before:
By the time mass started it was jam packed with tons of people in overflow seating.
In case you are wondering what midnight mass is like, it’s pretty similar to other Sunday masses with an extra element of festivity. We have spent the last month recognizing Advent, a season where we focus on waiting in hope, something we can all relate to no matter our religious beliefs. Christmas (which is actually a season which lasts 12 days) is the first time we sing carols or really celebrate since Advent is a bit more somber. The mass features readings on the arrival of God’s love and justice as well as, of course, the Christmas story. The children of the parish acted out the story dressed as angels and sheep and a couple of innkeepers who looked like Star Trek extras in their costumes.
At Christmas we are basically celebrating three things: the birth of Christ, his future return, and light in the darkness. The reason we celebrate in such a dark and desolate time of the year is to remember that even the tiniest bit of light, of hope can help get us through to the spring.
When we got back from Mass we decorated the tree:
And went to bed.
Our Christmas was also pretty laid back. Since we had gone to church the day before, we just woke up and unwrapped presents that morning.
Here’s the aftermath:
John gave me a beautiful tea pot from our favorite restaurant , Caffe Dolce and a necklace. I got him a Notre Dame hat and something that hasn’t arrived yet and I’m kinda p. o.’d about it.
After gifts we had breakfast, Eggs Benedict and a German apple pancake John and I made.
Again, the aftermath:
Then we left to drive to Helena to visit the rest of John’s family.
After dinner and more present opening, we came home. While I missed the traditions in my family, it was nice to see some new ones. And ultimately it’s not how we wrap the present, but what is at the heart of it.