25 December 2012

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas!!  This is the first year that Mr. Sweetie and I have spent the holiday as just the two of us - though we will go out to my aunt's house in Virginia for dinner tonight.  I have to admit, we felt a little like Christmas Vacation's Todd and Margo - though with a better decorated house and more holiday spirit.  Our families have always had various traditions and this year it was nice to mix some old traditions with what will hopefully become some new traditions.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was having Christmas Eve dinner with our good family friends the Mercers.  They have been our closest family friends since I was three years old and even now when I visit my parents in NH, I always make sure my morning running route goes by their house so I can knock on their door and say hello mid-run.  They would supply the sweet rolls and sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies and we would supply the minestrone soup (which in later years became seafood chowder - my dad's singular annual culinary feat of strength).  Now that I am married to Mr. Sweetie, I've gotten a chance to participate in his family's traditional Christmas Eve, which consists of a big dinner of tamales with family friends and aunts and uncles and cousins.  My sisters-in-law are also well-versed in the art of gingerbread cookie making and decorating.  Never in my life have I seen so many Christmas cookies in one place as I see in their kitchen each year.

This year we started a new tradition of our own, getting together with a group of our close friends to celebrate Christmas Eve.  Last night we had a wonderful dinner (tamales, fried catfish, baked haddock, ham, gumbo, and pasta with fruits de mer) and went to Midnight Mass before enjoying some good wine and hot chocolate post-Church.

As kids, and even into adulthood, Christmas morning was all about rolling out of bed, eating a big breakfast, and opening gifts.  Mr. Sweetie's family always makes a super yummy egg bake dish for breakfast.  In my family, we have Christmas Bread for breakfast with oranges (or, if you are weird, grapefruit - bleck).  My nana made Christmas Bread every year when my mom was growing up, and my mom proceeded to do the same.  We have this sweet bread only on Christmas Day and it's one of the things I most look forward to on Christmas morning.  My mom always made a number of these breads as gifts to give to our close friends and I've tried to uphold that tradition since moving to DC.

This year we kept the Christmas bread and oranges (and grapefruit - bleck) tradition and added some homemade biscotti to the mix.  We also went for a run BEFORE digging into the bread and presents, making our morning run with the dog much more enjoyable (Christmas bread is sweet and rich and not the best food to fuel a run).  We had perfect weather for the run, crisp air, blue skies, and moderate temperatures.  I'm hoping the pre-bread/presents run will be a tradition we keep up for many years.

Another Christmas tradition - enjoying a nice quiet afternoon with our newly-opened gifts.  Mr. Sweetie and I spent much of today parked in the Reading Room with our tree, Christmas music and mugs of hot chocolate.  We started reading books we received as gifts, set up the Nativity set that my parents sent to us (THANK YOU!!!) and set up the Kitchen Aid mixer Mr. Sweetie's family spoiled me with (a lifelong dream fulfilled - thank you!!!).

I love Christmas.  I love Midnight Mass, spending time with those who mean the most to us, and seeing the reaction when someone opens a gift they really enjoy (and, let's be honest, I like opening gifts too :) ).  I hope everyone had a REALLY great Christmas!

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