My tree is up. Shopping is not quite done, but I know what I need for everyone. This weekend I'm baking up a storm in between my turn working the weekend here at the paper. Tonight, my friends and I are scheduled to hold our now-traditional gingerbread house decorating extravaganza.
Last year mine included a toy model of Optimus Prime, leader of the alien Transformer robots the Autobots. Thanks to an attack by the evil Decepticons (or shoddy construction work on my part), my house slowly collapsed, leaving poor Optimus standing atop the wreckage in a fairly epic air-guitar pose. My hopes are high for an equally amusing result this year.
This will be the third year my friends and I have gotten together to make gingerbread houses, making it one of the newest traditions in my holiday schedule.
Other traditions are a bit more long-standing.
Every Christmas I can remember, except for the year I studied abroad, has included the same set of people - my immediate family, which includes my mom, dad and sister; my mom's parents, my Opa and Oma, before she passed away; and two of my mom's siblings, my uncle from New Jersey and my aunt from Louisiana.
Christmas Eve, when my sister and I were little, typically included the leaving of milk and cookies for Santa, as well as the construction of an elaborate trip wire system using garlands and strings of bells borrowed from the Christmas tree to alert us to the Jolly Old Elf's presence. We never caught him, if you're wondering.
Christmas morning we'd get up, and once the family was assembled, my sister and I would get to open our Christmas stockings.
The stockings are my dad's specialty, and he still works to put one together for us every year. Stockings are one of the big traditions for the Boyle side of the family, and for my dad and his siblings, were usually filled with new underwear, toiletries, Hershey's Kisses and a tangerine.
For my sister and myself, he foregoes the undergarments, but fills our stockings with plenty of assorted candies, the tangerine and usually a nice assortment of shampoos, lotions, pens, tooth brushes, floss and other small items.
After we open the stockings in tandem, there comes the moment when the adults in the family insist on drinking what seemed to be an endless stream of cups of coffee before any other Christmas gifts could be opened. This ritual was something akin to pure torture for my younger self, the waiting.
It's become a joke in the family, every year mom or dad insisting on another cup of coffee and me offering an exaggerated reaction of disappointment and exasperation.
The holiday caffeine fix satisfied, we all find spots in the living room on various couches and chairs, usually in the same spots as previous years, and take turns playing Santa, distributing gifts one by one until the pile is gone.
One of my more favorite Christmas memories comes from when I was fairly young, maybe 6 or 7 years old.
That year, one of the last gifts to be opened by myself and my sister was an envelope containing a clue that took us to a different part of the house. We made our way from room to room, tracking down the next clue from "Santa Claus." The final envelope directed us back to the Christmas tree where we found a new bike for me and a scooter for my sister.
Going into the big holiday weekend this year, I'm looking forward to seeing family members I get to see only a few times a year, I'm looking forward to good food, giving out and receiving presents, of course, but mostly the chance to make new Christmas memories and traditions with the people who are the most important to me.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.