When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was a big deal. Growing up in a divorced household with multiple families to see the next day, Christmas Eve was always my favorite. Our family would gather at my grandmother's house early in the afternoon and we would play games, enjoy culinary adventure (let's just say that foods made in molds still frighten me), exchange gifts and enjoy being in one place all together. My grandmother was well known for her enthusiastic expression of Christmas Decor - nearly every inch of her home was covered in some ode to the season. And true, most years involved some sort of familial drama or passionate conversation, but embracing the yearly tradition was something I always eagerly anticipated.
I approach Christmas Eve in a different way, now. My heart is heavy with the memories of my loved ones that are now gone - my parents, my grandparents, my friends. I wish we could gather together in that same way, talking and laughing and eating and fighting over who actually won Balderdash. Teasing each other about who has to eat the jello salad. When family gatherings were pure celebration instead of a bittersweet time of remembrance and gratitude.
This Christmas Eve, I am so grateful. I look at the calendar and realize that nearly another whole year has passed and my life is more wonderful than I could have imagined. While my heart will always be a little bit broken and missing what I don't have anymore, each year it gets easier to embrace the absolute joys of this time of year: my dear family, who may get the award for most bizarre, but who are priceless to me; sharing Christmas with Matthew and our black pup in a frozen Spokane; decorating the tree with my childhood ornaments; making stockings; receiving brightly adorned packages and loving Christmas Cards; and most of all thanking God for blessing me so, so richly.
So tonight Matthew and I will be alone. It will be a change, that's for sure. Instead of a large family gathering we'll make capellini and drink some wine. We'll probably watch a classic Roy Christmas movie - and yes, I'm referring to a quality selection from the Die Hard series. It is a brand new thing for us, but I'm excited to build our own family traditions. The only thing I know for sure: they definitely will not include jello salad. Thank God.
Merry Christmas Eve!