Obviously like for many of us (though sadly not enough of us), this Christmas season looked very different than Christmases past. Although it’s not one I would necessarily want to repeat, I also found a lot of things to take joy in.
There were not the usual parties and get togethers that happen this time of year, but I appreciate how my friends got creative to come together and celebrate in new and interesting ways. One of my friends hosted an online holiday murder mystery. Having done some of these murder mystery parties in person I wasn’t sure how it would translate to online, but it worked pretty well. I even figured out who the murderer was! A different group of friends did a couple of online Christmas movie nights where we watched White Christmas and Home Alone over text together.
We also had our 17th annual Winter Wonderland party that we have with a group of friends every year. Back in the day we used to rent out the upper room at Max’s. Then once there were a lot of kids in the group meeting at a bar became untenable so our friends started hosting at their house. Then this year we had to move online. Our friends put together a slide show of past parties. It was fun to look back at the early years and see us and all our kids grow up. The other benefit to doing this party online was that some friends who have left Baltimore over the years were able to drop in and join us as well!
I usually bake a ton of Christmas cookies in December and give them away as gifts. I was obviously still able to enjoy this tradition, though due to mail issues I didn’t mail anything out this year worried that the cookies wouldn’t be any good by the time they got there. In the past few years since they moved to Baltimore I’ve also been baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my niece. Obviously this year we couldn’t get together to bake, but we each baked cookies on our own and did a little sidewalk exchange of cookies and presents. She did an excellent job on her own.
I wasn’t expecting to spend any part of the holiday season with my family. We have been super careful the entire pandemic and so were definitely not traveling or getting together with anyone in-person inside. My parents against my preference travelled from Arizona to my sister’s house in New Jersey. Even though I haven’t seen any of them since last Christmas we were not going to drive up and join them. However, on the Monday before Christmas my sister and my mother drove down to surprise us with a quick visit. They only stayed for about an hour and half and we sat outside in masks socially distanced and visited for a little bit before they turned around and drove back. It was a really nice surprise and it was great to see them. I look forward to some day hopefully in the not too distant future when I can see the rest of my family too.
Actual Christmas was quiet with just me and my husband. It’s the first time in my 20+ years of adult life where I have spent Christmas in my own home. I’ve always traveled to somewhere else either to visit my family or my husband’s family. Although I missed spending the holiday with family there was something nice about spending Christmas in my own house and trying my best to continue some traditions while creating some new ones of my own. Though I guess they probably can’t be called traditions if I never do them again.
On Christmas Eve I attended the Christmas Eve service at my church for the first time ever since I’m always traveling, though it was online. My main goal was to continue the tradition of eating shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve. When I was a small child growing up in Georgia my parents had a Christmas Eve open house party every year. There were always two standard things that they served along with other appetizers, shrimp cocktail and a cheese ball. After we moved away when I was in middle school and they stopped having that party we continued eating shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve. The cheese ball fell by the wayside, which is fine with me. I never really liked those things anyway. One year when I was first living in Baltimore and working at Barnes & Noble wasn’t able to fly home until after I got off work on Christmas Eve so I missed hanging out with my family that night and eating the shrimp cocktail with them. When I got there my mother told me that my grandma wanted her to bring the shrimp cocktail to the airport for me. My mom said she didn’t but it was in the fridge for me when we got to the house. My husband is a vegetarian so he won’t eat it, but I cooked up 4 little shrimp just for me to eat along with some other little appetizers for our Christmas Eve dinner. We also Zoomed with my family and opened our Christmas presents together and finished off the night watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
Christmas Day was equally quiet, but also was a lovely, peaceful day. I know that orange rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning is a tradition in a lot of families. It never was in ours, but it always sounded like a tradition I wanted in on. So this year I made it happen for myself and made some orange rolls for breakfast. I also discovered that I actually really like egg nog this year. I didn’t really think that I did, but in my quest to be as festive as possible I decided I should buy some and figured out that I actually really like it. I’m definitely going to limit myself to one little quart of it though because it is not good for you at all. My husband and I opened the rest of our presents from each other and from his family. He was even super proud of himself because I made some off-hand comment about there never being anything in my stocking without knowing that he had already stuck a little something in mine for me. So I even had a little stocking present from Santa this year.
My family has never had a set meal for our Christmas dinner, so unlike at Thanksgiving where I wanted to make all our traditional Thanksgiving food for just the two of us I didn’t feel compelled to make anything in particular. I just knew I wanted it to be simpler than all the food I made at Thanksgiving. I settled on making an individual beef Wellington for me, a butternut squash Wellington for my vegetarian husband with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and roasted green beans and almonds. My husband ordered a lovely little floral centerpiece from our local florist and we had a beautiful Christmas table. We finished off our Christmas watching Wonder Woman 1984 while eating popcorn and pecan pie.
While none of this is how I would have expected to spend this Christmas at the beginning of the year it also had many quiet moments of joy and peace. I know for many this was a Christmas of unimaginable loss, struggle, and hardship. I am beyond grateful for all the blessings I have. As we finish out this impossibly hard year I wish everyone a brighter 2021.