merry christmas, part un: traditions

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on December 24, 2009

Over the years, I picked up the “responsibility” of Christmas shopping for my extended family a.k.a. mostly cousins. When I was younger and still lived at home, I really enjoyed this task. Prior to the trip to the mall, I’d make a list of all my cousins based on seniority of my mom and her 11 siblings. For the record, I have 20+ first cousins just from her side of the family so I didn’t want to forget anyone by accident.

When I was younger, I tackled this task with gusto. With shopping list in hand, my family would head to the mall, shop for each cousin, and pick up presents for gift exchange. Sitting in traffic and standing in long lines for the register didn’t bother me. Each person’s present was hand-picked (usually to reflect their personal style) and taken up to the register to ring up. Just in case s/he didn’t like the present that was chosen for her/him, a gift receipt was enclosed in the gift box so that s/he could exchange the present received for something desired after the holiday.

I enjoyed this less after I went away to college. I wasn’t as eager to embark on a couple rounds of holiday shopping after returning home from travel and finals. Sadly, this sentiment carried over after I graduated from college. It felt like a chore I was coming home to do. I just didn’t have as much fun shopping anymore. It felt too materialistic at times. Call ’em the Scrooge years.

This year, the sentiment is different. I caught myself on the borderline of holiday cheer and Scroogeville while sitting in traffic after a full day of holiday shopping. I was tired. I was hungry. I didn’t want to swipe plastic cards anymore. All I wanted to do was complete my to-do list and head home. Just as I was about to become irritable, an unexpected wave of reality washed over me:

This is the last Christmas I’ll have with my family at home for the next two years. Next year, I’ll no doubt be craving for this stuff: driving to the mall and trying to find parking, zigzagging through mayhem with other last-minute shoppers, returning home with armfuls of presents waiting to be wrapped. That’s not even what I’ll miss most from the holiday season either.

On Christmas Eve. Loading the car with bags of presents. Driving to grandmother’s house. Stopping at a relative’s house on the way to pick up/wait for/carpool with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Finally heading to grandmother’s house. Driving past houses decorated with holiday lights. Arriving and unloading the presents. Walking in and seeing more aunts, uncles, and cousins. Seeing the decorated Christmas tree and piles of presents flooding the floor around it. Holiday feast in the kitchen. American, Chinese, and Vietnamese dishes. Dinner in shifts because not everyone fits in the dining room at the same time. Younger cousins initiating the gift exchange process. Time for presents! Gift exchange comes first. Who has number 1? Number 2? Keep going until everyone has opened their gift exchange present. Now it’s time to distribute presents of all shapes and sizes. Parents mark the perimeter as complete madness ensues. Claim a spot on the floor and plant yourself there. Here’s a present for you. Watch out, present being passed over your head. Oh, here’s another one! And another one! Oh wait, a couple others for you too! Excitement fills the air as hands tear off wrapping paper and “thank you”s fly around the room. Younger ones play with their new toys. Older ones pile their boxes of opened presents atop one another. Piles are grouped by (immediate) family. Large bags are filled with crumbled up wrapping paper. It’s an efficient process played out over the years.

Family coming together at this time of year every year. This is what I enjoy most (and will miss most) about the holiday season. Gifts are just icing on the cake.

Merry Christmas! I hope you spend it with those you love, too!

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