*Note: The following post is a conversation between Christina and Shannon about holiday traditions. It's a window into our weird little lives. Welcome!!
SB: Here's the thing about holidays: The thing that makes them special is all the weird little things you do with your family and friends. I get excited about decorating my Christmas tree - sure - but that's mostly because I look forward to all the ornaments my mom has made for me throughout the years, and now the ones that I've made. I look forward to seeing the ornaments my grandmother has given to me for each year of my life, and now I look forward to seeing the ornaments my kids are getting. It's all evidence of a life lived.
Along with time with the people I love, this is the stuff that holidays are made of. So I'm wondering... what are your weird holiday traditions, Christina?
CML: My most beloved holiday tradition, which is temporarily diminished thanks to the presence of wee ones who aren't ready yet to participate, is our Boxing Day. After weeks (remember the 5 Christmas thing?) of celebrating, my Smartner and I used to religiously dedicate the 26th as our day to remain in our pajamas all day long, laze around among our new objects, and watch Rocky movies. We'd always watch the first one, and usually one other. The second movie was negotiable as long as it wasn't Rocky V, which I think we can all agree was a huge misstep, right Shannon?
Now that we have two active little Smartlings to accommodate, though, we can't really laze around all day long, and they're not ready for the violence or baby-oiled shirtlessness that a Rocky movie engenders. So, Smartner and I wait until the 'lings are in bed before jammying up and watching the Italian Stallion go the distance with Creed. It's such an apt metaphor for our holiday season. We know we can never conquer it, but we're proud to have gone the distance. It's enough to have survived the beating and remain standing in the ring.
What about you, ya weirdo? Which idiosyncrasies do your nurture during the holidays? Which quirky celebratory act makes your season bright?
SB: Dude. I want in on your Boxing Day. Except… I think I could take or leave the Rocky movies. Don’t hate me. I will watch them for you. And the sentiment remains for the holidays: Going the distance. Remain standing.
I think our weirdest holiday tradition started when my mom was trying to find something easy to cook before the heavy, cookstravaganza that is The Christmas Meal. (Usually a large hunk of meat, accompanied by butter and cream laden potatoes. So, you know… light.) Every Christmas Eve, we eat Shrimp Creole. Because of our (nonexistent) Creole heritage? And our (nonexistent) ties to New Orleans? And… um… I have no idea why this became the meal for Christmas Eve, but I DO know that it involves only two pots (rice and creole), and a spectacular amount of butter. And it is DELICIOUS. I look forward to it every single year. And hilariously, I don’t like shrimp. Haven’t since I was a tiny kid. So we have adjusted by adding either salad shrimp, which lack the awful crunch/pop that skeezes me out with shrimp, or tofu, which accommodated my former 20 years of vegetarianism… and now works nicely for my vegetarian 6 year old. Anyway, it makes no sense whatsoever, and that’s part of what I love about it. It’s weird.
On top of that, we follow my family’s tradition of opening the majority of our presents on Christmas Eve. We save stockings, Santa gifts, and anything special for Christmas morning, and it makes everything feel just a bit more luxurious and wonderful. More Christmas celebration = more yule n’ shit. Don’t you agree?
I’ve also established a new tradition: Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. It just seems right.
Tell me about your favorite holiday activity. What do you look forward to all year long?
CML: Your Christmas is defined by butter. I like that about you.
My favorite holiday activity is actually inactivity. My favorite part of the holiday is Christmas day at our house, which is pretty much dedicated to rest, play, and hanging out. We get up at 7:00, because my daughters are still religiously adherent to their OK-to-Wake clocks (Buy one today!). Then they come and get us up, we all stumble downstairs and start a slow, leisurely unwrapping that sometimes lasts into the afternoon. We do stockings first, then load up on coffee for us and cocoa or juice for them, then we tackle Santa's presents. After that is playtime and breakfast time. Finally, we'll open presents from one another. It's usually around time to put our enormous pork roast in the oven by then, so we break for adult kitchen prep and more kid play time. The whole day is generally spent wallowing in an excess of gifts, wrapping paper, snacking, and pajama-wearing. Usually around mid-afternoon I achieve Full Crazy Cabin Fever and force the family outside to our neighborhood park before we return home to eat an enormous meal. After all of the mania of the 5 (FIVE!) Christmases, it's nice to just be at home and... be.
Now that I think about it, this might be a neo-Boxing Day. I've never thought of myself as so very lazy before, but I guess if the sweatpants fit (loosely, in a crack-revealing relaxed manner), I'll wear them.
And, I would be remiss if I didn't inform you and our readers of our family tradition of topping our Christmas tree with an octopus ornament. Usually it's our papier-mache ornament with the spindly tentacles, but this year it's our glittery glass octopus. As you can see the spindly papier-mache octopus is attempting to ascend the tree and dethrone the usurper. (At least that's what goes on in my head when I look at it.)
My older Smartling absolutely hates the octopus ornaments and defiantly tells us each year as we're decorating the tree about how when she grows up she's going to get an angel for her tree. You know how Elise and Steven Keaton were huge hippies who raised the Reaganite Alex P. Keaton? We're doing that with our older kid. She's going to be an angel-topping Republican. I may regret those octopuses one day.
So, Shannon, if you don't like Rocky movies, then what are your go-to holiday films? Also, what is wrong with you? Rocky movies are awesome holiday fare!
SB: My LIFE is defined by butter, Christina. As are my thighs. It’s delicious here.
What were we talking about? Anyway.
Your Christmas day sounds lovely! Leisurely everything, I always say. Or, I’m going to start saying. It’s what I want in my heart. Our Christmas Day starts with the kids forcing us out of bed at some hour that is totally reasonable for Christmas morning, yet still ungodly and awful for parents who don’t have to do the weekday schlep that day. We make coffee first (because literally nothing is fun without coffee) and get the cinnamon rolls in the oven. I might put Bailey’s in my coffee. Then the kids pounce on the Santa presents like panthers on a… whatever panthers eat. Then we open family presents and fiddle around drinking more coffee while the kids play with their new loot. Depending on the plan for the rest of the day, we then either snack and watch a Christmas movie, or snack and start prep for the Christmas hunk o’ meat and butter potatoes meal. My parents usually arrive midday and we *finally* open stockings all together (our poor kids don’t know that waiting isn’t the usual). Then we eat, drink and be merry. It’s good and wholesome and filled with family fun right up until it’s not. But it usually ends well.
I love your octopus riddled tree, and your Smartling will grow to love it, too. Or to be Alex P. Keaton. EITHER WAY. We used to use my grandmother’s homemade angel for our tree topper, but after the kids were born we discovered that the beautiful threads surrounding the paper cutout angel were actually fiberglass… providing numerous and endless glass splinters. So, in the spirit of being a good mother, I had to let my grandmother’s angel go. And I miss it still. (She, by the way, is most likely rolling her eyes while reading this because she never understood what all the fuss was about that angel.) So now, we have this silly little Santa sitting around our living room with a tree stuck up his butt. Poor Santa.
Christmas movies! There are many predictable picks: The original cartoon version of The Grinch, Charlie Brown Christmas (exclusively for the dancing scene at the beginning), and now Elf. But I also tend toward watching holiday oriented rom-coms while wrapping presents. It’s a habit I’ve developed because they don’t require much of my attention, but still accomplish the holiday spirit. The Family Stone or Love, Actually are the better ones. The Holiday is one of the… not better ones. And as far as Rocky, it’s not that I don’t like Rocky movies. It’s just that… I’m dorkier than that? In the past we had this weird habit of watching the Alien series around Christmas (because Sigourney Weaver HELLO), but now with the kids I’m thinking it’ll be Star Wars. Because with the new movie coming out just before Christmas, it only makes sense. Also, it’s Star Wars. I don’t need an excuse.
So them’s the holiday traditions around these parts! They are good and they are weird, but central to them all are the people we love most. Which I assume means Christina and I will be starting a new, new tradition of recovering from all this family togetherness by doing something together in the post Christmas days that involves running away and being regular human people again. Right Christina? RIGHT?
CML: Shannon, I would be a human person near your leisurely, buttery thighs any day of the year and call myself lucky. Merry Christmas, Smarty Mommy.
SB: Merry Christmas, my Smarty Mommy friend.
Whatever you celebrate, we’re wishing all the Smarties out there happy holidays. Be with your people and enjoy all the weird stuff that makes the holidays yours. Including butter. And Rocky.