The holidays have nearly come and gone. This year was a little different for me than it normally is, but the traditions were relatively the same thanks to my grandparents and all that we do with them.
My typical Thanksgiving consists of going to as many houses as possible and eating as much as I can. My brain always tells me I can eat a lot and my stomach always reminds me of how false that is. In the morning, we go to my Grandma and Grandpa Hyde’s house in the next city over and have our first meal of the day. My Mom usually does most of the cooking with a little bit of help from my sister, Elissa, and me. Before the food is ready, there are black olives and bread and butter pickles laid out for us to snack on. Grandma always comes in and offers her help, but we just shout “go sit down!” So she does. We have turkey with cranberry sauce (from the can, Elissa’s favorite) mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and some other veggie I won’t eat, biscuits, sweet potato casserole, and my grandpa will make his famous Waldorf salad. He’s usually the only one that eats it, but sometimes Joe helps. We sit at the table, all 8 or sometimes 9 of us, and grandpa will say grace. Elissa usually tries to peek and see if anyone else is peeking and shoot a funny stare at them during grace. I always peek because I know I’m going to catch her. Then we eat until we can’t anymore. Everything my Mom cooks is soooo good, I couldn’t pick just one item to eat if I had to. Clean up happens RIGHT away; this year my Mom and I did the cleanup together to try and speed things up a little bit. Joe always does the trash (he’s helpful that way) and Elissa will try and find a comfortable spot to take a nap where the dog won’t jump on her too much. Shortly after clean up is finished and we’ve taken a few moments to rest and talk a bit, Mom goes into the kitchen and whips up some fresh whipped cream to go with the pumpkin pie. We eat our pie and then Elissa, Joe and I plan out the time we have to leave to go to the next house.
Around 4pm, we leave and head over to my Nani’s house. My Nani is my Step Mom’s grandma who lives next door to my Mom (we’re a close family) which is convenient since it’s just next door. There, we get to see all of my other family on my Step Mom’s side, including my brother Colin, my sister Jade, and my two baby twin cousins Maisie and Noah. Nani usually gets the help of my Nina Patty and Nana in making the food. She serves similar dishes to what we have at my grandparents except it’ll sometimes be ham instead of turkey and creamed corn instead of regular corn. Before the food is ready, she will have tortilla chips and some of her amazing salsa laid out for us to nibble on. We all eat, talk, and hang around. We play with the babies and try to give my Aunt Marlyna and Uncle Bobby a little break from chasing them both around. Once we are finished at my Nani’s house, it’s typically time for us to leave and head over to my Grandma and Grandpa Ward’s house for dinner. Sadly, this year we were not able to make it over there, but I did get to talk to my Grandma and wish her a happy Thanksgiving which I know she appreciated.
My Grandma and Grandpa Ward got my family tickets to see American Ballet Theatres performance of The Nutcracker at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It was an excellent transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas time to be able to see this incredible show. The entire cast was fantastic! The production was very well done and we all enjoyed it so much. I almost cried when the ballerinas did the dance of the snowflakes, it was so amazing. Grandpa’s favorite part was the dance of the flowers. Thanks to my Grandparents, we were so lucky to be able to attend. Here’s a picture of Dad, Ang, Elissa, Colin, Jade and myself in front of some Christmas trees in the lobby. Good looking bunch, all dressed up, eh?
Sometime before Christmas Day, my family makes a date to visit Rogers Gardens in Costa Mesa. It’s a gorgeous nursery that decorates for the season and the Christmas displays that they do are very beautiful. They also carry a collection of Christmas ornaments by one of my Grandpa’s favorite ornament designers, Christopher Radko. This year, I was happy to have Christina go with us for the very first time. Before we went, we had lunch at Fashion Island and then drove over to the nursery. We purchased a few ornaments for our trees and looked at all of their displays. It’s also a great time of year to go because they have a lot of Christmas trees out for purchase and everything smells so much like Christmas. Here’s a funny picture of Christina and I at Rogers Gardens.
Christmas Day is often very similar to Thanksgiving. Normally, Joe and I will wake up, do our little Christmas thing here at our house, get to my Mom’s around 8am and do Christmas at her house, and THEN get to my Grandma and Grandpa Hyde’s by 10:30am or so. From there, the day would continue on as Thanksgiving does, making for a very long, very traveled day. This year, we decided it might be nice to just open all of our Christmas gifts together at my Grandparents so we can watch each other open. I think it was a great idea; it worked out well and I enjoyed being able to open everything in front of them (and vice-versa) so we could see it all. My Grandpa decorates his tree himself every year; he has some of the most gorgeous ornaments you’ve ever seen and he really knows how to decorate the tree well. It’s so beautiful how he does the lights and ornaments and he often gets a lot of compliments on his job decorating. One of our Christmas traditions since we were little is for Elissa and I to search for the pickle ornament he carefully hides on the tree. It’s an old German tradition, and if you don’t have a hidden pickle on YOUR tree, you’re missing out! It has always been one of my favorite traditions on Christmas morning. Here is a photo of Grandpa’s tree with all of our gifts under it.
As I said earlier, this year, things went a little differently. If you know me, then you probably know how much I do not like change. People always say change is a great opportunity to grow, but for me it feels scary and unsettling. I tried to make the most of it as best as I could and I certainly enjoyed my day, regardless of what was out of the ordinary. For me, the most important thing during the holidays is spending time with my family. That, by far, is my favorite tradition of all.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! If you have any special family traditions for the holidays, please share them below!