I am going to be blatantly honest… I don’t even know how to start this blog post which is why it is so late.
We have talked a lot this blogmas about the new tradition my family tested out in place of exchanging material gifts for Christmas. And considering how much I spoke about it here, I don’t think it’s a surprise that I was really excited for this new tradition… But unfortunately things did not go as planned.
A few days before we left for Florida to spend the holidays with my family, we got a text from my cousin confirming dinner plans (who was bringing what) for Christmas Eve dinner before church. In that text it briefly mentioned that they had discussed “not having a set plan for Christmas day”. I assumed that meant that they were waiting for us to arrive and we would come to a more concrete decision in a few days. I had several things that I still needed to attend to before we left so I didn’t push the subject.
We left our house for the (what was suppose to be) 17 hour drive on late Thursday night, early Friday morning. We originally planned to leave right after I got off of work but as per usual, that didn’t work out as planned, so we didn’t get on the road until almost midnight. This meant that if everything went smoothly we would have arrived at our destination in Florida around 5PM on Friday, but because nothing was going smoothly… we hit grid lock traffic several times that unfortunately put us further behind… 4 hours behind to be exact.
The drive is always difficult, for everyone involved… My dad gets in the car after having worked all day and then drives 17 hours straight (only stopping for gas, food, and/or the bathroom). That means that by the end of the trip he has been awake for more than 36 hours straight. And this year the drive was 4 hours longer than it should have been which made it the most difficult car ride yet…
When we finally arrived we were all exhausted and achey from being in the car for so long. In previous years, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend recuperating from the drive because we needed to go shopping for gifts as we don’t shop prior to departing Indiana and bring them with us because we on top of luggage, medical supplies, and litter box we don’t have the space for bring presents with us as well… But because we were not exchanging material gifts, we were able to skip the shopping and use this time to rest, relax, and recuperate.
After arriving late Friday evening, we were able to sleep in Saturday morning and wake up to Grandma’s delicious blueberry pancakes. After breakfast we got dressed and went to visit my cousin who had just had given birth to my beautiful baby cousin, Clara, the day before. I got some very precious, brand new baby snuggles. Sunday we slept in until late morning and then woke up to another yummy breakfast made by Grandma. After breakfast, we got out the Christmas tree and decorated it. We also got the external decorations out and hung those. If you haven’t seen those decorations you can in Blogmas Day 10.
It was really nice to be able to take a couple days and sleep in (more than we would on a normal weekend) and recuperate. My pain level was significantly increased from the car ride and my body was (and still is) struggling so the down time was much needed.
On Monday (Christmas Eve) we spent a significant portion of the day cleaning and cooking as it was decided that we were holding our traditional Christmas Eve dinner before church at Grandma’s house. Dinner was scheduled to start at 5, but as per usual, there were members of our family that did not show up until 5:15. No judgement here, if it wasn’t being held where we were staying… we likely would have been late ourselves.
It was during discussions over dinner it was brought to my attention that we would not be getting together for any kind of celebration for Christmas on Christmas Day. Apparently the text that we had received stating that there would be “no set plan” for Christmas Day meant that everyone was “doing their own thing” and we were not invited. To put it mildly… I was taken aback and didn’t know how to respond. But I was not the only one.
Church was scheduled to start at 7:00 and the church that we attend is highly attended during Christmas Eve service. If you arrive after 6:45 and didn’t send someone ahead of you to hold your seats, you will be seated in the lobby in folding chairs. We generally try to get there between 6:20 and 6:30. Unfortunately we didn’t really plan accordingly when we planned for dinner to start at 5:00… Especially when people showed up late for a potluck. Dinner was just wrapping up when we needed to leave for church and did not have enough time to clean up from dinner let alone enjoy dessert. So we quickly accomplished the bare minimum (packed away what did not get eaten, moved the used tableware, and then rushed out the door for church. We attended church and then everyone came back to Grandma’s to help clean up from dinner, have dessert, and take a family photo. Then, after everyone dispersed to return to their homes, my dad, grandma, brothers, and I all loaded into the truck and drove around drove through the local neighborhoods looking at Christmas decorations.
The next day, Christmas Day, was like any other day. We woke up, had breakfast, and then hung out by the pool.
Grandma decided we wanted to deliver everyone’s Christmas gifts so we tried to visit with my cousin and her new daughter, but my cousin felt that it would be better for us to come by the next day instead because her mom, sister, niece, and nephew were coming by for dinner an hour and a half later.
We stopped by my aunt’s (Dad’s sister) house to drop off their gifts. We spoke with them for a while before they left for dinner at a Japanese steakhouse.
After they left we returned to Grandma’s house to change my pain and nausea patches and while we were doing so, Grandma decided maybe eating out was a good idea so that she didn’t have to cook an entire meal on Christmas. So Dad, Grandma, my brothers, and I loaded into the car and drove to some of our favorite places… The Lobster Lady… Closed. Duffy’s… Closed. So we decided to head to the Japanese steakhouse because we knew they were open… Only to find out that they had an hour and a half wait time. We decided to head home and make the steaks we originally planned to have for dinner.
After we got home the night was uneventful. We made dinner. We ate dinner. We cleaned up from dinner. We vegged out and watched T.V. We went to bed.
There were no holiday traditions. There was no exchanging of gifts (with the exception of my grandma who has always bought gifts for everyone regardless of whether or not everyone else was following the Secret Santa model or donating to a charity or whatever it may be). There was no family time. It was legitimately just another day.
I don’t really know how to put into words what I am feeling.
I took a lot of what happened personally.
Which won’t make sense to a lot of you, but let me try to explain.
It was my idea to not exchange material gifts and because we were not exchanging material gifts, there was no longer a reason for our families to get together on Christmas. If I had not made the suggestion and pushed the issue… If we continued to hold the Secret Santa type exchange, it’s likely that we would have still gotten together because we would have needed to be together to exchange gifts.
Christmas hasn’t felt like Christmas for my family of four for quite a long time… Because this Christmas was completely stripped of all of our normal traditions, it felt like just another day and that was really tough after getting so excited for the first time in many years.