Where did the month go? Two days left until Christmas. It’s hard to believe it’s here but my favorite time has arrived. It’s Shelley and let me tell you about the best night of the year!
I’m technically done with the shopping and wrapping. I have a few things to finish up, like some baking for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. And there are a few odds and ends, but I’m sending my daughter to run those errands! It seems this time of year, it never ends until Christmas is actually here!
Typically I’d be heading to my parents to celebrate with my family. But if you read my last blog, you saw that my entire family came down with the flu Sunday night. Well, my mother ended up getting it the worst. She ended up in the hospital all day yesterday (yes, a fun day for all) and they found out she has a viral infection in her pancreas. Apparently not that unusual after you’ve had the flu. It somehow settles in there and there’s nothing you can do about it because it’s viral. So! We’ve pushed back the Houllion family Christmas celebration until Sunday. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to enjoy the entire day like we typically do because my oldest works until 4:00 that day so we have to head up to Butler late. But at least we’ll all be together for a few hours which is more than many people can say. I love when we can all be together…and not sharing the flu!
So today I will spend baking and making food, and of course, watching the Steeler game later. But what I plan to do is enjoy these few quiet hours left. I will have the tree lit, the candles lit and Christmas music playing because once Christmas is over, it’s just not as fun. For me, everything sort of loses it’s sparkle so I want to enjoy it now! They say the anticipation is often the best part of any event/celebration and I believe that.
I love Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, it was truly the best day of the year! Like those Target commercials where the kids come running down the steps and you see them ripping open gifts and laughing. I love the way children are just so excited…It was all about the anticipation. What would happen? Would we see Santa? What would he bring us? Would we EVER get to sleep? It was the same for my children when they were little. And there are only a few precious years to enjoy that before they get “too old” for Santa.
But even when that happens, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are still wonderful and magical. In fact, you might say we all enjoy it now in a “more mature” way! Christmas Eve day is now spent just being together. Enjoying each other’s company, watching Christmas movies and nibbling on all the good food in the house. Soon it’s time to head to Christmas mass. This is truly such a special time for me. We all put on our “Christmas outfits” (and yes, I still buy my daughters new outfits every year…although they no longer match like they did when they were little!) and head to St. Winifred’s Church in Mt. Lebanon.
I always tell the girls we’re going early because we need to get a seat. But every year they remind me, everyone rushes in at the very last minute and we ALWAYS get there early enough, with plenty of seats left! It’s really that I like to sit quietely in this beautifully decorated church. Flowers everywhere, lights, and mostly importantly we await the blessed event, the birth of Jesus. There is a full choir singing the most beautiful Christmas music. We have a very talented choir. In fact, the girls’ dad, John, sings with a folk group every Saturday night. The choir direction, Diane Falvo, is amazing. The music makes you want to get up and dance and I’m not exaggerating! But on this holy night, it’s just so peaceful. Every year, it brings tears to my eyes. The girls and their dad are with me, it’s so peaceful and all is right with the world.
Mass is wonderful. But the best part, and the part that ALWAYS makes me cry, is at the end. When we walked into the church we were all given candles. At the end of mass, we light our candles, the church goes dark….and we sing Silent Night. Truly, there is nothing more beautiful to me the entire year, than those few precious moments. I once again realize how fortunate I am, and can’t begin to express gratitude for how my life has turned out, in spite of everything…..Those moments in church just sum it up for me.
Of course, I always have to get pictures of the girls on the alter. They laugh because I do the same pictures every year, but it reminds me of how they’ve grown and how we’re still able to enjoy the holidays together.
After mass, we all go back to my house and even though it’s late, we put on Christmas music, break out all the food and cookies and just sit for a few hours, talking and enjoying the evening. Around 3:00 am, I read Twas the Night Before Christmas to the girls, yes…they’re 20 and 18! And instead of listening in awe to my spoken words, they now just have fun with mom as she reads it yet again! But that’s ok. I’m still able to have them there with me to do it. I know these days are numbered, because soon they’ll have families of their own and they’ll be reading it to their kids, making their own traditions. So, yes, I plan to enjoy it all while I still can….
The girls STILL put out milk and cookies for Santa and then it’s off to bed.
Christmas morning, isn’t like when they were younger of course. They’re not up at 4 or 5 am hoping to wake us to open presents! Now, we all sleep in! I’m always the first one up though. I make several breakfasts casseroles and I put them in the oven to warm. Then I sit in the silence of Christmas morning, staring at the beautiful tree, loving the feeling I have at that moment. Soon the girls are up and John is here to open gifts. Even the cats get treats that morning! Then we enjoy a long breakfast and watch more Christmas movies together. Dinner is spent at John’s (my ex-husband, but still my best friend!) mom’s house. She invites me every year and I love it. I get to be with the girls and I must admit, I still love my former in-laws! It’s a bit of a strange situation but it works for us. Someone once said, while our family has changed, we are STILL a family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then, it’s back home…more Christmas movies, more food, some wine and we put another beautiful holiday behind us. I think as the girls got older, Christmas became less hectic and there was more time to appreciate it’s true meaning. When they’re little, it seems like there’s more chaos and running around and I was a lot more tired! But now, there’s more calm, more of an understanding and appreciation of our lives. I love this time of year. I love the way it makes me feel. I can only hope the same for all of you.
Have a very merry and blessed Christmas. And the very best to you and your families in the new year.