For the past few days “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives has been swirling around in my head & won’t let go.  While the sentiment is nice (and I do honestly wish everyone the very best of the season, no matter how you celebrate it) – I’m tired of listening to Burl Ives already!

When I was growing up our Christmas traditions were pretty set in stone.  On Christmas Eve we went to my maternal grandfather’s only sister’s home (Auntie Ida) where she served the most delicious marzipan.  Auntie Ida had never married, so there wasn’t much for us kids to do & we soon became bored & would join my father in front of the TV while my mother visited.  We were home by 10 p.m. so we could get our hair set in curlers & straight to bed so Santa could come.  My sister & I shared a room & about 4:30 in the morning she would start asking me if it was time to get up.  I would usually hold her off until 6:30 or 7 a.m. when we would stand at the top of the stairs leading to all the bedrooms & yell out Merry Christmas, then race downstairs to see what Santa had left under the tree.  While my parents (& sometimes grandparents) were dragging themselves out of bed, my sister & I were allowed to open our stockings.  Then everyone would gather around the tree & open gifts.  Then it was time to get all dressed up for Christmas Breakfast.

My grandmother was one of eight girls who grew up in Winnipeg.  They all had children of their own & then grandchildren as well & we would all get together Christmas morning at Auntie May’s & Uncle George’s home for Christmas Breakfast.  Their L-shaped living room/dining room  would be stripped bare as their furniture made way for table after table for breakfast.  Everyone would come except Auntie Robbie who lived in Spokane, Wash.  Uncle George always made the bacon & sausages & burned the toast while Auntie May made the pancakes & eggs (mostly to order).  Everyone would be dressed up in their new clothes straight from under the tree.  Auntie Grace always had a new hat, Auntie Mary usually had a new bawdy joke, while my sister & I generally had a new doll to show off.  My other young cousins would have new toys too & promptly after breakfast us younguns disappeared into the basement to play.

Around noon we would head back home so my mother could get the turkey in the oven.  All the adults would have naps & sometimes my sister & I could tear ourselves away from our new toys long enough to sneak a little nap too.  Just before dinner we would call my father’s family who lived mostly in Alberta while his mother and youngest brother lived in B.C.

My mother is an excellent cook & Christmas dinner was a feast with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, veggies & rolls.  Dessert was always Christmas pudding served warm from a steamer with Royale Sauce.  Neither my sister or I liked Christmas pudding, but the sauce (made with whipped cream, brown sugar & vanilla) was heavenly so we would take a very small piece of the pudding so we could pile on the sauce.

Boxing Day was a much more laid back day.  We were always invited to Auntie Mary’s for Open House.  There would be lots of alcohol, dancing & games, lots of food & lots of cousins to play with.  We would usually go later in the afternoon so my mother could make sure we had a good breakfast & lunch before we stuffed ourselves full of cookies & pastries, ham & meatballs, cabbage rolls, chocolates, candies & pop.

Christmas was a happy time spent with family.  Unfortunately, Auntie May passed away long before her time & the tradition of Christmas Breakfast ended.  As the other aunts aged it seemed to be harder & harder to get together.  None of their children seemed willing to take up the reins of holding the family together & so Open Houses & get togethers dwindled until they stopped completely.  Children & grandchildren grew up, got married, divorced, re-married, moved away & the family rarely sees each other anymore.  I miss Christmas past, but I’m very grateful I got to be a part of it for as long as I did.

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