Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas Traditions

Potlatch: 'pät-"lach. Function: noun. A ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the host's lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation. (See another definition from Wikipedia, here)

My family is not of Native-American ancestry, we are of Spanish blood, but every year we partake in a tradition that has its roots in the above-mentioned, Northwest-Coast Native American ceremonies of the past.

From even before I was born all those years ago (Thanks Mr. Harrison) my Dad’s family (along with my Grandmother on my Mom’s side – if she weren’t visiting her other child, my Uncle Warren & his family, in OK) would gather for Christmas Eve. First at my Aunt Adele and my Uncle Nishan’s house in Fairmont City (IL) then their house in Edwardsville (IL), and within the last 5 years at my parent’s house in Edwardsville.

It was a festive gathering… filled with food, presents, drinks and love. (I know, the last word makes it sound a tad corny, but it’s the truth)

First, the food. (Hmmmmm, fooooood, aaaaaahhhhhhh) It was absolutely incredible; fried chicken, rice pilaf, chorizo (spanish sausage), Spanish potato salad, Spanish Chicken and Rice, shrimp and roast beef & gravy (my mouth waters just thinking about it). Add to that my Aunt Dorothy's special punch (non-alcoholic for the kids) and it was something that a kid would never forget.

Than, the most important Christmas thing for kids, the presents... talk about opulence.

Rather than draw up a long-winded assessment of a few special memories (and realizing we are living in an era of incredibly short attention spans) I present some to you in Bullet Form:

  • One year, my (older) brother Al, and a few of our
    cousins, each received a RCA Studio 2 gaming system. A picture of the console is to the right --->
  • Sometimes, someone in my family or a family friend would dress-up as Santa Claus and deliver one present to every child there
  • After my family moved from Fairmont City to Marion, IL (City Slogan: 'Marion: home of Marion Federal Prison and... no, sorry, that's all we got') we continued to attend the Christmas Eve festivities. The four of us (my mom and dad and my brother and I) would get there, celebrate, eat, unwrap presents, then climb into the car for the 2 hour drive home. After we moved to Peoria we did the same thing, adding an hour to the travel time. We never considered stopping (at least to my knowledge we never discussed stopping) and to this day the drive holds some of the best family moments of my life.
  • Early on in this tradition, there was a sense of having to outdo each other. You see, unlike now, we did NOT draw names for the adults, gifts were bought for EVERYONE!!! Every single person got gifts for every other single person... it was an absolutely lavish concept. Here's an example: if Uncle 'Z' gave Nephew 'X' two Transformers (more than meets the eye you know...), then Uncle 'Y' had to give that nephew three of them... though, speaking from a child's perspective, it was a jackpot. Now, we have altered it to the adults drawing names with a price limit and everyone gets the kids something; so it has mellowed as we have ALL gotten older.
  • The house. My Aunt Adele & Uncle Nishan hosted the event from its inception up to 2000 when my parents moved back to Edwardsville and bought a large house for the purpose of being able to host family events and parties for friends. Even though my Aunt & Uncle's house in Fairmont was small (they had one child and them so they never saw the need for a really big house) we would all be there. I am talking about anywhere from 50-75 people in a house that was probably 1000 square feet. Years later, my Aunt and Uncle moved to a slightly larger house (1300 square feet) in Edwardsville and continued to host Seating may have been at a premium (you get up from the coveted couch seat, you lose it; 'no saves knucklehead!' as my cousin Ray would say)
  • The year we played a trick on my Aunt Dorothy, who has a long-lasting fear of mice. One year, my family and I decided to play on that for her present. We bought a rubber mouse, an old-fashioned mousetrap, and my mom added some fake jewels to it to make it look all nice and pretty. Then we put the rubber mouse's head in the snap. Wrapped it, and presented it to her that night. She opened it and boom! She was gone in a flash, like there was an Aunt Dorothy-shaped hole in the wall of the house where she burst out. Classic, priceless stuff.
  • There's also something about my brother falling (though he maintains he was "pushed" by one of our cousins) into the Christmas tree one year, though I was asked to leave that out of this post and... oops, sorry Al... my bad.

These are all some of the Christmas memories I have of the past, each one special, each one unique, and each one that I will never forget.

Now, with a wife and two children, I am busy making new memories with the three of them.