Merry [almost] Christmas! I'm currently sitting on my couch, taking a break after yoga classes this morning, wrapping Christmas presents this afternoon, and just before heading to the gym this evening. It feels so good to just sit down and write! This past week has gone by like a blur - wine night on Monday with a girlfriend, yoga class on Tuesday night, company Christmas party Wednesday, laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning/drinks out with another friend on Thursday, and shopping with my mom yesterday. (I think it goes without saying, yoga this morning was exactly what I needed!) And tomorrow is only the start of the family functions - evening at my aunt and uncle's, then Christmas Eve at another aunt's, then Christmas at my parents', a few days of work, and then heading off on a little out-of-town trip until Sunday. WHOOSH. There goes another week!
So while I'm just sitting here, ridiculously cozy in my big, fuzzy blanket, with a mug of Celestial Seasoning's Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea and watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, I've been thinking about holidays in the past. Call me sentimental, but I love to think back on past holidays and appreciate how different things have been over the years. Some years have been better than others, but every holiday season has brought new memories and valuable time with family and friends. My family has always made an effort to get together during the holidays, no matter how far apart we live. And while we don't wear matching outfits anymore (thanks, Mom) we still enjoy the festivities and have a great time making new memories. (Actually, I have to say - the holidays have gotten significantly more fun since I now that our family has grown and I have little nieces and nephews running around!)
Bless these matching outfits
So my siblings did the same to their kids, 21 years later
I will say, its weird that my siblings and I are now the 'adults' at our family parties. I feel like it was just yesterday that our family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. - would all gather at Papa's house on Christmas Eve for our huge family celebration. We would all bring way too much food, cover the ping pong table in my grandparents' basement with presents, and catch up on whatever was new with our families. We used to spend the entire day together (until it was time for church), opening presents, eating bacon-lard noodles and Christmas cookies, playing games, and watching whatever new DVDs we'd been given. One of my aunts always brought "Bourbon Slush" (a delicious concoction, maybe I'll get the recipe to share!) and we'd just have a great time together. But now we are the aunts and uncles...new traditions, new memories. It's weird, but kind of wonderful.
My family has spent the majority of Christmases in Michigan. But there was one year when I was out near Fargo, ND for school and my brother lived in Minneapolis, MN, so we all decided to gather in the Twin Cities for the holidays. It was probably one of my least favorite memories of Christmas, as I didn't get the chance to go "home" for the holidays. Celebrating in a more central location saved me 14 hours of driving, of course, but still...there's something about being back in your hometown around the holidays.
But then a few years later, I spent Christmas in Michigan then was on a mountain in the heart of the Alps by New Year's (one of my favorite memories of the holidays...you can check that trip out here)! I had literally just graduated from college (on December 17th), moved from Minnesota to Michigan by the 19th, had Christmas with my family on the 25th, and was on a plane to Germany by the 27th. I loved getting to ring in the New Year with my friends in Europe, experiencing a totally new way of celebrating the holidays. It was an incredible year, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
And then last year, I was in the UP for Christmas Eve and Christmas, spending the holiday with John and his family. He had to work on Christmas Eve, so I went to church and had a low-key day at my apartment. Then we spent the day together on Christmas, visiting friends for dinner and spending time with his family. I headed down to my parents' house the day after as he had to work until New Years' Eve. But on the 31st, he drove down right when he was off work and made it just in time for my sister's New Year's Eve party (he had some catching up to do when he got there - haha). It was an absolute blast! And while driving down from the UP in the middle of December is somewhat terrifying, I think we'd both agree that it was completely worth it.
Literally do not miss this one bit.
Anyway...I can't wait for this year. It feels like the first year in awhile that I don't have any long drives or flights for Christmas, given that most of my family now lives only 45 minutes away (I moved down from the UP in September). My brother, his wife, and my adorable niece will even be up visiting from Missouri shortly after Christmas, which will be the first time I've seen them since June! My oldest brother is an Organist, so we've always celebrated Christmas with our immediate family a few days after, usually on the 31st. Then my sister has a big New Year's Eve party and its just one big, fun day full of family, friends, and food.
But despite not having made Christmas-specific travel plans, I did manage to squeeze one little trip in this year.... John will be coming down the 27th and the next day we are heading to Chicago! We'll only be there until Sunday (of course we'll be back for New Year's Eve) but I couldn't be more excited. We're planning to drive down early afternoon on Friday, then who knows - it's going to be a very spontaneous trip (we don't have anything booked or planned)! But what I've learned from my trips to Greece and Germany is that sometimes those are the best kinds of trips: you just go and get lost in a new place...with GPS handy just in case. I haven't been to Chicago since 9th grade (10 years ago, goodness), so I'm definitely looking forward to going back. We even found an AirBNB right in walking distance of public transportation. Win.
Throwback to black hair....never again!
The holidays always make me reflect on how much things have changed over the years. Some changes are great: new nieces and nephews, new relationships, exciting plans or travelling, and goal-setting for the new year. Some changes are not so great: that first year we celebrated Christmas without either grandfather or realizing that certain goals from the previous year just didn't (or likely won't) happen. But with Christmas only three days away (ahhh!) I am choosing to focus on the good things: the growth, the lessons learned, the new opportunities. And I truly hope you can, too.
From my family to yours, I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I'll see you all in 2019!