Monday, December 29, 2008

Evolution of Christmas

I can't help but look back at Christmases past every year and compare them, especially lately. This year's Christmas was a great time-- don't get me wrong-- but it certainly has lost the magic it had when I was a kid. Of course the best part of Christmas is getting together as a family and seeing each other, especially seeing those people I don't see much at all during the year like my brother and sister-in-law and my sister and brother-in-law since they don't live close by. But even with that, as much fun as it is to give on Christmas, it is still fun to receive, especially in tough times like this.

Christmas Eve was-- and continues to be-- spent with our Derby grandparents. This year we actually hosted the Derbys here at our house, something we haven't done for several years. The last time we hosted any family event was Thanksgiving 2003 with them and I have no idea the last time we had Christmas dinner at our house. Now that we have a fully-functioning (and less crowded) living room, it made sense to have it here, though having more people than ever (thanks to two marriages of course) made it pretty tight. Even then, it was still fun and we had a little bit of a blast from the past as the Derbys bought presents this year instead of giving us the traditional $25 we have gotten the last 10 years or so. It certainly created some anticipation! All in all, our Christmas Eve routine has largely stayed the same over the years. That isn't the case for Christmas Day, which has seen the biggest changes over the years.

Left: Katie "escaping" from the stress; Right: the setup in the living room for dinner (and dust on my camera!)

Me waiting for dinner to start; Becky and David opening their present from Derbys

I have no idea what I'm thinking, but my expression is funny!; Andy and Heather opening presents from Derbys

Back in the "good old days" Christmas Day was quite the event, like so exciting I couldn't fall asleep Christmas Eve. Of course growing up has a lot to do with how it's changed, but economics have played an even bigger role. When we were younger, Christmas at our Ridinger grandparents house was probably the highlight of our holiday, most due to the fact that more people came to the Ridinger Christmas (since virtually the entire family lives in Ohio) and since we were the only kids until 1989, we got a LOT of presents. That's not to say our Christmas at home was devoid of wonderful gifts and great memories, but since we had so little money growing up, I think what we got at home were much more in the way of needed gifts and what we got at Ridingers were more pleasure gifts and expensive things that my mom just couldn't afford. But seriously, we were very blessed and there was always great anticipation on Christmas morning no matter where we were. Two things started making Christmas at Ridingers a less-anticipated event: first, other kids were born, so not only were there more people to buy presents for, but there was less money to do it with, so in terms of getting exciting things, there was less to look forward too. Yeah, I know there's more to Christmas than just getting, but being poor my whole life has made getting exciting things even more meaningful! Second, although age had much to do with it, the decision by the Ridinger side to forego the giving of presents for anyone over 18 a few years ago really took a lot out of the anticipation and the whole experience. That decision was driven by the economics of job losses and kids growing up of course. True, not having to get presents for the aunts, uncles, and cousins was a huge money saver, but we have ALWAYS been poor, so it was always a sacrifice to get presents for them and no one ever said a word or even asked us what we thought about the whole thing. I always enjoyed seeing the reactions to what we got them, plus it's always satisfying when I go to their houses and see a present I got them being used or on display. But anyway, that's the way it is now. While I enjoy spending time with all of my family, the Christmas celebration at the Ridingers has definitely lost its luster especially since we all get together just two days before for the annual cookie day where we also celebrate Katie's and Andy's birthdays. In contrast, Christmas morning at our house is probably what I look forward to the most now (though it's hardly ever been something I didn't look forward to). Even this year, where money is as tight as it's ever been for every one of us, we were still able to come together and give each other fun, meaningful and useful gifts. Let's just say I'm looking forward to having more money to be able to buy more gifts for family and friends and I'm looking forward to having young kids (whether they be my own or nieces and nephews) at Christmas again.

Left: The setup Christmas morning; Right: Mom getting her new bed set from all of us!

Me getting Cities and Knights of Catan...YES!!; Andy, Heather, and David watch Becky open a present for her and David

I'd say Christmas this year went pretty well all things considered, though it did seem to be overshadowed by the whole house situation and how little money we all have. I got things I needed and the presents I got (or helped to get) were well received by those that got them. Of course it has been nice seeing Andy, Heather, David, and Becky too, which has probably been the most enjoyable aspect of the holiday (not having to worry about classes for a few weeks hasn't hurt either!).

Notes on larger pictures: 1. the four of us just happened to not only sit together at Christmas dinner at Ridingers, but we also sat in order of age, so my grandma got a picture of it. From right (oldest to youngest) Andy, Me, Katie, and Becky; 2. the same picture with the spouses (David and Heather) added. NICE!


The Mathews said...

So, we totally got the game, "Puerto Rico," for Christmas, and it's kind of like Settlers! So, if you still want to come to B-Town for a break, then you should bring your game, we'll have ours, and we can be total nerds for a day! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

cities and knights! yahoo hoo! :) we've had a bit of a crunch over here during this Christmas (missing the money you get from living overseas) so we had a 'homemade' Christmas. 'Santa' still came for the kids, but the homemade gifts were the best! it was just nice to relax and enjoy the day - hope you have a happy new year! ;) tina