Trees and Pants
Barbie Jesus

A Wise Tradition

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I lived down the hill and through the graveyard from our church. On Christmas Eve, my parents would go to Midnight Mass, then host a party for all of their friends and neighbors who also attended Midnight Mass. My Mom made crescent rolls (from scratch!) and seafoam candy; my Pop scrambled up a boatload of eggs and fried up bunches of bacon. There was coffee and orange juice and much laughter and talking.

When my parents moved to their retirement community, they decided that they could not host a big shindig anymore, especially one that started at one o'clock in the morning. So the tradition got changed up a little and went from Post-Midnight Mass breakfast to Christmas Eve dinner. Rather than neighbors and friends, this party was all family -- Mom, Pop, us kids, grandkids. Everyone brought presents for everyone, so the highlight of the evening was the present opening extravaganza.

Naturally, as the families grew larger, the parties grew larger and my folks grew older. When my Pop got sick and frail, we moved the dinners among us. We all took turns and the families grew some more. It really started running into money to buy presents for everyone! I put a $5.00 limit on gifts for my nephews and nieces, and even that amounted to more than 50 bucks! Still, it was our tradition, our way to celebrate with the whole clan intact. (In fact, the thing you might not know about me is that one year I gave whoopee cushions and joy buzzers to my nephews and nieces. I bet you were wondering how I'd work in a factoid. Or maybe not!)

After my Pop died, we changed it up again. Instead of having the dinner at someone's house, we reserved a private party room at a local restaurant. We decided that, instead of gifts for all, everyone should just pay for their dinners and bring one gift -- for Mom. These gatherings were just as fun!

A couple of years later, my younger sister claimed the dinner for her own and began hosting it at her house. By this time the family had started to scatter; the first crop of kids were marrying, having kids of their own, and creating their own traditions. The dinner continues, though, with fewer partiers but just as much of a party, just as much laughter, and just as much love.

Laughter and love -- that's the best thing about tradition, isn't it?