Christmas is a wonderful time in the [redacted] household in Tucson, Arizona! Here are some staple holiday traditions and seasonal family idiosyncrasies I loved (or hated) growing up:
Gaslight Theater: One of my favorites! To begin the holiday season, we go to the Gaslight Theater for a cheesy holiday special. There is usually a big group of us (~25 family and friends) at the show and those of all ages have a blast. First, they open the show with a Christmas sing-along. During the show, they serve food and drinks (cheese sticks and a Shirley Temple, please) and all the popcorn you can eat (and throw). After the show, they do a sort of stand-up routine with goofy songs and puns. There’s always a medley where a beautiful female star serenades men in the audience, so naturally, my brothers and dad, who hate being in the spotlight, fight for the least accessible seat to shield themselves. To finish the show, Santa comes out and passes around candy canes. It’s such a fun time.
Block party: During the holiday season, we used to throw a Christmas block party for the neighborhood complete with a gift exchange.
Looking at lights: We would drive around for a bit once a week or so leading up to Christmas looking at display lights. It’s especially cozy when we get Starbucks hot chocolate.
A tale of two trees: For a while now, we put up two trees in our house. One fake tree and one real tree. The real tree has become a pain in the ass because the needles fall off every time my spatially unaware dog Bailey walks by it or wags his tail to knock ornaments off the tree.
Hanging ornaments: I would always hang the ornaments with my brothers’ names in the back of the tree and they would do the same to mine (but up high where I can’t reach to move it) and each others just for laughs. Also, we make sure the Michael Jackson ornament we got as a gag gift is right in the front at eye level for the world to see.
Christmas Eve service: During the day, we would take time out from preparing for our Christmas Eve party to attend the service at our church. However in recent years, I’ve begun to loathe it and it was only until last year my parents stopped forcing me to go (it only took 22 years).
Christmas Eve party: We host an open house Christmas Eve party with plenty of amazing appetizers, desserts and Christmas spirit. I also have a tradition of becoming socially exhausted by 7:30PM and retreating to my room with a big bowl of spinach dip to watch Christmas movies with my favorite person: me.
Waking up early: No matter how old we get, we always get up early to open gifts on Christmas Day! However, where Christmas starts around 9AM these days, it used to start a lot earlier (around 5:30AM).
Socks and underwear: My parents always get my brothers and I socks and underwear for Christmas and we have to act thrilled in the picture. Although, I quite like getting them these days!
“Squeaky”: Every year, we give my dog stuffing-less toys with two squeakers in them, which annoy us for about five minutes until he rips the squeaker out.
Roadtrip: Up until around the time I started university, the day after Christmas, we would drive to my dad’s parents’ house outside Los Angeles for an extended family Christmas. Most everyone would be there (~25 of us total) bar the out-of-state “grown up” cousins for a gift exchange. We used to do a cousin secret Santa, as well! After my dad’s parents, we would also visit my mom’s dad a short drive away and do a gift exchange there. I always loved my grandpa’s massive tree and porcelain villages decorations.
3… 2… 1…: After visiting family in Los Angeles, we would head down to San Diego and spend New Year’s with my dad’s brother and his family. As kids, we would play video games (SSX Tricky) and watch cartoons and films all night until I barely made it to midnight (not so much anymore, I’m in bed promptly by 10:30PM). The next day, we would drive back home to Tucson.
Although only some of these traditions stand the test of time, I still love spending time with my family during the holiday season. It will be weird (and probably lonely) being on travel this year instead.
Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev