You know it as The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. All the holly and jolly and all the rest. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so it’s no wonder I think Christmas is the best. I never had a Christmas I didn’t like, even if there were a few angsty ones peppered in my teens and twenties.
But the most memorable thing about the holiday was family. There was a Swedish celebration on Christmas Eve at my Farmor’s house. I’m not sure who half the people were at the party, but I’m told that most of them were relatives of some degree. And did she even pull out all the stops in her tiny Chicago bungalow kitchen. Meatballs, ham, Pepparkakar cookies, fried anise bread rolled in sugar. And her punch: TDF.
Besides all that, we got presents. On Christmas Eve! The Swedish tradition is that the children get their presents the night before Christmas. A little elf-like creature, Tomtar, hides them. I didn’t know that at the time, but didn’t care because PRESENTS!
So not only did we get to get our Swede on on Christmas Eve, we got to do it all again the next day after Santa came!
Christmas Day (after the whirling dervish of wrapping paper and toys ended) was spent at my Aunt’s house with my mom’s family. There were a few more presents, but mostly just hanging with my cousins and asking for sips of beer from anyone who would share.
Of course, there was more food: a turkey dinner! And afterwards, the men would settle in at the cleared dining room table to play cards (my Grampa was a big card player) while the women “retired” to the kitchen (a woman’s work, and all).
But this was my favorite time and makes for my favorite holiday memory. Sitting in the kitchen with my mom, aunts, and teenaged cousin while the dishes were washed and dried, we sang our hearts out. We were no Lennon Sisters, but the drinks had been flowing enough that the no one seemed to notice. And the laughter that came with it—I can hear my mom’s whooping laugh now.
And although I don’t think it helped me perfect any Christmas Caroling, it was a tradition that bonded us together.
The family has scattered the country now and when we have been lucky enough to be together at Christmas or even Thanksgiving, I have found that the tradition that closely knit us together once, has sadly been torn asunder by the automatic dishwasher.
*I do not know what brand of dish soap my aunt used. And Palmolive, I’m sure, is a registered mark of its owner, who is not me. They are also not affiliated with this post in any manner.