Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas Eve

As I reflect upon our Christmas, I realize that it has been 15 years since we have had Christmas Eve and Day in our own home. Timothy now 15 turned one in Americus and we have always gone home to Florida to spend the holidays.

As you can imagine it was a very different type of celebration. My mom reminded me to keep our traditions and I reminded her to be sure to call Uncle Gonzo early Christmas to get him over to open presents. Over the years we would wait at my mom and dad's house for the aunts, uncles, and cousins to arrive on Christmas Day so we could open presents. It was quite a test of patience for the kids to wait for everyone to arrive. Often the boys ended up calling their uncle (several times) to get him moving.

We had been mentally preparing for staying here for the Christmas season. We had spoken of some of the things we miss out on here when we travel to Florida. So we had some ideas of what we would do if we stayed here.

Christmas Eve turned out to be much busier than I anticipated. We began by cooking a ham and fixings for an early dinner. I had hoped that we would have a movie marathon of all those favorite Christmas programs like Rudolph, Frosty, The Year Without a Santa Claus, but the boys weren't interested and the day went by so fast. I think I was still wrapping presents, packing up the big boy for his trip to Costa Rica, and shopping for one or two last minute items I thought he needed. Oh yea and buying my youngest son some dress pants to wear for church. All he has is sweat pants. For our annual family picture in early December he had to borrow a pair of jeans from me (they were too long for me to wear). I never imagined sharing clothes with my boys. Although I do wear the snow boots the big boy outgrew several years ago.

One thing we always miss is that our church has what they call an Instant Christmas and a Living Nativity. The Instant Christmas is comprised of youngsters who reenact the story of the Nativity, as told by Luke, on the altar right before the start of mass. They do this for the first two masses. My little girl wanted to be in the Instant Christmas so she signed up as an angel for the 4:00 mass. At rehearsals it was recommended that we arrive by 3:00 to get seats since this is one of the most crowded masses. Doug and I sat up front so we could get pictures and video. As families arrived for mass, adults passed out props for the children to wear and these children would be called up to join the others during parts of the reading. After an hour of nervous waiting the Instant Christmas Program began. There were angels, shepherds, and sheep that came up from the pews to join the others, on the altar, who had roles that needed rehearsing and I must say it was adorable.

Once this ended the priests and servers processed to the altar to begin the mass. Doug and I conspicuously left the front of the church to take our daughter home. Again, one of the things that the boys have wanted to do for a long time is attend Midnight Mass. At our church in FL, where Doug and I were married and our oldest baptized, the mass is as crowded as it was for the 4:00 mass here. The pews are stuffed with people, extra chairs are added to the ends of each pew, people are standing lining the walls of the church and are gathered in the narthex of the church as well. In FL we have to arrive and hour and a half early for mass.

Since we literally live across the street from our church (a two minute walk with no parking issues as oppose to a ten minute drive and huge parking issues); Doug and I figured we could go early and save seats for the kids having them arrive about 15 minutes before mass stared. This was our plan and the kids were actually excited about this.

Anyway after the Instant Christmas we ate a delicious ham dinner and then got the little one ready for the Living Nativity. Yes, as long as we were home for Christmas we were going to experience everything. The Living Nativity is outside the entry of the church. Members of the parish build a huge framework of a stable and lining what would be the walls with bales of hay. They bring in live animals. We have sheep, goats, cows, and even a camel. Members of the parish also sign-up to be the people of the Nativity. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and an angel. It is too cold for a real baby so they use a doll. My little one was again an angel. Under her costume she had tights, socks, sweat pants, shirt, sweatshirt, and coat. Her role was to greet the people before and after the 8:00 pm mass.

The three of us returned home rested for a bit and them we all got ready for church. Midnight Mass was not a midnight it was at 10:30 (go figure). I did get grumbles about the clothing and shoe apparel for mass. What is mass without someone complaining?!! Luckily we didn't have to leave early since this mass is not very crowded. We arrived about 20 minutes early and got great seats. I think Father must have felt compelled to make mass last until midnight as he had a long and confusing homily. Oh well, it was a beautiful day and we returned home, hopped in bed to await a visit from Santa.

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