Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Past, Christmas Present

Christmas was my Aunt Margaret's favorite time of year.

Aunt Margaret was my mom's oldest sister, and the sibling that lived closest to us growing up.  She spoiled us more than relatives (aside from grandparents) are supposed to - all the big, fun, expensive stuff of our childhood came from Aunt Margaret and Uncle Leon.  My brothers' first Atari, and then the first Nintendo (back when they were not hand-held versions, and still needed an adult to hook up to the television).  She used to take me back to school shopping and buy me an entire wardrobe for the rest of the year, and often it was clothes my mother would never have let me wear, had her older sister not purchased it for me.

She loved Christmas.  For reasons still unknown to me, my family celebrates Christmas on the 24th, not on Christmas Day.  Growing up, Christmas Eve was always a huge party, and by huge, I mean 30+ adults, and then children on top of that.  Margaret always wrangled the adults and the food, which was usually potluck and plentiful.  In an unusual (at least to me later in life) twist for a Chinese family, there was always a pinata.

She always made the kids gather round the piano, my mother would play, and she would make us sing Christmas carols, and she would make us sing all of them.  She even passed out little booklets, so everyone knew all the words.  This was the price we happily paid for the stacks of presents that formed a ring 4 feet around the tree.

I love that it's a fake white tree behind us!

When the time came for the actual gift giving, the kids would be gathered together and Santa would make his entrance.  Santa was whichever uncle happened to have a few extra pounds that year, or whoever had gotten out of it in the last two years.  Santa would enter through the front door with his Chinese accent, carrying a black garbage bag full of toys.  When he was done distributing what was in his bag, he would give an accented ho-ho-ho and leave out the front door.  Margaret and the aunts would take over giving out the rest of the gifts, and every person's name would be called out individually, and every person would have to fight his/her way to the tree to get it.  As you can imagine, this took forever. Our Christmas Eve parties lasted well past children's bedtimes.  (That's my little bro Eric, my Dad and my Mom).

We've been without my aunt for a few years now, and this season is always when I miss her most.  While we try to keep up the big Christmas Eve party tradition, its not quite the same.  We are no longer forced to sing, although now we're lucky if someone remembers to turn on some Christmas music.  There's no pinata, although now that there are more kids, I'm starting to think maybe we should bring that tradition back.   And now its those kids who ask during appetizers, "When can we do presents???"

I wish she were here to see it.   And this one, CJ on Christmas morning.

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