This is always one of the busiest days in my year. We host a large party which has evolved over time. For many years, there were about a dozen people; we sat around an elegant table and ate very well. As children have grown up and families have expanded, we have also included dear friends and their families--and have long outgrown the table. Now there is a buffet (still good food), champagne, music, and again the chaos of small excited children.
Traditions are the heart of holidays, and this evening includes several for us. Our town gathers around the town Christmas tree at 7:00 PM (or is it 7:15? We never remember and have to call the Police to ask) to sing carols. Several hundred people, some wearing santa hats, wide-eyed and over-stimulated children, dogs with bows around their necks, babies and old people--all of us singing loudly and mostly ignoring the conductor. One year, when there was fortunately several feet of snow on the ground, he became so frustrated with our lack of attention that he gestured more wildly than usual and fell right off the platform.
One of our charter attendees makes a gingerbread house every year. After dinner, an old table cloth is spread in the hall, and the house carefully placed in the center. We all admire it for the last time, and then the children (armed with small hammers) destroy and eat it. One of the real joys was the re-introduction of this moment a few years ago. Our own daughters had outgrown the activity, but now there is a new generation of eager destroyers and eaters.
Finally, my own mother gathered the children around her each Christmas Eve to read Why the Chimes Rang. This is an old, sappy, tear-jerking and wonderful book that is central to my memories and traditions. Now I do the reading.
Tonight, I will raise a glass and think of us all. WIshing you and yours, whatever your traditions, a very lovely and meaningful holiday.