As a kid, we drove to CA every year (except two) for Christmas. They all kind of blend together, but the feeling remains with me today: my brother and I would spend the night at my aunt's house (with our cousins, who are all near our ages) for Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, my ex-uncle (he wasn't an ex back then, heh) would make a Christmas omelet, and my parents and grandparents (mom's side) would join us for food. We kids didn't like the breakfast, and we'd hide it in our napkins, trying to hurry the adults up so we could open presents (it never worked well, of course).
For presents, everyone would find a spot and usually my brother and youngest cousin (who's only a year younger than my brother) would hand out all the gifts. From there, we took turns, and everyone watched as each person opened one gift (then we'd move onto the next person). Yes, this took a very long time -- in fact, the last one of these we ever did took around three hours. That was the Christmas before my grandpa died, and in honor of him, we had the celebration at his house (for the first time). My husband hadn't been through one of those before, and he almost fell asleep.
Back to childhood -- after presents at my aunt's (my mom's sister), we'd head over to my dad's parents' house, about thirty minutes away. There we'd have another huge meal and a small gift exchange. I don't have any cousins close to my age over there, so I never looked forward to that as much. Usually, I'd find a quiet spot and begin reading my new books.
As an adult, some memorable Christmases include the one at my grandpa's house (my brother, husband, and I drove home together the day after Christmas that year -- we made the entire drive in one very long day, and I spent the whole time in the backseat reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). It wasn't only that it was the final Christmas with my grandpa -- on Christmas Eve, when we arrived, I talked to my grandpa (for the last time while he was lucid), and he told me he loved me for the first time in my life. I managed to hold it together while talking to him, but once I got out of his room, I ran through the living room (where everyone was gathered), and went outside, sobbing. My husband came after me and held me, and I still remember the night air with that specific southern CA feel and my husband's arms around me -- it was a pretty emotional time.
The Christmas before that was also memorable, as I drove to CA with my parents and then flew back on Christmas day to be with DH (we were engaged). I got to see my family, but Christmas Day was just him and his family, and that was a new experience for me.
When I was in college, my grandma (my mom's mom) was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. The last Christmas we spent with her is also memorable, but not a good memory, really. By that time, she couldn't talk at all -- or move. She was completely helpless, trapped in bed, in her body. My mom had been in CA for almost a year caring for her, and most of that Christmas was spent with my mom, as we all caught up again as a family -- I did get to say good-bye to my grandma, though, which was nice. We were never that close, but my Christmas memories are interwoven with my mom's parents and their house and Christmas lights in their neighborhood -- the scent of oranges in the air...my grandma's
Now that they're gone and our Christmases are more about making traditions for our kiddos, things are very different. We spend Christmas Eve with my parents, and the kids get to open those presents there. We've done this since the kids were born, so I think it's a good memory for them. Christmas morning is often spent with my parents, as well -- usually a brunch at our house, as it's my dad's birthday (yep, he was born on Christmas). On Christmas Day (afternoon/evening), we go to my husband's aunt's house (which is also where we had our wedding reception) -- my FIL's family. I like their family very much -- they feel like home to me.
What do you do for holiday traditions? Which holidays remain in your mind from childhood? What do you look forward to this year?