10 Random Holiday Things

A little while back, Catie Rhodes put her own unique spin on the “10 Random Things About Me” blog post idea. She took the challenge to the next level and posted “10 Random Holiday Things.” I enjoyed reading Catie’s post, and the idea fit perfectly with my December “Home for the Holidays” theme.

So I’m stealing it.

My 10 Random Holiday Things

1. Thanksgiving and Christmas always make me want to turn in my girl card. I go the entire year thinking that making toast or heating up ramen noodles is “cooking.” Then the holidays hit, and I feel like a chump because I’m not that girl who makes lovely five-course meals for holiday guests and if my kitchen smells like gingerbread or homemade cookies it is because I have a scented candle burning.

Then I remind myself that learning to cook IS on my bucket list, but I don’t plan to kick the bucket for a while. I’ve just got more interests than I do not-at-work hours, and cooking never edged its way to the top of the list. Besides, I’ve got so many good cooks in my family – Lee, my mom, my dad, my sister. We need a writer, and that’s all me.

2. We no longer have small children in my family – my niece is the youngest at 14. But we still do Easter Egg hunts in my parents’ backyard. Mom fills plastic eggs with scratch-off lotto tickets. Each year, one of us volunteers to be the egg-hider. My parents have a huge yard, with lots of nooks and crannies. Once the hider has done his or her duty, the rest of us take off in a frenzy. There have been a few instances where a mother or daughter almost got pushed in the pool in the mad race for a pink plastic egg sitting in a poolside flowerpot. Of course, at that time of year, the pool is covered in plastic and kind of slimy.

After all the eggs are found, we gather at the table with a handful of pennies and scratch. We’ve never had a “big weiner” as we call a true lotto score, but we have so much fun with the tradition that it doesn’t really matter.

3. I have a soft spot for Charlie Brown Christmas trees. Show me a scruffy looking little pine tree at Christmastime and I get all misty-eyed. I want to take them all home and decorate them. Lucky for me, my house is way too small to accommodate this weird sentimentality.

4. For such a Christmas tree softie, I have strange tastes in Christmas music. My favorites are “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink 182 and “Father Christmas” by The Kinks. My office mates probably get sick of these songs around the holidays because I You-Tube them at least once a day in December.

5. I grew up in the Best Halloween Place Ever. We lived in a circular rowhome community of a few hundred houses. The whole neighborhood went all-out for Halloween. Not only did every kid in our neighborhood take trick-or-treating as a serious sport, but parents from nearby areas drove carloads of children over to our street rather than take them out in their own neighborhoods.

Almost every house had a grownup or two sitting outside to give out candy. About 1 in 3 of those grownups wore costumes. Everyone had jack-o-lanterns on their porches, most had other decorations as well, and about one in every 10 homes went all out and had some kind of haunted house or graveyard going on in their yards. It was pure awesomeness.

Those great memories make the trick-or-treaterless street I live on now seem awful forlorn on Halloween. Thankfully, I have the pub to run to, where the tricksters are always out in full force on Halloween.

6. I love my family’s Christmas morning traditions. We still all gather at my parents’ house, sit around the tree, and open gifts together. Then we eat the ginormous breakfast my dad makes and all laze around for the rest of the day. We enjoy each other’s company and our new loot, but we also do a lot of napping.

When I was growing up, Christmas dinner was always at my maternal grandparents’ house. My paternal grandparents came too, so the family was still all together. “Granny Babes” as we all called her was full-blooded Italian, and made incredible lasagna. Luckily Mom got the knack for that too. We’d all chow on that lasagna and then Pop would gather all the kids in the living room and get his model train set going under the tree. Those grandparents are gone now, and the aunts and uncles and cousins who were always there all live farther away. I miss those big family dinners.

7. I kind of think Valentine’s Day is a weenie holiday. I’m all about love and romance, but Vee-Dee doesn’t cut it for me. I don’t want to go out to dinner when the entire neighborhood is doing the same thing. All those jewelry store commercials that put a price tag on love (I’m sorry, but you’ve gotta have some kickin’ bad breath if the only way you can get kissed is with Kay) make me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. And I hate how the day always makes some single people feel crappy. On Vee-Dee, Lee and I are most likely to do something off-beat like pick up cold cuts from our favorite deli and watch a creepy movie.

8. I love decorating outside my home for Christmas. My ex-hubby was never that into it, but Lee is often even more of a kid about it than I am. The first Christmas we lived together and I discovered that he was actually psyched about putting up decorations, I was so happy I bounced around like a demented Tigger. Even in years that the budget makes us scale back to avoid butt-kicking electric bills or buying replacement lights at the expense of Christmas gifts for our loved ones, we do what we can and have a ton of fun with it. We wait for a warm-for-December Saturday, make a pot of coffee and go to town on our decorating.

He does the roof-work, though. We don’t want me up there.

9. Christmas helped me discover my love of writing. When I was 8 or so, I wrote down all the stories my grandmom had told me about her childhood in West Virginia. I even drew stick figure illustrations. I gave my masterpiece to her for Christmas and she was so happy she cried. The combination of how much I enjoyed the project and how overwhelmed I was by her reaction hooked me on storytelling.

10. When I was a kid, I always spent New Year’s Eve with my grandparents so that my parents could go out and do grownup stuff. Right before midnight, we’d pile in the car and my grandfather would drive downtown. He knew a perfect off-the-beaten-track spot to park where we could see the Baltimore Inner Harbor fireworks display without being part of the crowds.

These days, I spend New Year’s Eve at Hawley’s Pub. I was never one for crowds and glitz and hype – I did a few New Year’s Eve outings at the downtown bar strips or bigger clubs in my 20s, and they were always kind of a letdown. I have a lot more fun hanging out in our little local pub, having drinks and munchies with friends and family, then putting on our goofy hats and tiaras and toasting with our plastic glasses of champagne at midnight. 

What about you? What are your favorite holiday traditions? If you choose to do a post of your own rather than just pick a few to talk about here, please leave a note in the comments so I know to check it out!

About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Family, Home for the Holidays, Memoirs, Slices O' Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to 10 Random Holiday Things

  1. l'empress says:

    You do realize you don’t have to cook a five-course meal? You need one specialty that you bring to someone else’s house, where other people are doing the same. (You wouldn’t believe the number of frozen canape things that turned up at the last Thanksgiving.) I bring cranberry chutney; it’s not the best thing I can make, but it is the most portable.

  2. My son swears that I rewrapped a Christmas gift he put under the tree for me because I didn’t like the way he wrapped it. He’s exaggerating–I only changed the bow. Okay, I’ll admit I’m a little anal, but I’m doing better. For the past few years, our granddaughter, who’s seven, has put up the village under our Christmas tree. She actually does a pretty good job, but it’s so much fun to watch her do it, that it doesn’t matter how it turns out. After the village is done, my husband brings out his old Lionel train set. He always makes eggnog, too. Without these things, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Diana, I wish you could come and wrap my presents for me! I love doing it, but I never think my finished products look as pretty and perfect as I want them to, and they’re never the masterpieces others seem to create! I blame it on being a lefty even though that probably has nothing to do with it : ). I so miss those train sets. We’ve never done homemade eggnog, but in the past few years my dad has come up with an “apple pie” drink that is quickly becoming a Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s tradition!

  3. Your fondness for the holidays almost makes me wish I felt the same way about holidays. Almost.

    I don’t. Not that I’m a grump or anything. I just approach every day as special in its own way and abhor all the commercialism and fuss around certain days of the year. Inevitably, a family tiff will arise because someone can’t attend a planned function and I (as unofficial peacekeeper of the family forever and ever amen) will go to great lengths to “make it right.”

    My best holiday season ever was the year my husband left me. I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas ALONE. It was sublime. I did what I wanted to do for the first time in my life. What a gift that was! Now I celebrate with the family, but it’s a toned-down celebration, focusing on being together, not on gifts and such. There are still family tiffs and hurt feelings, so PeaceMaker Me is on duty, but some traditions are traditions. 😉

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Lorna, I actually love your outlook and sometimes wish I could be more like it! I try to appreciate every day, but struggle with that a lot during the mundane workweek (especially the five-dayers!), so I tend to be more the type that perks herself up by looking to good things ahead – the next holiday, day off, Saturday morning of writing. And I so get loving the holidays you got to do what YOU wanted the best. I always look forward to my week off between Christmas and New Year’s. Other than New Year’s Eve, I have very few social things going on other than New Year’s Eve, and I just chill. Reading, writing, sleeping in and staying up late, exercising when I want to instead of when I can cram it in, catching up on movies … ok, I’m making myself drool in anticipation now : ). So admire your Peacemaker skills too and wish I shared them. Luckily, my family doesn’t have too much holiday bickering – when we go there it tends to be on “just a regular day.”

  4. Jeff says:

    Haha! I LOVE “Father Christmas” by The Kinks! It’s probably my very favorite non-traditional Christmas song.

  5. Aurora, HSP says:

    Love this, all lovely but I especially adore number 9. Thinking of you as a little girl with your gift of story spilling forth… love love love… so you 😉

  6. Stacy Green says:

    I agree about Valentine’s Day being a weenie holiday. Celebrate the love year round, lol. My favorite Christmas memories are at my Grandma Green’s house, when the entire family (40+ people) around and unwrapped gifts. Now, with Grace, we have our own traditions of baking Santa cookies on Christmas Eve, and then going to Grandma’s house in the morning.

    Thanks for sharing:)

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Those huge whole-family Christmases are such fun chaos, aren’t they! Of course, I like close-knit at home traditions too. I remember leaving out cookies for Santa – we had always baked a ton of chocolate chip and sugar cookies by then by I had to make sure to pick out just the right combination. And of course, a perfect letter to Santa and carrots or celery for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer : ).

  7. tsonoda148 says:

    Loved your post! And your storytelling. Christmas for me has changed a lot since I was a kid. We had lovely traditions like using real socks (knee socks for me and my sister) to hang on the mantle and the cookie swap between all the aunts. It was fun. I tried to continue some of the old traditions once I had kids but my life was much different then. I was in the Air Force and far from my home town. My kids grew up getting a lot more gifts but ‘not getting’ a lot of the same traditions that I had. It all worked out though. Now I enjoy watching my Grandson’s anticipation of the big day and it keeps me young. Then it all comes around again. Ah, life!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      The socks and the cookie swap seem like such wonderful family memories! I’m glad that after being away from your hometown during the holidays you now get to see your Grandson getting geared up about the big day! We still have so much fun in my family, but I do miss having a little one around who wanted to stay up all night and try to catch Santa : )!

  8. Catie Rhodes says:

    Thanks for the mention! I have always enjoyed cooking, but I didn’t learn how to *really* cook until I became a stay-at-home wife. Real cooking just takes time. My advice: pick something you really want to learn how to cook and focus on that one thing. Cook it on weekends. If possible, freeze portions for later meals. You will love yourself when you can thaw out a portion of lasagna for two on a tired weeknight.

    Like you, I rarely leave the house on New Years Eve (or Valentines Day). Too many crazy people out on the roads. Too many chances for an encounter with John Q. Law. No thanks.

    Enjoy your the hellidaze, girl. They are almost over. 😀

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