Family abounds at holiday time

Claire Van Aken, staff writer

The holiday season for my family is full of more than just Christmas festivities  and ringing in the new year. In fact, the entire family celebrates several celebrations and anniversaries this time every year. Both sides of my family have held the month of December accountable for most of all of our gatherings.

In chronological order, the first special date in December starts with my Aunt Kristin’s birthday, December 15. Kristin is my dad’s sister and the leader of our tribe when it comes to party planning and snapping quality photographs at events. Ultimately she’s the social butterfly, aka she knows almost everyone she sees. We always celebrate with a nice dinner all together, which happens rarely. The good thing about KVA is that no one ever needs to know her size in clothing and that’s because she could never have too much jewelry, so that’s what we get her.

The following day is the anniversary of my parents’ wedding day. On December 16, 2006, they were married with a gorgeous white blanket of snow on the ground much like today. Just like many couples would do on an anniversary, they typically enjoy a nice dinner together without the kids, but they always bring us home something to eat. They never went on a honeymoon, but each day is another adventure with four daughters and a dog (she’s a girl too). Poor dad.

After the 48 hours of mass chaos, our family gets a break until Christmas Eve comes around the corner. On Christmas Eve, both sides of the family have dinner together before midnight mass at our church. The service is always so gorgeous. We sing Christmas classics and it’s lit by candlelight. We always love going to feel the true meaning of Christmas and wake up on Christmas Day for all the right reasons. 

Christmas celebrations depend on the year, but one thing that always stays the same is Christmas morning brunch at my house with both sides of the family. And then we get ready for an afternoon with my Grandma Van Aken opening gifts and having dinner together. As for my mom’s side, things are a little less traditional in the sense of when we celebrate. For as long as I can remember, Christmas has always been pushed back on my mom’s side. Her stepdad has had jobs all around the world in places like Nigeria, Algeria, and domestic areas as well. This means that Christmas always was put off until everyone could be together. Once my grandpa was home, we always celebrated another year we could all be together. 

The excitement never stopped there either. For me, I never got sad looking at the clock at 11:59 on Christmas night because the next morning was my birthday. I was born the day after Christmas, so even though the magical holiday is over, I still get some extra fun afterwards. In 2002, upon my arrival, my mom had the biggest plot twist added to Christmas Day. I would never say it took a turn for the worse but totally the unexpected. It was probably the longest day ever for my family. I get asked often “does having your birthday the day after Christmas stink?” And the answer is no. For me, it’s just an extra day to celebrate all the awesome things in life. And a day to do some damage to my bank account which is only acceptable on my birthday. But all in all, my December birthday is awesome. 

The long holiday season gets longer in my family. But, there is so much laughter and jokes around this time of year. The excitement of giving, receiving, and even recalling the best moments of our past. We all enjoy our time together reflecting on some of our best moments as a family, and we never plan on stopping.