Christmas chaos

Holidays are all about traditions. There's comfort in predictability. When I was little we celebrated Christmas Eve as a family. Together we went to mass, the church bursting at the seams. The sound of the congregation singing carols was incredible. Afterward we would race to my grandma's house. The first grandchild there got to put baby Jesus in the manger of my grandma's nativity scene. My dad likes to talk. And at Christmas Eve mass, there were a lot of people to talk to. I never got to put baby Jesus in the manager. But I was too busy playing with my cousins to notice. We waited impatiently for the supper dishes to be done, because that meant it was time to open presents. By the time the flurry of wrapping paper fell to the ground, we were fast asleep in the car on our way home.

The next morning, like many children around the world, we woke early to see what Santa left beneath the tree. Translation - what my mom and brother put together while my dad slept on the couch and my sister snoozed in the chair. Afterward, we packed up the car again to head off to my other grandma's house. And we enjoyed it all over again.

Eventually things changed a little. But it was gradual. I didn't even notice. This year, mother nature smacked into Christmas, turning it into seven kinds of chaos.

The meteorologists were predicting ice and snow and made it sound like the sky was going to fall. Even before the storm hit there was talk of postponing Christmas Eve at grandma's. I was crushed. More so than I probably should have been. They were talking about moving it to the day Ryan and I had decided to head home. We would miss it. I'd celebrated Christmas Eve at grandma's house every year for 26 years. You just don't mess with something that's been happening for 26 years.

As the storm approached, I lost count of the number of times Christmas Eve was postponed to different days and times trying to find the best time for everyone. We went to my grandma's Christmas Eve any way. It was a smaller bunch and we had frozen pizza instead of the usual chili and clam chowder. But it worked.

Surprisingly, it worked better than expected. Sort of. The storm hit Ryan's home town pretty hard. His parents were without electricity for about 8 hours. And it meant they had to postpone their traditional gathering at his sister's house. They opted to get together on Sunday, and we were able to make it. Since our families live so far apart we don't typically get to spend the holidays with both sides.

While traditions are loved, family is the only thing that matters. And spending time with both of ours was the silver lining to the Christmas chaos of 2009.