This was supposed to be a story about my families holiday tradition, and how we all come together on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christmas. Instead, it turned into a story about my Moms Christmas cookies, and eating dinner as one big family. I soon learned that every time my family comes together for a special occasion, whatever is for dinner seems to be more important then why we’re all gathered.
Christmas is my Moms favorite time of year. She loves decorating the house top to bottom, in and outside. My mom and my sister have been baking Christmas cookies together for a while now, it’s tradition. My sister is only 16, and I think she has been helping my mom make these Christmas cookies for about a decade now. They get in the kitchen for one whole day, a week or two before Christmas every year and just practically mass produce cookies. My sister is constantly mixing ingredients together while my mom is replacing every finished batch fresh out of the oven with a new one to be baked, like rapid fire, they work great together. They always make a variety of cookies too like chocolate chip, and little sugar cookies with pictures of Santa Claus or Christmas trees on them. The holiday cookies always remind me that Christmas is closing in. I am a big fan of homemade chocolate chip cookies, but around the winter holiday season the Christmas tree cookies feel right. The smell of the cookies always reminds me of home. It’s a welcoming memory that stays with me because it is linked to my Mom, little sister, and the happy holiday season. The smell brings me back home. Even when I’m not at home and I’m out somewhere else, If I smell somebody baking cookies it brings me home and reminds me of mostly, my Mom. I could be all the way up in my bedroom which is nearly the attic in my house, and smell the cookies baking from the kitchen downstairs. And once that happens I head downstairs to the kitchen to bother whoevers standing there manning the oven. “Smells good, they almost ready?”.
My Dad, brother, and I always anticipate this time of year and tease my mom and sister that we need more cookies this year, every year. It started out when I was in elementary school, and my mom only made maybe one batch of cookies. She says every year she did more until a couple years back because she makes too many now. She seriously covers the whole kitchen table with cookies. The first time she did that, she realized she might need to cut it back a little. Cookies filled the entire table, some were so close to the edge that my little dogs were trying to get at them.
Over time, the generations take over. I remember when my older brother and I were just little boys running around the annual Christmas party looking up to my older family members, and my little brother and sister weren’t even born yet. Nowadays, some of those older family members have passed away and some just don’t come around anymore, and now I am one of the adults. My little brother and a bunch of little cousins are all in elementary school, so you know they act like it. They run around all crazy just like I did with my older brother and cousins that are my age. It is funny watching them act like idiots, and run around like their heads got cut off but sometimes they make me mad and my mom reminds me not to freak out because I did the same thing as a kid. Their sometime annoying company is still key for every single family gathering, the young kids just make people laugh.
Since my dad is a chef, he has been preparing every Christmas feast for as long as I can remember, probably longer then my Mom and sister have making Christmas cookies, and like I said I think my sister has been helping for about ten years now. He is an excellent chef and feeds the better half of my big family an incredible Christmas dinner annually. It has been the same thing forever he says, but something gets added every couple years. My dad isn’t Italian but married into a very Italian family. Perfect for him because he loves Italian food and I think I got it from him because I do to. For the Christmas dinner every year he makes his specialty, chicken parmigiana. It is a unique meal for the Christmas celebration but most of my family loves pasta. It is crazy how much pasta we eat as a family. Everybody is always anxious to eat when they get to our house because they can smell the pasta cooking. My cousin that is close to me in age, also a college student, texts me every year on the afternoon of Christmas eve to remind me to text her to let her know when the food is almost ready, and then she comes, right on time specifically for dinner. It cracks me up because one year she literally slipped in the door as we all were just about to sit down.
Christmas Eve is always stressful for my dad. He’s running around the kitchen all day getting dinner ready and worrying about wrapping presents and things like that. My mom just cleans up the house and gets it ready to have a bunch of guests over. I end up helping my dad because I feel bad and because the kitchen smells better than ever. My oldest brother and I give him a hand cleaning up the house, and getting appetizers ready, a little bit of light cooking, and other little things that need to be done before dinner is served. Sitting down for dinner is so anticipated, it is all anyone can talk about. “Yo Mike! Dinner almost ready in there? Im starving!” shouts my uncle to my dad in the kitchen. My dad yells back “Yea, Im working on it”. My cousins jumps in the screaming match “ How long you think Uncle Mike?”, and gets ignored because everybody in my family likes to joke around with her because she can be annoying.
The dining room table gets set by my sister every year and she makes it look nice and neat, just like we were out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. When I walk in and look around the table, I can just see everyone in my head because mostly every year, we sit in the same spots. My dad is always at the head of the table with me and my brothers all next to him. Behind him on the table is a buffet style arrangement of desserts. Every family that comes usually brings at least something.
While waiting for dinner, I catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in a while. Some, I haven’t seen since the same time the previous year. It’s nice talking to everyone who lives far from me and catching up with them. The past couple years, since I have been away at college, every time I come home and see my extended family, all they want to hear about is how schools going. I tell them the same thing everytime, “Its going good actually! Its really hard but its fun! I like it up there”. It’s funny to me because I could be dreading school, and failing every class, and I’d still give them that same generic response. I do appreciate that they care, it’s just that it always happens to be a fast transfer of words.
Before you know it, dinner is served. My dad lines the dining room table with all this food that there is barely room for your drink. Plus, there is usually more of just about everything still in the kitchen incase anything needs to be reloaded, which it usually does because there is a lot of us and we all sit down for a while. We all arrange in what are almost assigned seats at this point, and enjoy the Holiday meal together. I am close with my Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and the rest of my family, nobody lives too far away but not close enough to see everybody all the time. Every time the holiday season comes around its good to see and talk to everybody that I haven’t for a while. Food is really what brings us together. The occasion acts as an excuse for my family to come together around a huge table filled with hot plates and hungry people. I don’t recall ever being at a family party where somebody didn’t go out on a limb to come up with their best meal. Even my Mom, Aunts, and Uncles put on sometimes when my dad isn’t around but for the most part its usually my dad around this time of year, because every party seems to need a lot of food. When we get together as a family there is always the question, “what is for dinner?”. I love getting together as one big family to eat a big dinner together but sometime soon while we eat, I should remind everybody why we gathered up to begin with, especially this upcoming holiday season. The cookies and the great big dinner are all nice, but the family company is truthfully what actually makes the time of year so wonderful.