Raising Richmond: Christmas all over again

My husband and I are spending our eighth Christmas together. As our family gets older, holiday traditions keep growing, and a newly-interested-in-Christmas kid makes things feel a little brighter.

Back when it was just me living in Richmond as a young adult, I only had one Christmas tradition: to move back into my parents’ house in Chesterfield for a few days over the holidays. I would bring my cat, watch movies, hang out with my family, and then return to my cold apartment for the rest of the year, living off the goods my mom packed in my stocking.

Now that I am an old adult with my own family, we’re still finding our footing for our holiday traditions.

I like the Christmas season and Christmas music and trees and joy and giving and eating and watching Die Hard.1 Christmas this year has probably been the best one in a while. It’s been nice to focus on my daughter, who is interested in it for real now. Not that Christmas necessarily has to be for the kids, but it’s been fun witnessing her experience things this year. Here are some highlights of the recent seasons that I hope set the tone for holidays in the future…

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Christmas music

I can only listen to the radio in my car (it’s terrible–targeted new stereo date is January 2015), but I admit I was listening to Christmas music in early November. Although I would prefer for the Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” to play every 20 minutes, I’m also happy to sit through various renditions of “Let it Snow” and “It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas.” My daughter has always had Christmas music in her life, but this year she’s moved on from songs she recognizes from her Peanuts and Muppets records. She loves “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and my new favorite, “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Here is how she is interpreting some classic tunes:

“Deck the Halls”
“Now we have our gauge apparel.”

“Twelve Days of Christmas”
The partridge in a pear tree is still the number one gift, but all other days her true love gives “baby frogs.”

“Away in a Manger”
She has been learning this song in school, and when she’s singing it she will sometimes just replace words with “face.” Like, “no face for a face.”

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
There is no convincing her that “like a mustache!” isn’t shouted after every line.

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 Christmas TV and movies

This was also already on the kid’s radar, but this year she amped up her How the Grinch Stole Christmas viewings, spent a weekend watching Frosty the Snowman Returns, and I let her stay up late to watch the Rankin/Bass Rudolph on TV (which she liked, but as someone raised on streaming services, she was very bored with the commercials). I look forward to A Christmas Story and Home Alone joining the mix, but she’s just not ready for Joe Pesci right now.

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A “Very Richmond Christmas”

I’ve been to most major holiday events in the city (or I’ve written about them, which counts as going). Other than the Gardenfest of Lights at Lewis Ginter, we haven’t done anything more than once with our kid. Last year we saw the Dominion Christmas Parade; this year we did Court End Christmas. I try to keep the weekends light, but I also want to make sure we do something different and fun. It helps that every year is the same stuff, so I know that things like the Grand Illumination will be there when I’m ready to bother going to it again.

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Oh, Santa. He happened anyway, and it’s hard to keep up with the stories of him versus the reality of him. I’ve never said he was coming to our house to deliver gifts, and I usually answer our daughter’s questions with something non-committal. She’s still been pretty excited about him. She first saw him at a school fundraiser. When she spotted him walking around, she leapt into my arms and had to be held until he was a safe distance away from us. She did sit on his lap, and when he asked what she wanted, although she had been saying “a pet monkey” every time she’d been asked before, she shyly said “books.” I thought she said “butts,” though, which also would have been a likely request from her. Books it is!

Later on we went to see a second Santa (the Victorian Santa at Court End Christmas), and on the way home she said, “There are two Santas.” And neither of us said anything else about it.

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Our Christmas tree

This year was the first year since our daughter was born that we’ve had anything bigger than a tabletop Christmas tree. We all helped put it up, and since we don’t have a lot of ornaments, my daughter ended up making several for the tree–that girl can put in some arts and crafts time. Because of my pets-and-kid lifestyle, I expect that all things I have will be ruined. In fact, as I write this, my dog ate a really cute poinsettia that we made today from pipe cleaners. It was not made for dogs! So, as there is a limited time for all items in our house, I let my kid play with the ornaments. She hasn’t broken any, and anyway, they’re not fancy. She’s had fun hiding and rearranging ornaments and making new ones, and I love our weirdly decorated tree.

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Ruining everyone else’s Christmas

Christmas Day–the actual day–is complicated for me because it’s the biggest day of the year where my multiple roles (mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, sister, person who is capable of making and bringing sausage balls to parties) clash, and I have to basically prioritize the people in my life. We thought it would be made simpler by just staying home, but so far it hasn’t. How other people manage being an adult while people still want them to be children, I don’t know. Share your secrets with me how you do this without bothering multiple branches of families and feeling like you’ve ruined the holiday for everyone.

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Christmas Eve

I actually like Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day because it always ends with a big family party at my aunt’s house where we exchange secret Santa gifts, eat a lot, sing carols, and keep kids up too late. As a kid, I spent many years going to work with my mom and hanging out for the day (back when stores would close early), helping bag at the register and enjoying a lunch buffet.

Later, I would love to work on Christmas Eve when I worked at Plan 9. My hundred years working there are all bunched together, but I think we would get dressed up and help moms find the correct Pink Floyd CDs their kids wanted.

The newest of my Christmas Eve traditions began the first Christmas that my husband (then not-husband) and I spent together. Even though we were (newly) living together at the time, we both went to our own parents’ houses on Christmas Eve. Before we parted ways for the night, we went to lunch at a pizza place and got subs. The next Christmas Eve, we were engaged and had just moved into a house together,2 and also ended up getting subs on Christmas Eve when I got off work. Christmas makes me crave chicken parmesan now. We are heading into our eighth year of getting subs at the same pizza place on Christmas Eve. This year it looks like it might be a challenge because of my work schedule, and I’m kind of in a panic about it. IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

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New Year’s Eve

One New Year’s Eve, we hung out with friends as late as our kids lasted together. Mine stayed up to 9:00 PM. No one in our family wants to stay up until midnight anyway, so a dinner party and playtime has been a perfect way to feel like we’re “doing something” for New Year’s Eve, but without having to worry about babysitters and awful things like actually going out.

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Maybe the next 15 years will look the same for us, or maybe we’ll change it up somehow every year. We’ll always find something to enjoy though. May this season be filled with all the family, joy, and hot subs you want.

  1. My husband and I usually watch this at Christmas. It’s one of the rare actions movies that we both like, because I like very few of them. Also what I like very few of: romantic comedies. I have very special feelings about how much I dislike Love, Actually which for some reason men seem to like a lot. I even rewatched it with my husband a couple of Christmases ago. It’s still terrible, and this is after I’ve made the change to loving almost everything Kiera Knightly is in. This hilarious article explains my feelings about it perfectly. Enjoy. 
  2. Damn, we moved fast. Good thing it worked out. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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