In my last blog, I mentioned that we lived in a Hallmark Christmas Town, and that along the way, we’d been watching a whole lot of Hallmark Christmas movies! Frankly, we are suckers for the movies because we love this time of the year! Right from the beginning, I knew that Susie loved Christmastime, and that she’d make the perfect Mrs. Clause, so on Christmas Day 1978, I asked Susie to marry me! Thankfully, she said yes, and started everything for us, including a heck of a lot of our Christmas Traditions!
Christmas Traditions, like all family traditions, are more often than, not born out of necessity. Do you know the story about the young girl being instructed by her Mom about how to cook a leg of lamb? Her Mom tells her to cut off the last 2 inches of the leg of lamb, and place it next to the leg. The girl asks the Mom why, and she replies, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Grandma always did it.” The next time she’s with her Grandma, she asks the same question, and Grandma’s answer is, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Great Grandma always did it.” A couple of weeks later, she visited her Great Grandma in the Nursing Home and told her what her Mom and Grandma had told her, and asked her Great Grandma, why she cut off the last 2 inches? Grandma’s answer, “I didn’t have a pan big enough!”
When I was a kid, both my Mom and Dad were singers in New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus. Holidays were just days on the calendar, and unless they fell on a Sunday, the Met gave a performance. If it happened to fall on a Saturday, they gave two performances! The last thing they needed was a little kid (me) waking them up at sunrise on Christmas morning, when they may have gone to bed at 2 AM, and probably had to work that night. So, in our family the tradition of Christmas Eve became a bigger deal. Once I was a little older, our Christmas celebration started as soon as my folks got home from their Christmas Eve performance. Everybody would get into their PJs, we’d drink Andre Champagne, eat Italian cold cut sandwiches, and open presents. On Christmas morning, I was free to get up, lay under the Christmas tree, and play with gifts, while they got to catch a couple of more hours sleep!
Whenever a family gets blended, traditions from both sides get shoehorned together, and the Christmas Traditions of that new family are born! In the early years of our marriage, we’d celebrate with my folks on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day head over to Susie’s folks. As time went on, there were new traditions born, and more blending took effect. Somewhere along the line, probably in an effort to emulate the Italian Seven Fishes of Christmas Eve, my Mom and Dad started hosting a lobster dinner on Christmas Eve. Within a couple of years, Susie’s folks were coming to my folks house on Christmas Eve, and my folks would join us at Susie’s folks’ house on Christmas Day. The families were indeed blending!
Then came the kids! When you have three little kids, Christmas gets to be an even bigger day on the calendar, and the D’Elia Family, since Mrs. Clause happened to be the 3 kids’ Mom, was right up there with the best of them! Christmas Eve’s at my Mom’s house in Bayside became a huge event, complete with Susie’s folks, lobsters for all, and a need to run to church, where the 3 kids could be a part of the Christmas Eve Pageant every year. Eventually, as my Mom got older, Christmas Eve moved to our house in Mineola, but the lobster traditions and the run to the Community Church of East Williston continued, until our 3 were too old to be a part of the pageant. In later years, as the kids grew, and driver’s licenses were earned, a new tradition was born. Billy, Krissi, and Kenny would head down to Jordan’s Lobster Farm in Island Park, pick up the lobsters and on the way home, stop at a local diner for breakfast.
It’s hard to believe, but it was 40 years ago this Christmas that Susie and I spent our first Christmas Eve at my folks house as a married couple (we got a microwave). Although our traditions have changed and been modified here and there, I think my late Mom and Dad would be proud that what started for them out of necessity, is still a huge part of our Christmas life! While we kept the food traditions that were started years before with my folks, the opening of presents went traditional and landed on Christmas morning! Dad would come down the stairs to open up the house and turn on the tree, while Mom kept the 3 little one’s at bay. On the all clear signal, they’d come down the stairs, along with Grandma D’Elia, and everybody would take their “assigned” seats, and we were off and running!
Those 3 little kids that we rushed to church on Christmas Eve, and who ran down the Mineola stairs every Christmas morning, are all married adults now, with our oldest even being the Dad of his own three. We no longer live in the same house, same county, or even the same state. We won’t be together with all our loved ones this Christmas, but we will do our best to keep the traditions alive!
This year, Our Boys are with us for Christmas. Kenny and his husband Chris, just back from an almost year long contract with Royal Caribbean, are spending some time with us before starting their new adventure in January. Krissi and her husband Mike will be up in New York, as a mid-week Christmas doesn’t really lend itself to travel, and Billy is down in North Carolina with his wife Lori and our darlings Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, making their own Christmas Traditions! Susie’s brother and sister will be home on Long Island. So, it will fall to Susie and Me and the boys to keep the D’Elia Family traditions alive this year!
There will be lobsters this year, but rather than getting them at Jordan’s Lobster Farm on Long Island, they will come from the Fish Department at Shoprite in Somers Point. Not sure about the boys having breakfast out…it may just be some Chinese Food from the hot bar at Shoprite! The Italian Cold cut sandwiches, and the fried eggplant, and cheeses will be eaten at night, but not be coming from Aridito’s Italian Deli in Mineola, but rather from Shoprite’s Sandwich counter (one stop shopping!). The cheap champagne however, still has an Andre label on the bottle, and will be drunken out of our Christmas Toasting flutes, that have been a part of every one of Susie and my Christmases!
So there you have it, some of our Christmas Traditions! Of course, there will be tuning into Jean Sheppard’s Christmas Story on TBS all day, and the sandwiches and champagne will, as always be accompanied by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! There will be a lot of time hanging in our jammies, laughing at each other, and just creating memories! That’s what Christmas means to us!!
Will we miss our other kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas day? You bet we will, but that’s just the way life is. One benefit is that it expands the Christmas holiday! Billy and Lori and the kids will be coming here to Ocean City the day after Christmas, and we’ll get to re-live the traditions all over again! Early in January, we will visit with Krissi and Mike in Astoria, and once again it will be Christmas! Things change, but the spirit of those Christmases long ago live on, and I hope they always will in our kids and Grandkids!
So, from our family to your’s, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!