"Hey Robyn! What are you doing for Christmas? What are your Canadian Christmas traditions? Are you sticking around here, or are you going somewhere?"
"I'm staying here for Christmas as all my family's here, although we're alternating now. Last year I went to Montreal with my significant other (as his whole family lives there), but this year we're staying here."
"Cool! What do you do?"
"Well, on Christmas Eve we celebrate with my Mom's side of the family. My parents are hosting it this year. We have a big international potluck dinner featuring everything from smoked salmon to samosas, but since that side of the family's of Ukrainian heritage, we'll also have traditional Ukrainian food like kolbasa, perogies, and cabbage rolls.
When I was a kid, we'd even have a visit from Santa and he'd give out gifts to all the cousins. I think I was 7 when I figured out it was my Dad dressed up. I think Santa stopped visiting us in 1996. But we still manage to do a gift exchange with my grandparents, as they only celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. So they open their gifts from us and we open our gifts from them.
It's always a big crowd on Christmas Eve but we keep it super casual. There will be my grandparents, my 8 aunts and uncles, my 10 cousins, their boyfriends/girlfriends/kids/out-of-town friends, my parents, my sister, her boyfriend, my significant other, and myself. I think there are actually 38 people expected. Not only that, but that side of the family can be a little bit eccentric and usually we break out into a drum circle later in the night. Should be interesting!"
"No kidding! So if that's Christmas Eve, what happens on Christmas Day?"
"Oh Christmas morning (well, early afternoon) we'll go over to my parents where it'll just be my immediate family: my parents, my sister and I and our significant others. We'll all open our presents around the Christmas tree while drinking coffee (or in some cases, beer) while listening to Christmas music. My Dad will sometimes cook up a British style breakfast (bangers with HP sauce, back bacon, baked tomatoes, eggs) while my Mom fusses over how we have to keep an eye on the clock because we have to get ready for Christmas dinner."
"Ha! So there's Christmas dinner?"
"Yeah, Christmas dinner is with my Dad's side of the family - the English/Swedish side of my family. They're all foodies. This year my aunt is hosting the dinner in her new home, and we'll be there with my 4 aunts and uncles, 4 cousins, their significant others and kids, my parents, my sister, her significant other, and my significant other. Slightly smaller group than the night before, but we're still talking a big get together. We manage to get everyone around 1 or 2 giant tables, and it's a tad more formal than our Christmas Eve dinner. We always have a traditional turkey & ham dinner with Christmas crackers and silly hats, endless vegetables and British desserts: homemade trifle, yule log, plum pudding, ginger snaps, bakewell tarts, and a proper cheese platter with port."
"Wow, sounds like a busy time! And so much food!"
"Oh, for sure... it's Go! Go! Go! But in the end, I'm fortunate to have all of my family here in town and to be able to see them all at Christmas. Not to mention, we all get along really well, which not every family can claim. But this has been my Christmas tradition as long as I've been alive! It's busy but fun. Next year? Montreal!"