As we leave the holiday season behind us, I love to think back about the past few weeks and what they held for me and my family. I am happy to say that I’m one of the blessed few who has a large family that all gets along, and no major issues. Sure, there are things our family battles, and things aren’t always perfect like the Southern California sunshine, but overall we are a lucky bunch. Family is a HUGE deal to me, and I was once again blessed to spend time with both sides of my family over the holidays. We missed Max’s family, but it was so nice to get to spend a whole week with them over Thanksgiving… and I think we’re starting to build our own traditions with his family as well – love it!
If I have to be really honest though, there’s nothing quite like the magic that happens around Christmas for me. There are so many traditions and annual events with my family, so it really feels like there’s a tradition every other day while we are out there. Tiring – but so so so so much fun, and so satisfying!
So as you can imagine, it’s hard to pick just three holiday traditions to make a Tuesday Top 3 list, but I’ll do my best:
1. Christmas Eve Dinner. When we tell people we have 37ish people for a 4-course sit-down dinner on Christmas Eve, we tend to get a lot of
crazy quizzical looks. But yes, y’all… it happens. For years my mom’s mom (Tutu) has hosted this extravaganza, and she always knocks it out of the park. It’s always the same first, second and third courses, and then the main course switches. My incredibly talented cousins, Matt & Victoria, create the menu each year… their skills make me jealous!!
My mom gets the table all set and sets the place cards (which someone tends to go in an rearrange at some point before meal time). Those 37ish places at the table are only for the family members (and guests) 18 years and older, and my sweet Papa always introduces those joining the table for the first time.
A few years ago, one of our favorite restaurants in San Clemente, Carbonara Trattoria, started catering the main course of dinner, and they do such an AMAZING job with the food, and those women really do seem like part of the family, and they’re part of the tradition now!
And this dinner is even more special to me now, since this is where Max proposed to me. He stood up in front of all of my mom’s family, and asked me to marry him. Such an awesome memory to have built into one of my favorite meals of the year!!
2. The Holiday Bowl. Yes, I love this one partially because of my love of college football. But mostly, it’s in my Top 3 because it brings both my mom and my dad’s side of the family together. We all meet at D2 in the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium, and hang out for hours before game time. Food, drinks, laughter, more food, footballs and volleyballs passed around, more food, and good quality family time.
I think the pre-game and halftime shows are always great (the fireworks show is sooooo good!), and that giant flag always gives me goosebumps.
Best year yet? My first Holiday Bowl when I was actually in college – Texas Tech beat Cal and it was just way too much fun!
3. New Years Eve. Most people have lavish party or go out to celebrate… We go to the beach. A beach with a fire, and more food. And most importantly, more family! We watch the sun set, and when the embers are cooling, we head back up to Tutu & Papa’s house. Board games, more food, and lots of excitement when the ball drops in Times Square. As the count down creeps to 9pm, and we watch the ball drop, I’m able to look around the room and see so many faces I love. I see my family hugging and kissing one another as “Happy New Year!” is said to one another. Sure, the New Year technically doesn’t hit until a few hours later, but for my family on the West Coast, the East Coast moment is the big one. Typically we’re all in bed by about 10:30 or so, and though it may be a little disappointing on the New Years scale, it’s pretty much perfection to me.
So there you have it – some of my most favorite holiday traditions! What are your favorite traditions?