For this year’s holiday season, we put together the longest and most elaborate vacation my family has ever taken. This trip includes a 7-night Caribbean Cruise, stays in 5 different hotels (not counting the cruise ship), plus visits to Disney World, Legoland, Kennedy Space Center, and Daytona Beach. We have been planning and saving for this trip over 2 years and it is hard to believe that it has finally arrived (I wrote this about 1/3 of the way into the trip).
In the midst of all this excitement, we put together a very quiet, family-focused Christmas. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were set aside to spend at my parents’ house. They retired to Florida a number of years ago and this is the first time that I have been able to spend Christmas Day with them since that move. Even more importantly, it was the first time that they were able to spend Christmas with their grandson. My sister, who lives in Florida as well, was also able to join us on Christmas Day. I really am not entirely sure when was the last time before this that all four of us (my parents, sister, and me) were together on Christmas. I’m pretty certain it was close to 20 years and might even have been more.
While this isn’t the first time my family has visited during the Christmas season, in the past, we have either come earlier in December or closer to the new year. While this allowed us to do some early or late Christmas celebrations, this is the first time since I’ve been married (much less a father) that I have been able to bring my family to actually spend Christmas Day itself with my parents. I am quite sure that this made this visit a particularly special one for all of us.
We chose to keep the celebration itself pretty simple, which I think made for the perfect chance for the family to simply spend and enjoy the time together. We arrived at my parents’ house around 8:30am on Christmas Day and opened presents. There was quite a nice collection of gifts under the tree this year. I’m not quite sure if my son or my sister’s two dogs got more presents, but I think it was probably pretty close. We all found that pretty amusing.
When my parents asked for ideas for gifts for my son, Andrew, it occurred to me that he had really enjoyed the Despicable Me movies, particularly the minions, but didn’t have any toys or other merchandise from that. My parents and sister took that to heart and got him plush toys, a personalized mug, and, the biggest hit of the day, a singing/talking toy minion. He was amusing in his reaction to the vocal antics of the minion, which was basically "That’s really annoying… but I like it!" all in one breath.
Santa must have known that Andrew is a fan of game shows and that he was on a vacation that would include a couple visits to the beach. His main gifts this year were a Wheel of Fortune board game (Disney themed), a Jeopardy calendar, and a nice set of beach toys. He was pretty happy with all of those gifts and the Wheel of Fortune board game provided us with another family activity for the afternoon.
Other gifts received by various members of the family included sweatshirts or t-shirts for each of us from University of Central Florida, where my sister is currently in grad school, as well as the usual assortment of Disney items. My wife found a particularly clever Disneyland t-shirt of Darth Vader riding the Astro-Orbitor (and holding a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar!), which she got for me. I hadn’t seen that one before and got a big kick out of it.
While my family has usually gone out for fairly big Christmas dinners at some restaurant or another, my parents very wisely decided to do a nice dinner at home this year. They cooked a delicious dinner of ham, baked potatoes, salad, green-bean casserole, and apple or pumpkin pie for dessert. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the menu choices were a great mix of good, festive food without requiring that my parents (or any of the rest of us) spend so much time in the kitchen as to lose out on good family social time during the day.
Overall, that really was the key theme of the day. With activities that included play time with my sister’s dogs, playing the Wheel of Fortune board game, watching Finding Nemo (Andrew’s choice) and the Disney Parks Holiday Parade on TV, and quite a bit of time just simply sitting around talking, this was very much a day of family togetherness and was one of the nicest Christmas holidays that I remember.