Merry Christmas from the Millers! - Christmas 2021
I wouldn’t say my family is big on Christmas traditions but there are definitely a few things you can expect to happen over the holidays that mark the passing of a Miller family Christmas.
I'm afraid of heights but I got my butt up on a ladder to decorate my house for our first Christmas here. Hopefully, by next year, I'll have someone to help me do it!
I’m a very pre-emptive person, I don’t like leaving things to the last minute because I’ve grown up watching my mom do it and it just seems silly and stressful. I also traditionally have a lot of holiday spirit and enjoy this time of year. Yes, gifts are nice to give and receive but mainly I enjoy spending time with friends and family. Since I enjoy the holidays, I like to celebrate them for as long as possible and as soon as Remembrance Day is over, I like to start thinking about decorating. I’m not saying I start decorating on November 12th but I like to go Christmas décor shopping and start getting my decorations organized to decorate closer to the end of the month. I was so excited to have my own place to decorate again! My Mom use to have a lot of Christmas spirit as well, but Christmas was always my Grandma’s holiday (her Mom), we would go over to her place, packing 10+ people into her tiny apartment because she always insisted that she was hosting Christmas dinner and we would spend the night eating great food and opening presents. Ever since my Grandma passed away, 6-ish years ago, I think the holidays remind my Mom that she’s not here and it’s harder for her to get in the Christmas spirit. She’ll start talking about pulling out decorations in November and mention to Dad that he should get the tree out but for the last few years, I’ve been setting the tree up on Christmas Eve out of pure determination that my family will celebrate Christmas with a tree for our gifts!
Christmas at our new house! The decorations were worth it!
My Mom also likes to make it seem like Christmas is a surprise party that you don’t know about until you’re there, like somehow Christmas sneaks up on her every year. There have been a few times in the last few years where she’s tried to convince my brother and I to celebrate Christmas on Dec 26 or 27th so ‘she has more time to go shopping and can take advantage of the boxing day sales’, which if you knew my Mom, wouldn’t surprise you in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good boxing day sale, but I don’t want to delay Christmas. My Mom is a die-hard offline shopper. I’m not even sure she knows what Amazon is, so she never orders things online. Occasionally she’ll ask me to order something for her if it’s not available in a store but even this year she insisted on doing her shopping in person.
So, like clockwork, it will be Christmas Eve and my Mom will be dragging my Dad all over St. Thomas and London to go Christmas shopping and she’ll come home really late at night, staying out until the last store closes, and then complain that she didn’t get all her shopping done. Maybe start earlier next year? Which I suggest annually, and it falls on deaf ears. The few things she’s managed to pick up in advance of Christmas Eve used to be hunted down from her various hiding spots around the house and left with me to wrap while I bake and watch Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel.
O Christmas Tree - 2021
Once home, my Mom then must get ready for Christmas which results in her pulling an all-nighter… every year. Sometimes she’s up decorating, because why wouldn’t you put decorations up on Christmas Day only to turn around and take them down a few days later? Even if she doesn’t decorate, she still has to wrap presents and no amount of wrapping assistance from me seems to make the process go any faster to result in her getting any sleep. I usually stay up until the wee hour of the morning wrapping gifts for Dad and Branden, and her, since my Dad is allergic to shopping and if I don’t buy things for her or she doesn’t buy them for herself she doesn’t get anything for Christmas. My Dad’s adverse to online and offline shopping and tends to ignore my Mom more than anything else so we ‘never knows what to get her for Christmas’ which seems like a convenient excuse to me. Even with all my wrapping assistance I usually wake up in the morning to find her still puttering around with presents or house cleaning- aka. putting all of her piles of junk, I mean stuff, away off countertops and out of the video camera's line of sight. She was without my help this year so I’m not sure how she managed to get it all done herself.
Most family’s get up early on Christmas Day to open presents. We might have done that when we were younger but as an adult, I’ve since given up on getting up early because there’s nothing on the plant that will result in us opening presents before dinner time, or at least really late afternoon, so I might as well sleep in too to make the time pass quicker. I’m always impatient to open presents, less so to see what I got but to see what everyone else's reaction is to what I got them. I tend to lean towards more thoughtful presents, or at least I like to think so, so I genuinely enjoy seeing people open gifts from me. I’ve tried being the nice, supportive and uncomplaining daughter by trying to help wrap last-minute presents my Mom still hasn’t got around to, I tend to make breakfast and help start getting things ready for dinner and we still open presents in the evening.
I’ve tried being bitch-y daughter who still helps a little bit but is openly vocal about the fact that we want to open presents before dinner and even trying to guilt or goad her into getting ready faster. I’ve even tried being bitchy several days before Christmas in the hopes that it encourages her to be ready on time, especially when we were on a timeline and had Christmas celebration obligations with Grayson’s family and still nothing. As you can imagine, we were late to all of Grayson’s family gatherings while we waited at my house for my Mom to finally be ready for us to open gifts. No matter what I try, presents are not opened in the morning. I fear for Christmases when the girls are bigger, and I have to try and get them to be patient and not open gifts while we wait all day for Grandma to get organized. My family arrived at the house around 6 pm, which was a little earlier than I expected actually. I opened presents with the girls and they opened their presents from Grandma and Grandpa when they arrived and that worked pretty nicely since the girls didn’t have to wait all day to open presents. I’ll probably do that again in the future. Thalia was not interested in presents at all, she kept saying she didn’t want it to be Christmas and she didn’t want presents. She actually tried giving them to a friend that came over, I’m sure next year will be different when she understands more. She didn’t really get the concept of Santa delivering gifts or needing to be good so I got to skip Elf on the Shelf and advent calendars and even without those things Christmas seemed to be so much work! I don’t know how parents do it, it’s exhausting!
Rewarding to see the girls get excited about new toys but so tiring from lack of sleep.
My Mom always likes to video and take pictures of Christmas Day, which is an entirely separate process. That coupled with our Christmas dinner fiasco and the day just seems like one frustration after another. Every year my Mom wants to make a turkey. Well, turkey takes a long time to cook and when you don’t get out of bed until 1 pm because you didn’t go to bed until 10 am that usually means we forgo the turkey. I put my foot down and said we aren’t eating dinner at 11 pm. We end up eating ham, which personally I’m fine with, but at some point, my Mom needs to stop buying turkeys because there are always 3 or 4 in the freezer from the previous Christmas and Branden gets one from work every year! They’re like the ghosts of Christmas past reminding me that our family has serious time management problems.
Since we don’t open presents until dinner time, dinner is always very late and there are lots of unhealthy snacks/baked goods consumed during the long wait time which makes for a very sweet and delicious day (the late dinner time is why I always do Christmas baking, or we’d starve). Once we do finally manage to open gifts and eat dinner, we usually end the evening by playing family board games while consuming more baked goods. Let’s just say my waistline doesn’t like this holiday very much but at least it’s only once a year! Hosting Christmas dinner at my own place this year I kind of understand why making Christmas dinner is such a chore, there’s so much to prepare and cook and a limited number of hours in a day and space in the oven. Next year I need to do more food preparation in advance and just heat food on Christmas Day so it’s not so chaotic.
On the bright side, Boxing Day is usually more relaxed for us, occasionally we’ll go shopping but as you may have noticed my family isn’t known for getting up early and by the time we go in the afternoon most of the good sales items are gone so I don’t usually plan on boxing day shopping. We spend a bit of time cleaning up the Christmas mess, presents are usually left all over the room as we quickly head to the kitchen for dinner, washing the 1,001 dishes it took us to cook Christmas dinner and playing a few board games if we’re staying home. When we were younger, we used to visit my Dad’s family in Dunnville (given that we were with my Mom’s family for Christmas dinner when Grandma was around) to celebrate with them. My Aunt always hosts Christmas and my Dad’s very large family drops by throughout the day to meet with family and stop by the seemingly never-ending potluck/buffet-style feast that covers her entire kitchen. Given that we only make it down to visit once or maybe twice a year, we usually spend the night when we go, and I don’t think I can recall a single Christmas where we made it there on time for lunch or dinner. It’s a running bet on how late we will be each year. Lunch is usually at 1 pm and it’s typically 1:30 pm when Mom finally locks the door to the house so we can leave, and in typical Dad-like fashion (at least for my Dad) he turns a 2-hour drive into like an hour and a half, so we aren’t ‘so late’.
Usually, our visit to Dunnville wraps up the Christmas holidays. This year, and every year going forward, the holidays will be slightly extended to December 27th when we get together again to celebrate Raiyah’s birthday. Birthday celebrations add another layer of complexity and stress around the holidays and even though I felt I started early enough, I need to start earlier next year to drop my stress level even further. Given how close to Christmas Raiyah’s birthday is I always want to make sure it doesn’t overshadow her birthday and finding unique ways to celebrate her will always be at the forefront of my mind but it’s nice that we get to spend so much time with family around the holidays.
Visiting with Santa - December 2021
I always look forward to the holidays despite the craziness, frustrations and the occasional family argument over our inability to do things in a timely manner but other than that we typically have a very good holiday season. I know our holiday season will look different in the future as my daughters get bigger and start to understand more about typical Christmas traditions like opening presents in the morning. Still, I’m looking forward to all the new traditions that we’ll be able to start like making gingerbread houses, building snowmen, Elf on the Shelf, watching Christmas movies on Christmas Eve along with Christmas bedtime stories and advent calendars and visiting with friends and family. I have so many ideas about ways to make the holiday special while still honouring the ‘traditions’ of a Miller family Christmas
Flashback - Christmas 2020 (Thalia looks so young)