(click on the pictures for a better view)
The family gathers at my parents' house in Pennsylvania.
Each Christmas eve, Porter and I cut a hemlock that can serve as a Christmas tree. After years of harvesting the prettier ones, we have to scour the property for the least scraggly. But in comparison to the famous random-boughs-wired-together Christmas tree of years past, any respectable hemlock crown is welcome.
The decorations are brought down from the attic. My sister Chris and Nico string the lights, and gradually the decorations fill in. This year, Bridget (age 5) has mastered the scissors, and she and Porter and Chris added varied attempts at paper snowflakes.
|A gingerbread house for Santa|
My sister Chris took the dough that had been rising by the wood stove and made pizzas for the evening meal. People would disappear with wrapping paper and scotch tape, and gradually the floor under the tree gathered its burden of presents.
As the night deepened we settled in the living room with song sheets and enacted the annual butchering of the carols. Occasionally, one of the more skilled singers (Fred or Nico or Eric) could keep us more or less in key, but more often things devolved quickly. We're getting better, I think.
The kids were sent off to bed, and more gifts accumulated. We've reduced the presents among the adults with a "secret santa" system, but for the kids it's still a free for all.
By tradition, on Christmas morning, the kids can empty the stockings that Santa has filled, but the presents under the tree have to wait until after breakfast. Usually this results in some aggressive rousting of slugabeds, who may be lacking caffeine or holiday spirit. But this year, Bridget and Leo were the ones to sleep in - to after 8 a.m.!
|Nico and the tree|
Afterward, the gifts were distributed with much ado, and everyone had new toys.
|The Christmas hemlock|
|Santa demolished the gingerbread house, but left a note|
|Salting the arepa properly|
|A sharp-shinned hawk got a titmouse from the feeder|
|Grandpa helping Leo unwrap a toy truck|
|Gathering for the Christmas feast|