Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day of the year. For me, Christmas Eve trumps Christmas Day, and that’s because, for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family at my Grandpa’s house.
After Thanksgiving, Grandpa’s house is like Christmas exploded. Every corner has some sort of Christmas decoration, most of it from the 70’s and 80’s. My favorite is the peek-a-boo Santa toilet seat cover.
My family, 30 of us strong (and growing), gather for a potluck, baked macaroni and cheese, hamburger BBQ and a special green sherbet punch. We do gifts for the small kids and Pollyannas for the big kids, and tons of fun raffles (including jars of pickles). It’s been my favorite holiday tradition for, well, ever.
My grandpa has been in poor health for the last few years. With every Christmas Eve, we wondered if it would be the last at the house, as throwing the event seemed to wear on him more and more.
This year, as Grandpa’s health deteriorated and he became bed-ridden this December, it was realized that hosting the party at his house would be too much. For the first time ever, the Christmas Eve party was going to be held elsewhere… at my house. Talk about big shoes to fill. Would the party be as fun without Grandpa’s decorations? Could I master the green sherbet punch recipe? Would there be enough room for everyone?
On December 23, after a last-minute 10pm run to Walmart because I wanted to find the perfect Christmas table cloths for the party, I returned home to a phone call from my Dad.
Grandpa had passed away an hour earlier.
That Christmas Eve Eve, I rushed to his house with my mom to say goodbye. One by one, the family all arrived.
I was unsure if people would still want to gather the next day, given that we had just lost the man at the center of the event, the spirit of our Christmas Eve. My aunt said he’d want us to still celebrate; that he’d want us to be together. The party was still on.
So we had our Christmas Eve party. The mood was surprisingly festive. We looked at old photos. We ate the mac and cheese and BBQ. We opened gifts and even still had some raffles. It was a day filled with love. And really, that’s why it’s always been my favorite.
And while the green punch didn’t turn out as frothy or delicious… or green… as Grandpa’s, I’m hoping he would have been proud that I tried.
I like to think that he couldn’t bear to miss the party so he found a different way to be there.