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Christmas Cheer

Journal FortKnox's Journal: Christmas 22

So, lets talk about Christmas waaay premature. I'm already getting antsy that I get to go toy shopping for the first time in ages.
Firstly, do you do your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving (like, this weekend), or do you wait until the malls are packed (or do you go on Christmas Eve)? Do you do anything special to shop? I've got a wierd tradition of making 3 laps around the mall. First one is for ideas of what to get for everyone, second is to get the stuff I've already decided on, and search harder for the people that are hard to get presents for (like my father... he's impossible to get stuff for, and I hate getting the "socks/tie/aftershave" gift), and third is to get the rest.

For you married folk, how do you handle Christmas with the two families? I thought, because Joey was born, that we can attract both grandparents to our house, but that doesn't look like it'll work, so it'll most likely be a christmas in cincy with the inlaws (which isn't bad, seeing as they live in town), and a few days before at my parents house.

Do you all have any special traditions before christmas? Like how we have the Italian (or is it a Roman Catholic tradition?) feast of the seven fish on Christmas Eve (which is where the Aglioli with Anchovies dish came from), which is known to my wife as "the day I stay as far away from the kitchen as humanly possible with a mask over my nose" (yes, we have to make one helping of spaghetti so my wife doesn't starve).
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  • I'm way excited about Christmas this year already. I'm not sure why, I think partly because it has already snowed up here in Toledo (we had about a .25 inch of accumulation a few days ago, of course it's now in the 40's and all gone but still).

    Firstly, do you do your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving (like, this weekend), or do you wait until the malls are packed (or do you go on Christmas Eve)? Do you do anything special to shop?

    I only shop for my wife, and sometimes help her shop for the "rest" of the family (about 30-40 other people incidentally). She usually doesn't like me to go shopping because the first thing I look at is the price, not the gift, and she's the opposite :) When it comes to her, I usually just get the gift though so I can understand it. Anyway, she has already been out twice and I haven't gone yet. Sometimes I will brave the after-thanksgiving rush because of the incentives at some of the major electronics stores (like Best Buy for instance). However, I usually end up going to those stores and just heckling people in line-- "wow, I get a $2 mouse! Isn't this worth standing in line for 1 hour!)". Seriously though, I'm a sucker for those advertisements..

    For you married folk, how do you handle Christmas with the two families? I thought, because Joey was born, that we can attract both grandparents to our house, but that doesn't look like it'll work, so it'll most likely be a christmas in cincy with the inlaws (which isn't bad, seeing as they live in town), and a few days before at my parents house.

    Every year my wife and I alternate whose house we go to Christmas *day*. She has divorced parents, but they live near by. On the year we are on "her side" we usually do one during the morning and one during the afternoon. After that we go see my parents who still live in Picktown. When it's my sides year, we see her side the day before and the weekend after since we go down to my parents on Christmas eve and stay through Christmas evening (sometimes the next day, depending how vacation works).

    Do you all have any special traditions before christmas? Like how we have the Italian (or is it a Roman Catholic tradition?) feast of the seven fish on Christmas Eve (which is where the Aglioli with Anchovies dish came from), which is known to my wife as "the day I stay as far away from the kitchen as humanly possible with a mask over my nose" (yes, we have to make one helping of spaghetti so my wife doesn't starve).

    We started a tradition the first year we got married. We have everyone (from both sides) come over about a week before Christmas and pack our house. Jen and I make a lot of food, I always get requests to make my ruebens, we have some Wassail (great apple cider drink) and a myriad of other snack food stuff- some old favorites, some new. After that we all try to cram in our family room and open up a couple gifts (ie- cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents get to open their Christmas presents). The nice thing about it is the stress always seems to be a lot less and everyone is usually in a great mood. For some reason, Christmas day always seems a little more stressful to a lot of people. Oh, we also make everyone join in singing the 12 days of Christmas.. Another thing that I do is have a hidden "X-cam" camera somewhere in the room. Last year it worked pretty well because no one knew about it. After everything is "over" I played the tape and we got to make fun of each other. I'll have to think of something a little more creative this year..

  • Usually I wait to the last minute before going xmas shopping, but this year I've changed my strategy and decided to plan what I will get for my relatives and especially my girlfriend. So whenever I go to my parents house, I take look around and see what they need.

    This year I'm going to pick up a nice phone system for my father since there is no phone in the house that is younger than 10 years.

    Last Year, I got my mother an nice Elph digital camera, this year I'm going to pick up a few antiques she was eyeing up when went furniture shopping in the summer for my latest apartment.

    I always struggle to find good present for girlfriends, but this year I'm going to build her a pc. I know what your thinking, but check out the girly blue case. []

    The easiest way to buy the right gift, is to stay observent throughout the year and take note when a person mentions they would like to have something. In the case of my gf, I'm just tired of getting tech support calls every week due to the combination of shitty hardware and windows 98. So building her a cute little computer is a win-win situation.

  • Man I want snow

    I moved from Sweden to South Carolina this summer, so this will be my first christmas that doesn't look like a christmas postcard where everything is laden with snow. It's gonna be weird for sure, since I'm from northern Sweden, we normally have a couple of feet (3-5')of snow come christmas, this year, I'd happily settle for an inch, just some snow, any snow, christmas is not supposed to be green...

    • good luck, man.

      I live in PA and it feels like we haven't had a REAL decent winter in years. I remember from my childhood (which wasn't THAT long ago, I'm 22) 3 feet snow storms, two or three times a winter, last few years, we're lucky if we have a few inches for a week before it melts. Even though I'll have to drive in it, I'm hoping we get blizard upon blizard this year. I miss it. darn global warming.
    • South Carolina... depends on where you are in the state. The coast won't get any frozen precipitation. The northern part gets some ice every couple of winters, and sometimes snow -- maybe 3-4".

      You'd have a hard time with a San Diego Christmas... I've almost forgotten about these things called "seasons". What? It gets cold? Oh, you mean long sleeves for the 6 weeks in December/January versus short sleeves the rest of the year.

      On-topic, I've done some shopping. I'm making a quilt for my otherperson's mother, and I have a book of Christian quilt patterns for his sister. I've started buying for my otherperson... stuff that he wants that isn't the $300 planer. And I bought a book for my oldest brother from Amazon. I'll probably do a lot of my shopping on-line, since I'm a geek, and a space cadet (I moved --TWICE-- a box of stuff my brothers left with me 2 years ago). Last year, we had Christmas at our house. We had a ham, and um... some side dishes. I forget what all we had, but we had a lot of fun. :)

      I'm trying to resurrect some of the traditions from my childhood, when we'd always go to my grandmother's house. "We" meaning my parents, myself & my brothers, and my two aunts and one uncle.

      We'd always go to the candlelight services on Christmas Eve, and come home to have "horse douvers" (hors d'ouvers) for dinner. Veggies, crackers and cheese, fondue, bourbon balls for the adults, my aunt's crab dip, fruit cake, and springerle (German Christmas Cookies is what her recipe says). We had "cheese crackers" made of cheddar cheese, cornflakes, flour and some other stuff, and sausage balls. I don't know whose traditions we integrated to get all of that, since my grandmother was first-generation "Irish-American" and they traveled the world when my grandfather was in the Army.

      The oldest child would stay up and hand out the adults' presents to each other, which would be opened on Christmas Eve. After all the kids were in bed, the "Santa gifts" would be laid out, and the kids would open their presents on Christmas Morning. The ham would go in the oven, and everyone would enjoy watching the little ones with their toys. The kids would play while the adults cooked Christmas dinner (Ham, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, beets, and some stuff I can't remember), and we'd have dinner mid-afternoon in the formal dining room, with the silver and the china.

      Ah... those were the days. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer over half my lifetime ago, and family traditions have never been the same. She was the glue that kept us all together.

      We're going to my otherperson's mom's house for Christmas this year. I'll bring one of my traditional dishes, and we'll have a grand time. Next year... who knows? Maybe a flight back east to have Christmas with my parents, or maybe I can coax one or two of my family out here...

    • ... christmas is not supposed to be green... ;-) Here in Australia Christmas is always green. When our family lived closer (we are now scattered across the country) we used to do the full Christmas feast for lunch - roast turkey, ham, heaps of vegetables, Christmas pudding, etc. Takes quite a lot of getting through when you are eating a huge roast lunch and it is 35 degrees outside!(Thats 35 celsius - about 95 farenheit.)

      I've never seen a white Christmas except in the movies...

  • I like your 3-ring circus around the mall.
    For myself, I like to shop early and often. And We try to do it online. For crying outloud, Crabtree and Evelyn (pronounced EVE-a-lynn) has free shipping for all online orders in November!!

    The issue with online shopping is this: CODES. Free shipping, 10%, 20%, 25% off, extra gifts.
    Also- stores in canada- my wife bought some products that were the same price USD and CDN in CDN (Visa, it's everywhere you want to be, including canada) and paid about 30% less (and shipping was cheap-ass)

    Its real easy to hunt for deals becuase I'm online ALL the time, so I keep searching, I check out reviews of products online, I check out reviews of merchants online. When I find stuff I like, I bookmark it. I have a special folder for stuff. It works.

    Here's an example: my Sis used to have a fragrance Cappuci by Cappuci, and was complaining how she couldn't find it anymore. My wife knows this website that has fragrances and soaps from all over the world. In 2 seconds she finds it. Guess what my sis is getting for christmas?

    Married: which family?
    We switch hit. One year in the dakotas (blech) one year in NY (NYC during X-mas, blech)
    We are skipping out on Thanksgiving in NY (too much work!) but saw them in October for my grandma's 80th and I made a promise to go to NY in January (away from the crowds) So it is a balancing act.

    BUT! if we had a kid (which we don't plan on) that's like a magnet! I wouldn't leave my house ever! I know my Mom-in-law even said "when you have kids I'll come to you." Too bad...

    By not being in NY I will miss the 7 fish for X-mas eve... a good friend of the family does it every year and she makes some wonderful fish. And it's not cooked in our house! No clean up, no fishy smell! However by being in NoDak I will luck out and get lefse and saandbakles and krum-kake (pronounciation: what did joey leave in his diaper?) - No lute fisk (cod soaked in LYE (yum? I'm dying to try it))but I guess beggers can't be choosers.

    2 X-mas ago we actually made christmas dinner for all the Dakotans (grandma was dying, Holly and I had a "shotgun wedding" becuase of it (we had the big wedding in Oct 2001, but had an impromptu legal one in Dec 2000. Hey! Great for us! I got MAD money back on my taxes!)) and it was chicken parmesan over linguine and stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer...
    bringing the italian love to my new 'wegian family.
  • I usually end up hitting the mall a few days before X-mas when it's really packed, and doing the 3 lap method you've described. since I'm working about an hour from home now and don't feeling like spending my limited time at home fighting in the mall, I'm gonna try and do a lot of my shopping online, but I haven't started yet, so we'll see how that goes..

    My girlfriend and I are just trying to get a hang of this split holidays thing. My family lives in Southern PA (York) and her dad's family lives in Baltimore, so their both doable in a day, but her mom recently moved back down to Florida to be with family to help take care of her brother who is slowly recovering from a brain trauma.. so this X-mas we're going to Florida for the 22nd-26th, and then spending 26th-1st with PA/MD relatives. I think it will work out well this year because both of my siblings are going to be staying til new years as well, so we'll still get to see each other.

    As for X-mas meal traditions, we don't really have one in particular, though on New Years, which we usually eat with my Dad's (very Pennsylvania Dutch) side of the family, they force me to eat Sour Kraut, cause they say you'll be poor if don't eat any. I bury it in mash potatoes and pork, and try not to taste it. Also since my older sisters grew up in North Caroline (moved back to PA before I was born) they need to have Black-Eyed peas on New Years for good luck, another dish I'm not too happy wish... Luckily my grandmother makes extra mashed potatoes for me, which can make up for just about any other food I'm asked to eat.
  • Firstly, do you do your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving (like, this weekend), or do you wait until the malls are packed (or do you go on Christmas Eve)?

    I am a sicko. My Christmas shopping is already 95% done. :)

    For you married folk, how do you handle Christmas with the two families?

    This is my second "married" christmas. I have to say that my parent and her parents are EXTREMELY unreasonable about holidays. The bogus guilt that both sides put on us is really hard. The only way I can deal with it is to simply tell everyone where will be and when. When they begin complaining or playing the guilt card, I make an excuse and get off the phone.

    Do you all have any special traditions before christmas?

    First Saturday after Thanksgiving we get our tree. That night we make some hot chocolate and pop popcorn (to string pop corn for the tree). Nat King Cole MUST be playing and there must be a fire before decorating the tree.
  • either jewelry or clothing.

    but definitely some necklace/ring thingie.
    Trust me, its romantic. You don't need to blow a huge wad on it, either. Something simple and elegant. Punctuate it with flowers and voila! Who said geeks aren't romantics?
  • I always do shopping LATE. Why do it early when everyone offers discounts as the season is looking like it won't meet expectations, a week before xmas?

    • Shopping for Kids - Early, Layaway, pay it off and pick it up...

      Shopping for Wife - Plan a night out for shopping with the boys (go to Hooters instead) Cram shop the next day during Lunch Hour...
    • not necessarily-
      given the current expectation of poor turn out this christmas, many stores are offering specials early. E.G.- crabtree and evelyn have free shipping on online orders in Nov.

      Besides- I like to online shop- and you want to add PLENTY of time for delivery.
  • i always intend to start shopping early, but don't seem to find anything good until about two weeks before christmas.

    i am fortunate that my fiancee's family follows the german christmas tradition and lives reasonably close to my parents. we visit her parents to do the christmas eve thing with her parents, then go to my parents' place for christmas morning. last year her family's christmas eve was in cleveland, but this year it will be here in columbus, so it will be even easier. i'm not sure how it will be later with kids and all because our siblings are all involved in the family christmas as well.

    btw - there is a good number of ohioans in this circle of journal readers.
  • Shopping
    It takes about 3-4 hours to go through the mall here once, assuming you plow people down and minimize the number of stores you actually enter (Apple Store, for example, would add a bit of time). But that's why I rarely go to the Mall of America to actually shop. Last year, I bought nearly all of my Christmas presents in one order on James Bond DVD for my dad, computer games for my neices and boyfriend (Civ III for $35!). I did actually have to go to a physical store for my mom and sister, but my mom's present I had bought in August.

    Shopping traditions
    Every year, the big giant extended family comes up to our house for Thanksgiving (we're the only ones who don't live in Iowa), and the Christmas shopping starts at 6:00 am when we hit all of the stand-alone stores that have specials (places like Target and Circuit City). Then, we hit the Mall of America in the afternoon. Actually, the reason that my parents host Thanksgiving is because of the shopping opportunities here. :)

    Christmas at my house is very scripted, but that's the way I like it. On December 24, we go to the evening church service at my parents' church, then we drive around and look at Christmas lights. When we come home, we have homemade ice cream that my dad made earlier in the day. And my parents always have clam chowder for dinner, so I usually have some kind of alternative soup.

    On Christmas morning, we get up at about 6:00, do the present thing, have breakfast, then head off to my aunt's house in Iowa, where we have christmas dinner and more presents. Then, we usually spend the night at my sister's house, where we have yet another Christmas.

    Note on the marriage compromise
    My sister and brother in law go to his parents' for Thanksgiving and our family for Christmas. It works our pretty well- they do Christmas with his parents on Christmas Eve.
    • The Mall of America != Indicative of most malls.

      Speaking of christmas lights!

      Didja ever see "the christmas story?" (you know, the one TNT has the marathon of for christmas eve)

      One house in Valley Cottage, NY (rockland county, for those keeping track) had the leg lamp!!
      Good stuff!

      1 pro of having Christmas in North Dakota- Snow.
      Con? Mesaba cancelling our flight and stranding us in the twins.
  • Forget crowds, forget driving, I shop online.
    I'm able to find EXACTLY the right gifts, it costs the about the same (you add shipping, but lose sales tax most of the time,) and I don't have to deal with all those people. It saves loads of time, and when I compose my "hints list" for my family, I usually hyperlink it. :-)
    • (you add shipping, but lose sales tax most of the time,)

      Not if you do it right...

      see my post above.
      Or see,, and Shipping is for fools (or for those who shop for truly unconventional gifts. for example- I'm looking for electric socks in a woman's size 6. Red Envelop has some electric socks, but not in smurf sizes.) But aside from the particular, its all about CODES. Free shipping, 10-15-20% off, and free extras. The web rawks.

      My wife has an uncanny ability to sniff out fabulous deals online. I'm getting her a Bvlgari perfume set that sells for $70+ at sephora but for $32 at perfumebay. (infact, I just talked her out of buying it for herself tonight!)

      I admire your online shopping ways and I hope you save money while doing it.
      • Yeah, there's no telling how much I've saved by using the net. Sometimes I can get free shipping, but even if I don't, the sales tax is high here, so it makes up for it. Also, I keep a card just for the net, in case the number is stolen.

        Thanks for the links.

  • Shopping Methods
    Online (occasionally Ebay) for my friends to get all the cool import games/stuff that they want (have to order early too) and The Eaton Centre downtown for Family and people I forgot online. I like the Christmas rush sort of shopping. I also love the downtown core after it snows. All the decorations make the trip worthwhile.

    Christmas Eve is where it's at! My entire family (okay, just my Dad's side, but it's a lot) gets together at our house or whoever's turn it is for a massive pig-out fest (all Arabic and Mediterranean food) and presents bash. Everyone gets gifts from the kids to the grannies and it's a grand ol' time. I've tried for years to convince a few people for carolling, but never get any takers. Looks like I'll have to start my own tradition solo... eventually ^_^

    My Mom's side sometimes does a dinner on Christmas Day, but since both my parents work retail, they are always insanely busy and end up missing most of it (In Canada we also have Boxing Day insanity). I do go to their place on Christmas morning though, we save our gifts for each other and I fill my parents stockings while they do mine and my brother's.
  • Already bought Joseph's stuff. Had a sale on Hot Wheels at Toys R Us a few weeks back, and we went nuts. Angie and I won't be exchanging gifts this year (money). In the past, I've done most of my shopping online. This year, I saw something for my sister and her husband (neither of whom are drinking right now for various reasons). Everyone else gets mead.

    We go to inlaws for Thanksgiving, more travel time. Stay in the area for Xmas. No idea what the specific plans are for this year.

It is better to live rich than to die rich. -- Samuel Johnson