: a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time
: the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time
November reminds me that I personally have a thing for tradition. I seriously LOVE tradition! I tend to like to do a lot of the same sort of things over and over with the same groups of people. I love to reminisce about days gone by and look back on the memories I have of my family who have passed on. I think to think about where I came from, where I am now and where I’m going. I like to laugh about the insanity that is my life…which I love by the way! My side of the family is pretty big on tradition, but as the years pass on and the family grows, things tend to change.
This year, the talk of celebrating Christmas came up nice and early. Early September-ish. Crazy right? Since I was born, Christmas Eve has always been the “main holiday” for my Mom’s side of the family and this year is not any different. What IS different is our potential plan. Dinner at a restaurant followed by dessert and coffee at a family member’s home. I honestly don’t know how I feel about changing up our tradition.
Over the years, we have tried a few different versions of Christmas Eve. But it’s always been hosted at a family member’s home…most years at my Auntie Ree aka Aunt Ann Marie and Uncle Ben’s home. Everything is always wonderful! From the moment we walk into their warm home until the last Old Fashioned is swallowed down – just excellent! We deviated for a bit when they moved to Oklahoma (but have since returned). My Uncle Pete & Favorite Aunt Cindy hosted one year…maybe there were two years. But I distinctly remember one. It was Christmas Eve 1996. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I was eight months pregnant with my son, Michael. The weather was awful and Grandpa Caliendo drove us from Roselle to Lindenhurst. We slid all over the road and my boyfriend joined us for the holiday. There was enough food to feed all of Lindenhurst and probably the neighboring town of Antioch, too! My Uncle was even outside grilling up chicken wings! I think it’s very possible that Marvin, the dog, may have snagged some of the food right off the table. I’m going to have to check on that memory. (NOTE: I have checked with Favorite Aunt Cindy and Cousin Tracy, but neither recalls Marvin “The Angel Dog” doing such a thing. So, I checked with Ms. Michelle and I did get a laugh out of her, but she is not certain this 18 year old memory is accurate. We’ve decided it’s worth a mention though just in case!) But, I DO remember what I wore and where I sat and the beautiful snow (Ivory soap) covered tree. It was a wonderful Christmas. My Uncle Mike & Aunt Erika have also hosted a handful of times over the years. Aunt Erika decorates her home beautifully and the food is always perfectly planned out. Finally, my Cousins Frank and Barb have hosted a few times too. The food is overwhelming, the drinks are flowing and the company is perfect!
But, the prep and clean-up is so much work for just one or two people to manage. And it’s not fair to them. So I understand why we are talking about trying something different. So far we’ve learned that we can get a dinner reservation for noon on Christmas Eve. Hmmmm. Half of us will still be at work. 🙂 Hopefully, we will firm details up, get a 7pm reservation somewhere and start a nice, new tradition. Or, maybe we try this new tradition next year and make our reservation in July 2015? We shall see…
Speaking of tradition, last year marked the first year I helped feed people experiencing homelessness on Thanksgiving. I started working with an organization called Sack Lunch Sunday just a few weeks before the holiday. On Thanksgiving night, after spending the day with my family, I took my son to a homeless shelter in Chicago to help serve dinner. We served about 175 meals that night. A local restaurant donated all of the food and it was really nice. This year, things are a little different. We are going to a different shelter to serve dinner. About 75 men spend their nights at this location. They are allowed to enter the building – an old, converted gymnasium – at about 8:30pm each night and they must leave by about 7:00am the next morning. Spending time here is really an eye-opening experience. First of all, these guys are fabulous! Really kind and appreciative. They have very little in the way of possessions and they are extremely humble. Their Executive Director is pretty cool too. He has quite an extensive resume working with some of our Nation’s highest executives over the years. He’s seen a lot in his day and loves to share stories and educate volunteers on the homeless epidemic. I am grateful to know him. And this year, I don’t just help feed people, but I help run the organization alongside SLS Founder, Nick Gore. Nick is a wonderful example of the kind of human being you want to be around. But he gets busy too and life happens, so this year I have taken on the bulk of organizing the Thanksgiving meal. I’m thrilled, but I finally think I have a glimpse at what he normally goes through in preparation for a big event. Since we made the announcement on Sack Lunch Sunday’s Facebook Page last night, my phone has not stopped buzzing and beeping with text messages, Facebook messages and posts right on the announcement. IT’S AWESOME!!!
This year, we will feed about 75 men around 9:30pm on Thanksgiving in Chicago. All of the food is being contributed by individual donors and will include things like homemade pumpkin roll for dessert, apple cider and smashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. The donations sound wonderful! I am just honored to be surrounded by such generous, caring people. One of the donors even is brainstorming other ways she can help make the evening special for our friends. Fingers crossed for a successful evening for SLS’s 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner!! It’s a great, new tradition and I hope my family’s Christmas Eve will be a great, new tradition next year.