Monday, December 5, 2011

Staging the Holidays: A How-To Guide

X-MAS EVE with THE WILLIAMS: aka My Mother’s Side of the Family

  1. Participation in the now-named Gift Exchange is required (we used to do Secret Santa but my family is made up of militant card carrying AD(H)D folks who pride themselves on forgetting a) we were even doing this, or b) getting the names wrong so some years some people got nothing while others get multiple presents – I’m the odd one out.  I don’t have AD(H)D).  Now we have a list.  A visual list.  Everyone knows who’s giving to who, and who’s getting from who.

  1. The list of the gift exchange will be e-mailed to you several times because my mother has a stranglehold on it and insists she can do it.  The first list will be in a format no one can open.  The second will be in a format we can open, but the list will be wrong.  The third will be accurate but no one can open.  The fourth will be the right one.

  1. The person you are to give a present to will never tell you what they want for Christmas, so you just have to guess. 

  1. You may want to tell the person who’s giving to you what you would like for Christmas… good luck with that!  You most likely have someone who doesn’t use e-mail and prefers hand written letters, in which case, they won’t give you their mailing address or will claim it was eaten by a pack of rabid wolverines.  Just go with it.  It’s only $30.  That’s the requirement.  No presents may be given which have been paid less than that amount.

  1. Gift cards are bad ideas.  You will be met with groans and the phrase, “Thanks – but I never use these.  I think I have several in my wallet from previous years.”

  1. Festivities occur the day before Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Guests arrive around 5 and stay until precisely one hour later than the previous year.  Last year it was 1 a.m., this year it will be 2 a.m., and so on and so forth until one year we just show up and leave again.

  1. There will be ham.

  1. There will be a vegetable tray with dip.

  1. There will be meatballs.  Sometimes my uncle sticks little carrots in them and makes them into penguins.

  1. I’m vegetarian.  If you are too, I advise eating prior to knocking on the door.

  1. There will be the following dessert appetizers: dipped frosted Ritz crackers, peanut butter-chocolate circle things (biscuits? Cookies?) – whatever, just eat them, they’re good; round (biscuits? Cookies?) with chopped up (nuts? Chocolate?) I can’t decide if I like them or not; and then, if you’re lucky, there will be Nanaimo bars.  One year there were no Nanaimo bars because my Grandma deemed the bars solely liked by my cousin who wasn’t going to be there.  Even after we all complained that year we liked them too, they are still linked to his name in her mind.  If she makes them, eat them.  Quickly.

  1. There will be hot buttered rum.  There will be hot buttered rum mix, and a leeeeeeeeetle bit of rum.  Our ancestors are Puritans after all.  Wait til you meet the other side of my family…

  1. Presents will not be opened until everyone is so doggedly tired they want to go home.  It’s just how it is.  At some point, someone has to say, “It’s time to open presents.”  You could do this yourself, although it’s good to have a partner because this will indubitably take another half hour from the first suggestion to the next for the idea to sink in with everyone else.  No one wants to appear greedy – but if you want to leave before 2 a.m. this is how you do it.

  1. Presents are opened.  Wonderfulness ensues – now that we have the gift exchange sorted out and everyone receives a gift that is (if I sound bitter it’s because I have been on the not-receiving end more than once – never gonna let it go). 

  1. Everyone departs slowly but surely.  It will take you an hour to get out the door, so plan accordingly.  First you must motion to leave, start gathering your things, slowly truck them toward the door, give a round of hugs and make eency little steps toward the door as people will keep talking to you and starting new stories. 

  1. The End

*Addendum: You may find that you’ve attended a Christmas Eve where entertainment was required of you.  Don’t feel bad if you weren’t made aware of this.  Trust me – nobody else was either. 

X-MAS DAY with THE KLENAK’S (and Zinovich’s): aka The Other Side of the Family

Let me first explain: I am a Klenak – my grandpa was from Serbia.  My grandmother, from Croatia.  My grandmother had 2 kids before my dad, my aunt and uncle, with another man, a Croatian.  His name was Zinovich. My grandparents are gone, but the bitching remains about how Yugoslavian everyone truly is.

<- (I don't know who that guy is.)

  1. The bar is to your left as you walk in.  There will always be: Absolut vodka, a bottle of Squirt, and faded cans of Coke that have been on the back porch for over a year.  In the fridge is orange juice to make a Screwdriver, and white wine.

  1. There are 2 TV’s, one in the kitchen next to the bar and one the size of the living room wall in the living room.  Both will be on.  Each will be playing sports.

Arrival Instructions:
  1. People will already be drunk and you’ll be greeted with loud and raucous “Hey there’s (insert your name here)” and “Where the hell ya been?!”

  1. Set your presents down in the living room under the tree which is always color coordinated with new colors every year.  Last year I think it was blue and magenta.

  1. My uncle will be in his chair in the kitchen watching the game or in his chair in the living room watching the game.  If you like sports, feel free to unwind on one of the many recliners in the living room but don’t make too much chitchat.  The game’s on!

  1. Fix yourself a drink.  If you don’t, someone else will.

  1. My aunt will be keeping an eye on dinner and never sits down. 


  1. This usually starts with a phrase from my aunt that goes something like, “Well what the hell, better open presents for chrissake it’s already 3 o’clock!”

  1. Then you find a chair and people start handing you boxes with your name on it.  Everyone opens in a free-for-all under the urging of my aunt who wants to get this over with and complains about how she never knows what to get anyone.

  1. Then there’s some manner of show n’tell as the wrapping and ribbons and bows are stuffed into a large trash bag simultaneously.

  1. There will be lamb.

  1. There will be sauerkraut.

  1. There will be potatoes sopped in lamb juice.

  1. There will be salad with cut radishes and lettuce and cucumbers soaked in vinegar.

  1. There will be store-bought yellow rolls that I have never seen anywhere except at my aunt’s dinner table, and they are delicious.

  1. My aunt doesn’t eat.  If you ask the answer is, “Helen doesn’t eat!  Helen never eats!” 

  1. My uncle will drink a glass of milk which my aunt brings to him toward the end of the meal.

  1. Then my aunt will ask if anyone wants pie, yet?!  To which everyone groans No, not yet!  And my uncle takes his walker back into the living room to watch the game in there.


  1. It’s not necessarily required, but if you’re going to visit the Yugoslav’s you have to play Uno.  If you’ve never played, you’ll be bullied into playing so best be prepared.  And we’re ruthless.  We don’t care if you’re a beginner.  We’ll strap you with Draw 2’s, Draw 4’s, etc.

  1. About halfway through our goal of 2,000 points we’ll have pie: lemon meringue, apple, and a berry one.

  1. Just before someone goes out, or just after, talk always turns to money.

  1. When they start talking about taxes, it’s time to go home.
OPTIONAL: Bring your own polka music or accordion.  They'll love you forever!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!  

Be sure to check out Lupe Mendez's blog for tomorrow's next stop on our Holiday Blog Tour 2011
And for past and upcoming blogs, see below: