Growing up we always used to have Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. All the family would make the trip in from the city and beyond, and slowly everyone would arrive in due time. This was the time of year that it was guaranteed we would all be reunited with one another, and catch up on the year gone by. I would wait in anticipation for all of my Aunts and Uncles to arrive, and I’d greet them with huge hugs at the door and welcome them inside. Once all the family got settled in, all of us cousins would go and sit up in the spare bedroom upstairs and chat, play video games and just enjoy each others company. Food would be a plenty, chocolates and treats would be sitting out for us to snack on, and we’d always be sure to sit and talk with Grandma or Grandpa before we’d return upstairs. Most of my relatives lived in the city, and it wasn’t that often we’d all get to see each other, let alone all of us at the same time.
Dinner time would come and we’d all gather at the table to eat. Grandpa would sit at the head of the table and say grace in Ukrainian. In traditional Ukrainian custom, a seat at the dinner table would be left open with a plate of food for respect to the ones that had passed. A candle would be lit and left to burn the entire night to represent that person. No meat was served at dinner except for fish, and a honey wheat mixture called “kuutya” was served first before the meal. These small traditions and customs were always kept year after year. These traditions helped us celebrate the birth of Christ and celebrate the reuniting of our family. These traditions are still kept, even though the years have gone by and now my cousins have families of their own. We have all taken a piece of these traditions with us to be followed, year after year. It’s these same traditions that still keep the family bonded even now with distance keeping us away.
To me Christmas is about spending much needed, and precious time with loved ones. It’s celebrating the birth of Christ. Sharing in, not in the gifts of material but in the gift of time. It’s remembering why we are all here, and not forgetting how important it is to love one another. It’s remembering those who are no longer with us, and the happy times we got to spend with them. To give to the less fortunate, and share kindness with strangers. This is still the one day we can set aside, to share the day to help bring joy into someone’s life. If it takes us one day throughout the whole year to just stop, and appreciate what we have around us….then let it be Christmas Day.