Christmas walked out the door today.

If you have children, grandchildren, and family who do not live nearby, then you will understand this sentiment.

As with so many things connected with Christmas these days, the message of peace becomes lost in the race. You could just relax and enjoy the day together at home.

There is the unbridled pleasure of tearing into presents. This exuberant event is followed a rousing game of searching for the smaller children under the piles of wrapping paper. Of course, no holiday is complete without stuffing our pie holes with an obscene amount of goodies (some of it may fall into the category of real food and not just sweets). And then, there is the collective basking in the glow of the ballgame of choice on that big screen television.

Even intact families who are fortunate to have both sets of grandparents find that the holidays turn into a massive juggling act. You have to find time for the core family to have Christmas either before or after the trips to the grandparents’ homes.

But if the grandparents live within a few hundred miles from you, and each other, the siren song of the holiday visiting marathon cannot be ignored. And, of course, each family’s traditions must also be observed.

As we have shared in past columns, our son could not stand to wait too long for the great ripping of wrapping paper. Consequently, our family Christmas occurred within moments past midnight.

Following this nocturnal event was the mad dash to the maternal grandparents’ home to celebrate Christmas the Hungarian way on Christmas Eve. Once our combined voices rose in prayer and the customary Hungarian Christmas song, the ripping of wrapping paper ensued. Not only were children temporarily misplaced under all the paper, but gifts were sometimes accidentally tossed out as well.

In spite of the far too many gifts exchanged, the scrumptious meal devoured, and the joyful time spent together with loved ones, there was more to come. Sometime during the night, the second leg of the holiday marathon took place as we dashed away to the home of the paternal grandparents to arrive in time for Christmas morning festivities.

We were blessed to be a part of two large and boisterous families.  So, the paternal grandparents’ home included visiting with family and lots of relatives who stopped by, visited and enjoyed Mom’s yummy food. And, of course, we participated in the third ripping of wrapping paper event. (With the advent of gift bags, the entire unwrapping of gifts process lost some of the oomph and has become far too civilized. The bags are convenient but not as much fun as r-i-p-p-i-n-g wrapping paper.)

You may have noticed, once that third round of presents was opened; there was a down moment. A moment when you wonder “Is that all there is?” Now that may sound greedy and perhaps a bit ungrateful for what we have received. But when there is a hard, screeching halt to the flow of gifts, it is a mild shock to the keep-the-gifts-coming multiple Christmas celebrations mindset.

Overall, Christmas is a hectic time. Then to further complicate things, many of us have family members who are divorced. The children of such dissolved unions are constantly shuttled back and forth between two households.

Neither the children nor the parted parents and their respective families find the holidays to be the simple affair it should be. The excitement and anticipation of buying and wrapping presents; the gathering under the tree; and the exchange and opening of gifts is overshadowed by the cloud of imminent departure.

After spending a few hours together, the packing up and handoff of the children takes place. The time spent together always seems too short. As the grandchildren grow, their lives become more hectic with school, sports, and time spent with their friends.

So, we adapt because the river of life with its constant changes never ceases its steady flow.


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