To most people this is a normal phrase mainly said on ones birthday. For me however, it’s a whole other mess of a day, because my birthday falls on December 27th. Every year, on Christmas Eve, my family has a party celebrating both Christmas, and all late december birthdays, considering there are three: me, my aunt Michelle, and my grandmother.
“Thank you! I haven’t seen you since last year!”
I’d say these things without knowing half the people I talked to. The whole tradition had just become so routine.
Stage 1 always starts with us arriving either first or third, greeting our grandparents and a possible close uncle. My grandmother would be freaking out running back and forth making all the food. She’d spend hours and sometimes days into making the food, usually lots of pasta and Italian dishes. The rest of us would just sit and watch TV, only moving for each guest that arrived. Each family that arrived would go through the same greetings. Stage 2 starts with usually the father of each family, the only exception being my godmother, would present the 3 winter birthdays with their gifts. I purposely would plant myself closer to the door for this reason as well as the fact I could greet first instead of awkwardly standing and waiting. Following a perfect pattern, with a few late arrivals and those giving gifts when they parted.
Stage 3 can be either the worst or most entertaining part of the night. As the oldest “children,” my sister and I would have to take care of the younger children in the sweltering basement. Even though it was winter, the basement always felt like ninety degree temperatures. My sister, as per usual, was of no help, sitting on the steps talking to the third oldest. Meanwhile, I would always attempt to play a boardgame or something with the fourth oldest, who is about 8 or 9 at this point. The four youngest toddlers would throw anything they could pick up, and would scream and yell at each other. At times it’s a lot of work, but it can be entertaining to watch them play.
Stage 4 always favored those who got there early. All the best meals and dishes would go very fast. Especially the holy grail of Italian food: the Stromboli. My sister, father, and I would devour the entire stromboli before the majority of the guests could even arrive. Other than that, I'd really only scavenge the tables for spaghetti, meatballs, and plain rolls of bread. The food was also a useful tool to keep the children stalled.
Cake is usually the 5th and final stage for most of the guests. There are typically 2 or 3 cakes, depending on whether my aunt, Michelle (the 2nd christmas birthday), comes or not. Usually my aunt and grandmother would have cakes that were average, but never truly compared to mine. The ice cream cake, chocolate and vanilla ice cream with a layer of crushed oreos in between. That is the kind of cake that could only be described as perfect. Luckily, because it was always my cake, I could make sure I’d get a big slice first, before the little kids could get their grubby little hands all over it.
Finally, the part of the night, stage 6. This is where the parents start rounding up their kids and trying to get home so they can get a good night's sleep and set up their presents. Others wait for the end, either due to how closely they are related to my grandmother, or to make sure that when they leave there is less people to have to say goodbye to. This is where I finally get a bit more relaxation before having to leave. My main core family, I would usually see the next day due to the order of houses for Christmas. That order being, mother/grandparents, father, grandparents.
Christmas Eve is probably one of the biggest nights of year for me, in terms of family traditions. It’s something that I can really enjoy throughout anything that happens that day. Most people might be unhappy sharing their birthday, but compared to other family events, none come close and I feel special being a huge part of it. I never really get or want to do anything for my birthday considering it's over winter break and people are busy. Which is why I enjoy Christmas Eve and the rest of winter break so much. Of course I'd still have birthday cakes on my actual birthday, but the Christmas Eve party just feels like mine, so many people are there for my birthday.