Christmas in the Johnston family has ever been heavily steeped in tradition. As soon as we find ourselves home on Thanksgiving night we pull out our heirloom Santa Mugs. That is of course, if you could call mugs as beat up and old as those, heirlooms. However, we inherited them from someone I assume, because they are indeed ancient. Each mug is a mold of Santa’s face, complete with a winking eye, and a little green glitter in the open eye. During the Christmas season, we consume nearly every hot beverage out of these cups, and the occasional cold ones, such as eggnog.
On the first of December we pull out our green advent calendar. Each of the 24 days has its own pocket. We put a figurine in the first pocket and the last pocket and move them every day. This way one tells us the date, and the other tells us how many days are left before Christmas. In our younger years we used to have a competition to see who could get up early enough to change the figurines. We rarely beat our father though, and he often changed them himself. Every night during this time Daddy reads to us from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Every year we host a Christmas party called the “Carol sing” during which we sing a plethora of Christmas carols and then eat piles of desert. It’s the most excitingly formal event. I’ve always loved it because I get to wear floor length gowns that I’d only otherwise wear to a ball. In preparation for the party we bake all sorts of goodies and usually a gingerbread house. The day before the party we usually have a pre-party during which we invite over a few good friends to help us decorate cookies.
When it comes to Christmas itself our family follows a very exact tradition. On Christmas Eve we gather in the living room, which is closely adjoined by a tiny solarium, which holds our Christmas tree and the massive stacks of presents beneath it. For dinner we feast on a salmon sent yearly by our cousins living in the northwest. We eat it on Melba toast with capers, onions, and cream cheese. In addition we always serve a raw veggie plate with curry dipping sauce, and spinach dip with Tiscuits. After we finish eating this dinner Daddy commences with handing out all the gifts under the tree. We open them all one at a time until we have gotten finished with all of them.
On Christmas morning we run downstairs as soon as we are awake and wait in the kitchen. Generally we are decked in Christmas pajamas and bathrobes. We bake sausage balls and cut up oranges ready to take into the living room. Habitually we line up at the door with baskets in our hands and often Santa mugs full of coffee. When Daddy gives the word we charge into the room. Our stockings, so loaded with presents have always managed to fall off of the mantle and end up in various chairs or on sections of the couches surrounded by presents. We all dig in and explore our stockings excitedly. I usually never eat any breakfast except my chocolates.
Sometime around 4 o’clock in the afternoon we serve Christmas dinner. It’s sometimes ham, and sometimes turkey. Sometimes we have dressing; sometimes we have sweet potato casserole. Whatever it is, it’s a feast indeed! We finish it off with little glass bowls of ambrosia, usually topped with coconut. And more often than not, we end the day with watching a movie that someone has received as a Christmas gift. Christmas at the Johnston’s is always different, and always the same.