Every Christmas Eve, my mom makes a big pot of vegetable stew. It's my favorite stew. It has huge potato chunks, baby carrots, green beans, corn and turkey in it. Mom uses some sort of tomato juice or soup as a base. My mouth begins to water just thinking about that stew. Luckily, that's just the beginning of my family's Christmas traditions.
After we eat, we open presents. I didn't realize until I started dating my boyfriend, Gideon, that families open presents in different ways. In his family, each person sits in a circle and opens one gift at a time, one person at a time. I'm not so fond of this method, because I am a terrible liar. If I don't like a gift I've been given, it's written all over my face. I also don't like being the center of attention.
In my family, gift opening is more of a "have at it" kind of thing. Nana distributes the gifts and then we all tear into them at the same time. It's a massacre of wrapping paper and bows and boxes. We all thank each other for specific items when we're done and can usually avoid talking about the gifts we didn't like so much. They aren't great at lying, either.
I usually spend part of Christmas Eve with my father's family, where we take the same approach as my mom and nana to opening gifts. We have finger foods, like sandwiches and chips and dip. Aunt Tammy usually makes barbecue little smokies in her crockpot; this is maybe one of my favorite parts of Christmas Eve. I know she just tosses the little smokies in her crockpot with barbecue sauce and jelly, but Aunt Tammy really knows how to do that well.
I love Christmas Eve because I get to see both sides of my family. As a child, I lived with my mom and spent more time with her family. Christmas Eve was one of the only days of the year that I spent as much or even more time with my dad's family. Now that I live in Eureka Springs -- six hours away from all of them -- it means so much more to me to be able to see all my family members on the same day.
I don't get to see them on most days out of the year. It's incredibly special to me to catch up with them and eat all the delicious food I didn't have to cook and give everybody presents.
Christmas Day is pretty exciting, too. Nana makes a big Christmas dinner, even when it's just for me and my mom. Her dressing is amazing. It's moist and has the perfect amount of salt. My mom and I love salty food, so this part is imperative. Mom usually makes lots of side dishes. I am a huge fan of her green bean casserole. She's also really good at baking pre-made rolls to the perfect crustiness.
Of course, Christmas isn't about all the food. It's about reconnecting with those you love. I'm so happy I get to do that this year, and I hope all of you can do the same.
This past year has been the best year of my life. Writing about and interacting with the people who live in Carroll County has been such a joy, and I get to keep doing that. I'm so grateful to the Carroll County News team and all of you for making that possible.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.