Well, Christmas and my birthday were my favorite two times of the year when I was a kid. Now my most favorite day of the year is May 1st. That's because it is opening day for camping season. Funny how your priorities change when you become an adult.

I have a large extended family on both my parents sides. My dad had ten siblings. My mom had seven siblings. All those aunts and uncles married and had kids, so I have a lot of cousins. And many of them have kids. I have plenty of second cousins I've never met.

Anyway, when we were growing up, Christmas time was a very busy time for my family. On Christmas Eve, we would usually visit one of uncles or aunts home, or maybe we'd drive over to one of my grandparents home for a Christmas Eve get together.

Then, on Christmas Day, we were allowed to get out of bed no earlier that 7:30. We were only allowed to look over all the presents under the tree until dad came into the living room to give the go-ahead. We were allowed to empty out our Christmas stockings while we waited for dad. There were always some cool stuff in our Christmas stockings, and at the bottom there would be some sort of fruit like an apple, or maybe a few walnuts.

And then we would wait for dad to get out of the bathroom. It seemed like forever. C'mon dad! As we were opening our presents, each sibling taking a turn one at a time, dad would film us with his 1960s video camera. On both sides of this bulky camera were 100 watt flood lights. Dad would yell at us, telling us to look into the camera, hold up our present and smile. OMG, we were being blinded by the light as Manfred Mann might sing. It was a nightmare.

After presents were all open and breakfast had been consumed, our annual tradition would be to visit both grandparents homes. Neither lived near each other, but that was okay. We enjoyed the trip to each grandparent's homes. All our uncles and aunts and cousins would  show up at approximately the same time. We'd open a present from our grandparents and chow down on the tons of food everyone brought. It was a feast times two from those two grandparent visits.

At the end of the day, I would easily fall asleep on the ride home. One we arrived home, my siblings and I were drained, but happy for such a wonderful day. What I wouldn't give to relive those memories of Christmas days as a child. I'm tearing up as I write this. It's especially tough since many of us can't visit our families this Christmas. But there will be better Christmases ahead. We just have to believe. Merry Christmas.

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