Christmas. The word evokes images of snow-blanketed rooftops, sleigh bells and cozy cups of hot chocolate by a roaring fire. You can picture a beautifully trimmed tree nestled in the corner and the scent of pine needles wafting through the house.
However, if you’re a Dallas local, you know that Dec. 25 usually dawns with a nice balmy temperature of 65 degrees coupled with lots of Texas sunshine. Because of this, the word “Christmas” means something a little different than the winter wonderland that is commonly associated with the holiday.
Christmas at the Grants’ house begins on Christmas Eve. All nine kids come home to help my parents decorate the house, spending most of the day putting ornaments on the tree. Our ornaments consist mainly of clothespin “reindeer” that we made in preschool and pictures of us as little kids. Most of the decorating process is dominated by questions like “What is this? A reindeer? It looks deranged” and “Is this picture of you? No, wait, this is me.” We finish the day by going to Christmas vigil Mass at our local parish before heading over to my grandparents’ house; our cousins meet us there and we spend the evening swapping gifts and spending time together.
Back when we were all little, we used to wake up at 8 a.m. sharp on Christmas morning to storm my parents’ room and get straight to opening presents. These days, however, my two youngest brothers are hard-pressed to get their older siblings (ranging in age from 18 to 32) out of bed before 10 a.m.
There is a whole ritual my family has before we can go into the living room for presents. Everyone has to get up, put on a Christmas hat (or antlers), make coffee, go “wake up” my parents (who have already been awake for hours) and then we take a picture of all the siblings on the stairs.
Once we finally make it to the living room, you can physically feel my youngest brothers’ impatience as they eye the presents under the Christmas tree. But they can’t start yet. Every single one of my siblings (from 11-year-old Colin to my oldest sister Meaghan) buys gifts for everyone.
We start with the youngest sibling and work our way up, one at a time. Colin, using money that he saved from doing lemonade stands and walking dogs, goes first. Then Michael, then Kevin, then me, and so on. The gifts range from extremely thoughtful presents to inside jokes, illustrating the different relationships that we have with each other.
After we all exchange presents, we usually break for a couple of hours to have breakfast and then return to open my parent’s gifts. We do those presents one at a time too, so opening presents usually lasts several hours and is accompanied by five to six pots of coffee.
For me, the word “Christmas” does not evoke pictures of snowy evenings; instead, it just means quality time spent with family.