Our First Christmas

When I was offered the job at the nursing home, I accepted on one condition: that I would be off December 23-27. Matt had already been allotted this specific time period for a holiday break, and our parents were dead-set on having us back in Alabama during that time. Thankfully, the hiring coordinator obliged, and spending Christmas with our family back home became the plan.

But, as this was our first Christmas together as a married couple, we also experienced the conflict of desiring to have our own quiet Christmas Eve and morning with each other in our home. To do this, we had our own little Christmas on December 17, the only shared off day before our Alabama trip that didn't seem waaaaay too early to celebrate.

Part of the fun of adulting/starting a family is being in charge of holiday traditions. In the weeks leading up to our Christmas celebration, Matt and I discussed and brainstormed potential ideas, things we would like to start doing now that we'll want to continue doing each year when we have kids. The one new tradition we developed together is Christmas Eve Game Night. The family picks a board game, and the winner gets to pick one gift to open that night. When I was a kid, our family had a tradition where everyone could open one gift Christmas Eve night. I thought this was a pretty fun spin on that idea, and we loved the fact that it forces the family to sit down together (without electronics) for some quality time.

With gleaming candles, guilt-inducing sprinkle-covered cookies, and rich, almond eggnog around us, we tested our new tradition with In a Pickle on December 16, our "Christmas Eve."

If you're not familiar, In a Pickle is a silly, light-hearted word game that requires creativity, open-mindedness, and, well, giggling. Guess who won this time and got to open a present?

Yes, we did make a medal. An aluminum-foil-and-twine  family-heirloom-to-be.
YEP! The gift I selected turned out to be this really pretty journal I had on my wish list.

That was our "Christmas Eve." The next morning, we got up a little later than usual and made a special breakfast of homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hashbrowns o'brien. Then we opened the stockings we'd secretly prepped for each other. And for Annie.

We opened the gifts we'd gotten for each other, then spent the rest of the day figuring out how to play and playing Dead of Winter, the awesome zombie apocalypse roleplaying board game I got for Matt.

Each player controls their own team of survivors trying to make it through a harsh winter during the zombie apocalypse, The gameplay consists of defending the colony, building up a supply of food and medicine, making supply runs to abandoned buildings in town, avoiding frostbite (and zombie bites), and killing zombies. As if that isn't enough, each character in the game comes with his/her own backstory and secret goal/motivation that can affect the game (pretty awesome). 

There are seemingly hundreds of game pieces, but they're all incredibly detailed. The artwork is fantastic!

The leader of my team of survivors just so happened to be a nurse. Pretty fun. 

We seriously spent all day on this game. 

Then it was back to work for a few days before making the 14-hour drive back to 'Bama.

We went to his parents' house first and spent two days there. It was wonderful to see everyone again, and especially to meet my new niece, Aiva. She was born this past September, so we'd only seen her in pictures and via Skype. It was pretty great to finally hold her. She's such a sweet girl!

A glitchy panorama of lovely Christmas messiness at the Olivers'
Then we visited my parents' place on Christmas Day.

One extra special treat? Since we were only in my hometown for 24 hours, I forced/guilt-tripped invited my parents to go out for brunch with Matt and me. They were feeling pretty well that day, thankfully, and they mustered up the strength to join us at IHOP. It's been years since I've gone out to eat with my parents, and we've never gone on a parent double-date with them. It was such a fun experience!

Blurry pic from my mom, who doesn't know how to use an iPhone.

Ugh. Stupid photo-bomber.
Both of our families blessed us with incredibly generous Christmas gifts, including a stack of cash that we're about to put toward car insurance, medical expenses, and of course, the ol' Debt Snowball. But in addition to the gifts, I also received, for the first time, the true joy that comes from being with family. I suppose being fourteen hours away from everyone makes you appreciate each other.  

All in all, it was pretty spectacular holiday. I feel so, so thankful for the safe travels, the family's generosity, and the chance to be surrounded by loved ones whose presence has become an unfortunate rarity. 

Oh, and a side note: this was also the first Christmas during which I did not use a credit card to buy gifts!!! We planned our budget accordingly and didn't get crazy at the stores. Huge milestone there!


Regine Karpel said...

Happy New Year

Lacey said...

I love that idea of the board games on Christmas Eve, how fun and creative! Looks like you had a great first married Christmas.