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Nothing says tradition like Christmas.

Some of those traditions last for years and some die natural deaths out of necessity or circumstance.

Many of us marry into traditions.

For example, my wife’s family opened gifts on Christmas Eve. This was new to me, but it worked well for us because we were able to participate in that with her family Christmas Eve, then have the Christmas tree with my folks Christmas morning. It took some maneuvering as our families lived two hours apart, but for the years both of my parents were alive, we made it work.

The first Christmas after my mother died, we offered to go spend Christmas morning with my dad as usual, but he simply wasn’t up for it. So that tradition died with my mother.

After we moved here from Arkansas, we began spending Christmas at home, having my wife’s parents and my father on alternating years. His Christmas visit in 2005 would be his last, as he died two weeks later. So another tradition ceased to exist.

My wife’s parents are still living, but they are in Arkansas and no longer travel. We try to visit around Christmas if possible (my wife just returned), and my wife’s sister, who lives in Virginia, usually does the same.

Since two of our children now have spouses, we have learned to share with the families into which they married. With one in-law family living in Franklin and the other in north Alabama, it has not been too difficult yet.

This will be our third year to celebrate Christmas Day, with the tree and presents,
on the 26th. This may not always be feasible, but for now it works, and I guess you could say we now have a tradition of celebrating Christmas the day after.

Today our most longstanding and cherished tradition is our Christmas Eve celebration, which we kind of happened upon ten years ago when my wife asked if anyone would object if she didn’t prepare turkey and dressing for Christmas dinner. She had grown weary of preparing the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all told her we were fine with that.

Then she pushed it even more and asked what we thought of having Mexican food and having it on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.

We were all in. To add ambiance, we strung up a string of pepper lights in the dining room and put “Feliz Navidad” on repeat. We found a couple of sombreros and took turns wearing them. It was a hoot.

And it was such a hit that a new tradition was born – international Christmas Eve. Since that first year with Mexican food, we have had Christmas Eves with Greek, Italian, French, Asian, Caribbean, German, British and Brazilian themes. It has grown much more elaborate over the years, with decorations and authentic foods from the region being celebrated. Costumes are optional, but the majority opt in.

This year, in recognition of our tenth international Christmas Eve, we our having a “Festival of Nations” with food and décor from all the previous countries or regions that have inspired our celebrations.

A few months ago my wife, chef and party planner extraordinaire, emailed to all of us a list of foods we have had from each year, and asked each person to pick two they would like to have again.

From that list she came up with the menu, which is top secret. We could be having baklava alongside sushi, or German beer with pasta. And with two babies in the mix this year, who knows what the evening will look like?

But I am confident of this: it will be another grand time with a tradition that started as a menu change.

Merry Christmas to all.

Whatever and however you are celebrating this year, I wish you and your family the very best.
Thank you for stopping by week after week and for the occasional comment. It means more than you know. See you next year.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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