Happy 2017 everyone!!!! Who else is kinda happy that the holidays are over besides me? Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE Christmas and New Years, but for some reason this year just seemed a little more stressful than usual. For me, it was likely the one year anniversary of my dad’s death (December 20, 2015) that brought the extra pressure and stress to my holiday season. I have to say that it seemed like a lot of people were feeling the same way as me this year for their own personal reasons. With that said, the holidays were still very fun and my family has some pretty great traditions that I would like to share!
Christmas Eve 2015 was filled with sorrow. We had no motivation to really even celebrate Christmas let alone put on a great feast. My mom came up with the idea to just go to a restaurant and have a nice dinner. No cooking, no clean up. It was the perfect idea and as a byproduct a new tradition was born! We did the exact same thing this Christmas Eve at the exact same restaurant with all of my siblings, our significant others, and my mom. We indulged on holiday martinis and filled our bellies with great food.
Another tradition we started in 2015 was a Secret Santa gift exchange between siblings and significant others. We realized in 2014 that buying for all four siblings, plus significant others, plus our parents, plus extended family just became WAY too expensive and difficult! The following Thanksgiving (read about our awesome Thanksgiving traditions here) we decided to simplify the holidays and implement a Secret Santa gift exchange. We write down all of our names and put them into a bowl. My mom keeps track of who’s name everyone draws and essentially becomes Santa’s elf! Haha. We all tell her things we need and/or want and she passes it along to our SS! We set the budget at $100 and we try really hard to keep who we have a secret. There have been a few slip ups though. LOL!!!
This year, I had my sister. I bought her this really cute leather jacket she was eyeing in Vegas (read about our Vegas trip here) and was able to get it for 30% off during the Macy’s Friends and Family sale. I also gave her a bottle of wine I purchased from Wines For Humanity. Wine is always such a generic gift, but what I loved about this bottle is that a portion of the proceeds goes towards preventing homelessness and it pairs well with pizza (my sister’s all time favorite food)!
We exchange gifts with each other after we get home from the restaurant and have a giant sleepover at my mom’s house. It’s so casual and filled with lots of laughter. I think this is my favorite day of the holiday season.
On Christmas morning, we wake up to my mom’s cinnamon rolls and coffee. Mmmm.
After everyone is awake, we all open our gifts from our mom. She is a really good gift giver. Everything she buys everyone is super personal and well thought out. This year my main gift was a new camera lens that I have been really wanting. I can’t wait to play around with it!
For a bonus gift, my mom hides a pickle ornament in her tree and then we all stand around it and try to spot this pickle. (Read more about this tradition here) FYI, it is REALLY hard to spot. Whoever finds the pickle wins a $50 Visa gift card. Somehow, my dang brothers always seem to find it.
Shortly after we finish opening gifts, it is time to get ready for my mom’s side of the family to come over. We eat “dinner” around 2 pm and exchange a few little gifts. We decided next year to implement a white elephant exchange. More clarification on this coming up, but we set the gift value at $25 for next year. I can’t wait!
This brings us to my husband’s family Christmas! After dinner at my mom’s, Chris and I head over to his aunt and uncle’s house. It’s about a 45 minute drive from my mom’s. Not too bad. It’s nice because their family eats around 5 pm, which is a perfect amount of time for us to digest and go in for round two. Haha. After dinner, we have a white elephant exchange. There is no price limit set for his family’s exchange, but I’ve made out with some excellent gifts.
White Elephant Rules and Regs
Everyone participating brings a wrapped gift and places it in the center pile. Each person then draws a number. Whoever draws number 1 goes first and picks a present to open out of the center pile. This is the best number to draw. Number 2 gets to either open a new present from the center pile or steal number 1’s present. Each gift can only be stolen a MAXIMUM of three times. On the third steal, whoever stole the gift keeps it and is out of the game. This process continues until every person has a present. After the last person plays, number 1 gets the ultimate final decision to keep the gift they have or steal the remaining gifts in play.
This year I received a puzzle and chocolate covered pretzels and Chris received a super soft plaid blanket.
Christmas Family Activity Days
Last Christmas, my husband’s immediate family decided that we will no longer exchange gifts. Now, we have family activity days. Chris’s brother and his mom plan an activity day and Chris and I plan our activity day.
Family Activity Day Part 1 took place the day after Christmas and was planned by Gayle and Nick. We had lunch at WildFire and went to the movies to see Star Wars Rogue One in IMAX 3D. The special effects in this film were another level.
Family Activity Day Part 2 took place a few days later and was hosted by Chris and me. We wanted to take the family to go indoor skydiving, but there was no availability on the day we planned. We decided to do lunch at Au Cheval.
My husband has eaten here several times and swears they have the best burger and chopped salad he’s ever had in his entire life and that it is the best in the world. They do not take reservations and it is a standard three hour wait on any given day at any given time. I could never get over having to wait three hours for a burger, so I’ve never been.
Chris put our name on the list at noon and of course, we didn’t get seated until 3 pm…. we basically had dinner. Haha. During our long wait, we went to Bar Siena to have a cocktail. Waiting for a table can be so annoying, but we had great conversation while waiting. The time flew by. My verdict on Au Cheval? Chris was right. It is definitely the best burger in the world.
What to Order at Au Cheval
The Chopped Salad with bacon, egg, and ranch dressing. Single Cheeseburger with bacon and fried egg. French Fries with aioli sauce.
*The bacon is literally the most unique and best tasting bacon I’ve ever had.
New Years Eve
This year we spent NYE at my sister’s. It was super low key and chill. We played games, ate great food, and of course counted down to the new year together! It was the perfect way to ring in 2017.
What are your holiday traditions? I would love to know! Leave me a comment below.