A Donohoe family Christmas.

Hey, Wanderers!

If you’ve been reading my blog (hopefully!), you’ll know that my last few posts, whether they be worship poems or reflections on my student teaching experiences, were very serious in nature. But now that I’m on Christmas break, I think it’s time for me to rekindle what silliness hasn’t been sapped out of me by my most exhausting quarter yet.

So, to you, Fall Quarter, I say only this:

funny baby

Now, without further adieu, here are 17 things that usually happen in the Donohoe house(s) around Christmas, accompanied by pictures.

1. I put up the manger. This has been my Christmas decorating job since I was three–except there was a period somewhere between the ages of 9-15 when it rotated between my sisters and me, but that was a weird time and it doesn’t happen anymore. Guys, I love setting up the manger. Love it. I love unwrapping and setting up all the characters in order in the right places. I think I love setting it up because I love the beauty of the manger scene, the way it tells the story of Jesus’ birth. Also I think it’s because I’m a little OCD. But mostly it’s just beautiful.

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This is the manger at my mom’s house.

2. The Donohoe family watches movies. My family watches a ton of movies together, even when it’s not Christmas. So when holiday season rolls around and the weather outside is frightful (bah-dum bum chhh), it gets pretty intense. Movies we typically watch together at home are: It’s A Wonderful LifeElfA Christmas Story, the Harry Potter movies, Miracle on 34th Street, The Grinch (both versions), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Love Actually (actually the last two are mostly me and my morbidly obese cat, Delilah). Also, it’s important to note that the best movies come out around Christmas time, which is why you’ll see my family at the movie theater a lot during the Christmas season. So far, I’ve seen The Hobbit (midnight premiere, obviously) and Mockingjay Pt. 1, but I also plan on watching Unbroken, Into the Woods, The Theory of Everything, and Big Eyes before break is over.

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3. We set up the Christmas Tree together. This particular tradition has waned over the years, as the Siegrist girls (my stepsisters) are often working and *some* of us Donohoe girls (rhymes with smemily) just “have to study for finals,” (pssshhhhh what does that even mean). But we always put up our own ornaments one at a time–from the beautiful crystal ones our parents buy us every year to the ugly ones that hide in the back. Like the Michigan State Spartans one. Or this one (this year, my mom caught me trying to hang it in the back, but she insisted I move it out front. I put it at knee-level, so hopefully that compensates for something.)

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My first-grade school picture. Shout out to the Gap (the one between my teeth). Also, #BangsGameStrong.

4. I have extended date nights with Jesus. These are the best. Seriously, I love these quiet hours at the beginning of break when my sisters and parents are in bed because they have work/school. Either in the morning or late at night (and lately it’s been both) I’ll spend a few hours reading my Bible, listening to worship music, reading a particular study, and writing in my journal. God has already taught me a ton over this break. Lots of my own sin, but also a lot of wonderful things too–like faith in Him and in the fact that His plans are better than mine. Patience for His timing. Strength and peace for difficult situations. Offering up my positive and my negative emotions to the Lord instead of letting them dictate my behavior. Holiness and obedience. Hunger for Him and nothing else. He’s been getting me excited to spend time with Him again, which I couldn’t say was always true during the fall, and I think He’s been telling me lately that something great is about to happen. I don’t know what. But I am excited to see where He leads me.

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5. We attend a gorgeous Candlelight Christmas Eve Service… So pretty. The music program at my church in Northville is excellent (though of course, I prefer my home church in Evanston). I think the reverence in this ritual is just really beautiful.

6. …which is ruined by the little kids’ annual Christmas song. Okay, people–you know I adore little children. I love them. I teach Sunday School for 3-5-year-olds, for goodness’ sake. But–I also adore music. I especially adore music when it is in tune. And also when it is not horrendously cheesy…you see my problem here?…Ugh. I swear I’m not a grinch.

7. The Donohoe girls bake Christmas cookies. So. Many. Cookies. Butter cookies in those fancy tins. My mom’s cornflake wreaths. Gingerbread men. My Nonnie’s cinnamon twists. The little shortbreads with the jam in the middle. My favorites are the Russian Tea Cakes–the balls of of buttery dough and powdered sugar and nuts. Last year I made these for the first time–sour cream chocolate drops with chocolate drizzle.

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8.   I spend lots of time with my family. The more time with my sisters, the sassier and weirder we get. I’m also the most extroverted person in my family, so when my sisters are upstairs hiding in their rooms, I’m downstairs hanging out with my parents, chilling with my mom on the couch. My mom and I are very close, so it’s always great to be able to hang out with her, although the closer we get to Christmas, the more time we’re spending with extended family. My Nonnie and Papa (my mom’s parents) come and stay at our house for a couple of weeks, so I get to see them (plus since Nonnie sleeps in my bed, that means I move to the twin bed in Emily’s room, so more sister time). My other grandparents live close by, too, so when we’re with my dad, we go to visit them a lot. Either way, it’s a guarantee that at least one of my grandmothers will ask me when she’s getting grandchildren and my grandfathers will sit there with their newspapers or television and pretend they don’t know what’s going on.

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Here’s all five of us (from L to R: Sarah, Stephanie, Alicia, me, and Emily).

9. Everyone looks fat in puffy snow clothing. I blame Michigan weather. But it could potentially be the cookies and our family’s general lack of portion control, I don’t know.

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Hot and dangerous (L to R: Sarah, Emily, me).

10. I fall asleep on the couch a lot because I love the Christmas tree lights. They’re so cozy. I think when I get my own place I’m just gonna put the tree in my room because stairs are hard.

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Christmas at my mom’s house. Who would want to leave?

11. The Donohoe girls have Double Christmas. Twice the family, twice the presents (giving and receiving), twice the travel, twice the stress, twice the Christmas Eve, twice the Christmas morning, twice the fun.

12. I live out my friendships vicariously through social media. As much as I love spending time with my family (and I do have many friends in Michigan with whom I spend time), I do usually miss my friends from Evanston a lot over Christmas break. Northwestern gives us almost a month off of school, and for this extrovert who thrives on social interaction, a month without all my friends is like death. So, you’ll typically see me on Facebook or Instagram or this blog a lot over these few weeks, letting people know I’m still alive and trying to catch up with people. The biggest thing that counters this escape to social media is IndyCC, Cru’s annual winter conference, where I get to hang out with 2,000 other Christian college students for five days in Indianapolis over New Year’s Eve (my favorite non-Jesus-related holiday). If it weren’t for all the time I spent with my friends there, I might just explode with pent-up relational energy.

13. The Donohoes take the annual family Christmas card photo. This is actually my least favorite thing of ever. Either the dog isn’t sitting up or someone’s hair is always weird or someone blinked or the camera gave them devil-eyes or they don’t like the way their sweater looks or the camera battery dies right before we get it right and either way, at the end of it people are yelling and being annoying and my mouth is twitching from fake smiling.

This was one of our most creative alternatives to a traditional family portrait for the Christmas card. And I really mean "alternative" in the truest sense. This picture is seriously so weird. But--at least it didn't require any of the nonsense.
An alternative to the traditional family Christmas  photo…we didn’t end up sending it. Thank God. (L to R, top to bottom: me, Mom, Stephanie, Emily, Alice from The Brady Bunch (?), Alicia, Sarah, my stepdad Kevin, and Reilly)

14. We all unwrap presents together. Early on Christmas morning (and by early I mean 8 a.m.) my mother or father comes into my room. Depending on where I am, either my two dogs or one of my sisters will jump onto my bed. Someone will whisper something about “It’s Christmas” (thanks for the memo, guys). Then we all have to brush our teeth and my mom takes our bleary-eyed photo on the stairs in our pajamas before forcing us to wait for like 12 minutes for them while they do whatever downstairs. When we’re finally all downstairs, we all open gifts one at a time. This used to be a lot more fun when we all got several rather inexpensive gifts, but now that most of us are older and we get fewer, more expensive presents, it’s kind of like, Oh, let’s watch Emily unwrap twenty small boxes while the rest of us sit here. But it’s still fun to see all the stuff people give and receive.

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The look on Sarah’s face. Classic.

15. I get Christmas gift shopping anxiety. This happens for three reasons: first, gifts are not my love language,  second, I’m a big procrastinator, and finally, malls at Christmas time scare me. Plus it’s hard when you have to buy gifts for nine people on a college budget. But, I do love the feeling I get when I find what I know is the perfect gift for someone. It’s great seeing their face when they open it up.

16. Each of us open the night-before sneak-peek gift. We technically get to open two because we have two Christmas Eves, but this tradition is fun because it’s like a little taste of what’s to come in the morning.

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Part of my haul from Christmas 2012.

17. I miss the annual Foley Family Christmas Party. This is a wonderful tradition that my father’s (very Irish) side of the family has continued every year. How is it, you may ask? I don’t know. Because I NEVER GET TO GO. Guys, this is a very exclusive party. You can only go once you graduate from high school (why? This seems so arbitrary because it’s not like you’re legally allowed to drink at 18 or anything–not that that makes a difference to my very Irish family where our blood is two parts plasma, one part whiskey. I mean, I guess you can, like, vote and buy cigarettes and stuff. But that’s not very exciting. What kind of horrible shenanigans can a bunch of over-18s, middle-aged people, and senior citizens possibly get into that they have to prevent the children from watching? I have no idea. All I know is, I want in). Every year, I wait with eager anticipation to attend this party–but the first year I was eligible, I had to miss it for some reason, and then the past couple years after that, it got canceled. This year I’m missing it because of IndyCC. Every time. One day, people. One day.

Well, that’s about it for today. Have a wonderful Christmas (or just a wonderful winter), and a Happy New Year! More blog posts to come after IndyCC.

–Erin

P.S. The earliest Christmas present I remember getting was a sparkly pink ballerina tutu. Here’s a home video .gif of me in that tutu, dancing to the brilliant musical stylings of Kenny G.

I had a little chipmunk voice. When the video was over I said to my dad, who was filming, "Can you put on another song?"
I had a little chipmunk voice. When the video was over. I said to my dad, who was filming, “Can you put on another song?”
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