The Weird Ways I Know It’s Christmas

This year, I’m doing something different and spending Christmas with my new husband. While I’m super excited for his next great stuffed french toast concoction, it does mean that the days leading up to the big shebang feel a lot different. In years past, there would be the long drive to Dead Coal Mining Town, PA across large swaths of land where the only music on the radio was country. Today, nestled safely away in my own apartment, I have to keep reminding myself that it is Christmas Eve. The tree isn’t doing the trick. All the strange cues are gone, and I’m missing … Uncles playing Christmas songs on beer bottles: Sometimes it made Grandma mad to have all six of them tooting out “Away in a Manger” via Budweiser, but I always thought it was hysterical. A few are serious musicians, so they’d debate how much liquid had to get poured out or drunk to create the perfect B flat. Always amazing.
Getting to watch cable television: When I was little, my family never had cable TV, just an antenna in the attic. Traveling across Pennsylvania to celebrate holidays and family was great, but I was also always super psyched to finally get to watch Nickelodeon, or the “Smurfs,” or the 24 hours of “A Christmas Story.” Hanging out in a motel room early in the morning wrapped in a blanket and honest-to-goodness children programming was it’s own luxury.
Playing my cousin’s Game Boy: Much like cable, I never had a video game system (although now I have a husband with an XBox 360). Post presents, Christmas was all about sweet-talking “Super Mario Brothers” away from Ray, so I could slip on the “Game Genie” and never, ever die. No matter how badly I played.
Long, interminable car rides stuffed into the back seat with my annoying little sister and enough luggage for a 5-year trek through the Himalayas: It’s what family is all about.
Homemade marshmallows: While Thanksgiving also brings delicious pies and spiced turkey, no other day brings with it my grandmother’s homemade marshmallows and cocoa. Served in clear depression glass that sparkles just slightly in the light; the glasses always held a little magic.
Stomping through the house pretending to be superheroes powered by 6-foot bubblegum: The best made-up game ever! Gum tastes way better than spinach, Popeye. Any of my cousins could have told you that.

What unique cues meant Christmas for you? We’d love to hear about your own quirky traditions!