Following a lovely brunch the morning of Christmas Eve at sweet little Abode 212, Mike and Melissa began the task of loading up the Subaru with gifts, pajamas, a few sweet treats and eventually themselves and their mutt. With Worland only an hour away, Christmas with the Harrington's is an easy, quick trip. Mike and Melissa arrived on Bluebell Lane just in time to crack open some beers and mingle with family members in preparation for a full series of Christmas Eve traditions.
Yearly, the Harrington's Christmas Eve table is set with a Seafood Casserole (prepped just as Grandma Carolynn had done for years) and, depending on who's cooking and who's coming, a pot of Oyster Stew can be found on the stovetop. Bread, veggies, fruit salad and desserts round out the meal which always preludes the Christmas Eve Service at the United Methodist Church. Filled with the once-a-year meal, steeped in tradition and holiday memories a plenty, the Harrington family makes their Christmas Eve trek to the United Methodist Church for the lighting of advent candles, gospel readngs and the infamous candle-lit singing of Silent Night.
Following this series of advent and Christmas-Eve traditions, expectations and joys, Mike and Melissa along with siblings, in-laws and parents return to Bluebell Lane for the making of much merriment and joy. Traditionally, the crew returns home, begrudgingly yet willingly agrees to take a family photo, knowing that they'll be in no hurry to dress in the morning to. take the beloved photo prior to the Christmas meal the following day. Thus, Christmas 2015 was no different, following the service, family members agreed that although they'd love to be wearing their pajamas, they'd rather take the family photo right away rather than attempting to wake up and get ready early enough to take the photo Christmas morning. So the crew piled around the tree, grabbed their pups and smiled long enough to capture a couple of photos before throwing on the pajamas and hunkering down for some gift unwrapping.
Being an all adult and dog Christmas experience, the unveiling of gifts took on a leisurely pace as each person opened one gift with all eyes on them awaiting joyful expressions, laughter and heartfelt thanks. While the Harrington clan is not all too eager to spend thousands and encourage the commercialization of the holiday, they are eager to give useful, thoughtful, fun gifts. One particular highlight included a smattering of outdoor backpacking themed gifts (including a pack for the brother-in-law who has yet to experience a good ol' Harrington backpacking trip) which promise to be used in the summer of 2016 for a family excursion into the wild. With the giving of gifts and the planning of excursions going late into the night, the crew soon found themselves brushing their teeth and making their way to bed.
As has been a Tom Harrington family tradition for ages, Christmas morning was not just a time for stockings but more notably the sharing of eggs, sausage and Grandma Carolyn's Apricot Coffee Cake with a beloved family friend; Heidi. Heidi is a sweet friend of the Harrington's who yearly makes Christmas breakfast with the Harrington's a priority. She arrives on time, every time. She excuses the fact that most of the Harrington's are still in their pajamas and have yet to finish their first cups of coffee. She says hello to all who are joining her, including the dogs. She gracefully allows the Harrington (and Dawson) men to carry or wheel her and her wheelchair into the basement family room. She politely accepts the meal, a glass of juice and a variety of gifts from the Harrington clan. She kindly offers a gift for the Harrington's, typically addressed to Patty, yet meaningful for the family as a whole. Heidi's experience of the holiday is a bit different than the full set of seasonal traditions as experienced by the Harrington's and most Americans. Yet, each and every Christmas morning Heidi reminds us all that love is the central element to the holidays and a life being well lived.
Following the breakfast tradition that ties family to generations past through food and the character of loving others as though they are family, the day continued by hitting the road toward Cody. Mike and Melissa had a quick stop over in Burlington to frost a few dozen mini eggnog cupcakes and grab some beer before heading on to John and Susan's for the family meal. Upon arrival on Sunshine Lane, the guests and hosts alike enjoyed festive cocktails, cold beers and all the most tasty appetizers while the scent of prime rib filled the air. The big meal was followed by take-away bingo, a family tradition that yields many guests walking away with something another deemed ridiculous, BUT everyone leaves with a gift and lots of laughter fresh from their bellies.
Wanting to soak up as much time as possible with parents, sisters and brother-in-law, Mike and Melissa returned to Worland for a night of games and snacking, opting to wake-up early in the morning in order to get the ovens on and a weekend's worth of work in at The Burlington Place before heading on to their next family engagements in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Wherever and whenever the holidays are celebrated, Mike and Melissa find themselves filled with immense gratitude and contentness at having been given these people to celebrate with and these traditions to carry out year, after year.