The Rhoten Christmas

Writer  /  Kate Rhoten

Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) has come and gone. In addition, so has the craziness known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These have become traditions for some but not for my family or me. The only reason I shopped on Cyber Monday 2014 was for tickets to the Foo Fighters concert in August 2015.

Traditions sometimes are passed down from generation to generation, or in our case, evolve from something that was done once and then again with the members of the family wanting it to occur each holiday in the future. We have two versions of the Rhoten Christmas tradition celebration. One is the home game; the other is the away game. Both have their positives, neither can be the one favorite.

The years we don’t travel to visit my family in Oklahoma, we hunker down as a family of four on Christmas Eve and hang out. We do dinner together and watch the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Many years ago, I made the unfortunate mistake of making homemade enchiladas with chile verde sauce. It is now part of our tradition.

The next morning, we get up, open our gifts and have cinnamon rolls, coffee and juice. It’s a very relaxing start to the day. Later that morning, we travel to my sister-in-law’s home for a family gift exchange and dinner. Each of us brings a dish to share and then eventually find our way to the table to play cards. Later in the evening, we head back home.

The years we travel for Christmas are a different story altogether. When we visit my aunt, uncle and cousins with their kids, it’s chaotic but in a good way. I have three cousins that are close to my age, Richard, Margaret and John. We haven’t always been in touch on a regular basis, but we did spend many holidays together as young kids.

Now that we are older and have our own families, it’s really cool to hang out. We arrive before Christmas and hang out for a couple of days. Christmas isn’t structured very much. We take care of last minute shopping, play games with the kids and sometimes find our way to a Christmas Eve service.

The experience of Christmas dinner is totally opposite of our at home routine. Richard is part owner of a local chain of BBQ restaurants in Oklahoma City. Once we factor in the number of friends that will join us, the number gets quite large. So holiday dinners are made and enjoyed in one of Richard’s restaurants since it is closed for the day.

The kitchen is spacious and allows for many chefs in the kitchen. Everyone chips in, and it runs rather smoothly. There is plenty of space for the kids to play games and hang out while the meal is cooking. After the meal, it is a group effort to clean up. Noah and Zane (Margaret’s oldest son) are on dishwasher duty. After the kitchen is clean, they help Richard load the smoker with meat. Each time we go, Noah looks forward to it.

These are two ways we spend our Christmas. Each is special. We enjoy them both. As you prepare for your Christmas celebration, take a minute to remember your traditions, new or old. Share with your family how they started and why they are important to you. Traditions make your own celebration personal and special. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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