The holidays are always a reminder of family for me. Over the years, we have celebrated Christmas in countless cities and small towns across the country. This year I’ll be celebrating with my husband and family in Michigan during the NHL’s three-day break. As we gear up for the Nat King Cole Christmas CD and the opening of gifts on Christmas morning, I’m starting to get nostalgic.
Every family does the holidays differently and I’d like to share some of the traditions I’ve grown to love over the years…
Christmas Eve Mass
Growing up we moved almost every two years. No, I was not a military kid. My dad worked in sales for a large cement company and each time he would get promoted we would move. I’ve celebrated Christmas Eve in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, Oklahoma and Michigan. The festivities always start early. By early, I mean we are leaving the house dressed for church by 2:00-2:15 PM (at the latest) for 4 PM Mass. My mom Donna, who many of you have met at games over the years, is a stickler for being to Mass on time. For Christmas Eve Mass we are ALWAYS at least an hour and a half early. I think my husband Brendan thought we were crazy the first year he celebrated with us. It’s a little excessive we know, but as Donna would say “If we don’t leave now, we won’t be sitting together.” Needless to say, every year we sit together! Mom and I have been the lectors for the children’s Mass for nearly 15 years now. We pray, sing, laugh at our priests funny Christmas jokes and cry when he sings us a song as his gift each year. It’s the perfect way to kick off the holiday.
Dancing After Dinner
At the Hogan house, we dance. I’m not a good dancer or singer by any means, but with a few glasses of wine and a fabulous dinner, we are dancing. Over the years the Christmas Eve dance party has been as small as four of us and as large as 25. It depends on what neighbors, family or friends are in town each year. The night usually goes late, but before we can go to bed, we read “the book”…
The Polar Express
I’m not 100 percent sure when it started. I was too young to remember the first time we read The Polar Express. But somewhere along the way our family of four started reading this magical book. Over the years, we have shared this tradition with anyone else who celebrates Christmas Eve with us. Grandparents, younger cousins and spouses have read along passing the book after each page. Some years my mom couldn’t get through two sentences without crying before she had to pass the book to the next person. The story and it’s meaning have evolved over the years for me. From a little boy’s adventure to meet Santa at the North Pole, to the importance of believing in the something, even when others may not be able or willing to see it. This Christmas I still believe in the spirit of Santa Clause, the importance of family and the goodness in people around the world.
My brother always woke me up on Christmas morning. He would race into my room anytime between 5 AM and 7 AM full of excitement. I’d try to get him to close his eyes for a few more hours or minutes before waking up our parents but that rarely worked. Even now that we are in our 30s and both married, Joey is still awake at the crack of dawn. He still comes to wake me up on Christmas morning. When our parents finally go downstairs they turn on the Christmas tree lights and put on the Nat King Cole Christmas CD. Only on their word are we allowed to run down the stairs and into the family room. That’s where the tree stands center stage, decorated perfectly with presents underneath.
The Best Gift
We take our time opening Christmas gifts over coffee and laughs. There have been some great ones over the years. But, this year the biggest gift for my husband Brendan and I is coming in 2019… We are expecting our first child, and feel beyond blessed and excited!
Yes, I’m pregnant and due the first week in May! A new Islanders fan will be arriving in a few months and we can’t wait to introduce them to the game and team we love.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) December 16, 2018
This Christmas is even more special because my brother and his wife Kristina are also expecting a baby in February. So, next Christmas there will be eight of us celebrating together. The babies might cry through parts of Christmas Eve Mass, but we will dance after dinner, read the Polar Express to them and Uncle Joey will have some competition to see who wakes up first on Christmas morning.