Keeping the Christmas Eve Dinner Tradition Alive

Art McCormack
MDI Contributor

It must have been 1996 or 1997, and Christmas Eve was just a day away. Mom had always been the one to lead the charge around getting Christmas dinner prepped and ready for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration when my father was alive.

Maybe it was a need to keep a connection with a part of her life that was so suddenly and violently ripped away when my father died, or maybe it was a desperate grasp at trying to keep a semblance of normalcy in what had become a hectic life for her – trying to raise three teenagers, in a foreign country, on her own, while holding down two jobs to make ends meet. She was fully immersed in the Christmas Eve dinner preparation process: coming and going from the grocery, preparing stuffing and other side dishes, cooking the turkey.  

I knew it was best to stay out of her way to avoid being recruited for some kitchen chore, or risk irking her temper. But our apartment was small, so coming and going inevitably resulted in forced interaction. To try and distract her from soliciting my help, I decided to ask if she was planning on inviting any guests over, to which she promptly replied she was not.

It was then that she actually stopped what she was doing, and after a brief pause, looked at me and asked if I wanted to invite a friend over instead. Surprised by her question, I didn’t know exactly what to answer. I decided to play it safe by keeping my options open and telling her that maybe I did. I really didn’t know what to make of this unexpected offer, but I thought it would be pretty cool to have a friend over for Christmas Eve dinner … but who?

Later that afternoon I called one of my old school buddies – Eric – in hopes of scoring a joint for the evening. We spoke for a bit and then I remembered what my mother had said earlier, so I asked him if he had plans for Christmas Eve. It turned out that he did not; his mother had relocated to England some years earlier when his parents divorced, and his father had remarried an American lady of whom Eric wasn’t too fond. He had no intentions of attending his stepmom’s Christmas dinner. So seizing the opportunity, I just asked if he would like to come over to my home for dinner instead.

My mom knew Eric and was quite amiable to the idea of having him as our guest. And so it was, that Eric joined us for dinner that year.

We had a most fun and memorable evening. Mom was a gracious and welcoming host, and even though Eric and I had already been friends for a number of years, that evening was a spot-weld moment in our friendship – one that we have reminisced on many times ever since – all thanks to my mother, who made it alright for me to invite a friend to our family affair and who kept the Christmas Eve dinner tradition alive.

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