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FORGET SANTA -- CHRISTMAS BEGINS WITH MOMMY

If there's one Christmas morning tradition that has been passed down to me, it's that the fun doesn't begin until Mommy's been in hair and makeup. That means that after a shower with the requisite moisturizing, she puts on full foundation, blush, mascara, liquid eyeliner, eye shadow and lipstick and that her hair has been set in hot rollers. Attire has always been specially chosen before the day -- usually an attractive but tasteful and festive nightie. Good perfume is worn. I learned this tradition from my mother, still the most beautiful and feminine woman I know. She never "let herself go" when she raised my sister and me. And as it has been with my husband each Christmas since my son was born, we have an awful lot of great photos, especially of mom.


PASSING DOWN A TRADITION

My family can thank Welsh writer Dylan Thomas for one of our longest-standing Christmas traditions. Every year, we take turns reading Thomas' classic story, "A Child's Christmas in Wales," on Christmas Eve. Thomas' story -- first published in 1954, a year after his death -- is a nostalgic reflection on Christmases of the past. The origins of how "A Child's Christmas in Wales" became a holiday staple in my family are somewhat cloudy. Maybe it's because Thomas grew up in Swansea, Wales, and my mother grew up in Swansea, Mass.? Whatever it is, I credit my mom, because she has been the driving force behind keeping the story in our family year after year. This year will be our toddler son's second Christmas, and we'll be spending it with my wife's family in the Atlanta suburbs, far from my family. But I'm sure we'll find time to read it, even if there's no snow on the ground in Georgia.


SPLITTING THE HOLIDAYS -- PART I

I've been married for a little more than three years, and I'm still not used to splitting up the holidays between our families. Don't get me wrong -- I'm blessed to have so many people to celebrate with, but it's quite a whirlwind. From the traditional Italian seven fishes feast on Christmas Eve with my in-laws to the festivities on Christmas Day with my side of the family, the two days go by so quickly it makes me miss the sit-in-my-pajamas-all-day Christmases of my childhood.


SPLITTING THE HOLIDAYS -- PART II

I never see my son on Christmas. Because my son's father is Catholic and Mexican, we split up the holidays in an unusual way. I have my son every Thanksgiving, because his dad, who moved to the United States when he was 28, doesn't have an ingrained attachment to that U.S. tradition. And, as I was raised Jewish, I don't have a history of celebrating Christmas. So I gave up that holiday in exchange. This has worked for us, even though I do feel a pang on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day now that I'm married to a man who celebrates the holiday. I'm the one who cooks the roast and makes the mashed potatoes to host Christmas dinner in my home for my husband, my stepdaughter and my husband's extended family. My son -- he'll unwrap gifts from a stocking we always hang for him, anyway, once he gets home from his time with Papa.

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