Christmas is now three days old and, if you're anything like me, you're feeling those holiday blues. I get them on November 1st, December 26th, and January 2nd. It's knowing that another highly anticipated holiday has come and gone. However, despite having to dedicate so much time to work and less to Christmas, I think this was a fairly successful season in terms of blogging on The Holidaze. In previous years, I barely wrote anything at all and hardly any of it was of substance. This year, while I may have not gotten to everything I bought and took photos of, I did get enough up to feel like The Holidaze was a small part of the 2013 Christmas season.
Taking the blog out of it and speaking personally, this Christmas was another happy one with the family. At the end of the day, if you can surround yourself with loved ones and connect around the table through stories, laughs, food and drinks, then you know you're blessed and should never take that for granted. While so much of the season is focused on the materialistic end of Christmas, I always try to remember what the true spirit of Christmas means to me. Believe me, I spend more money on presents than I care to remember, but we all know it's about more than that. Through the years, as I've matured, I've come to appreciate that, but had you told me Christmas was about family at the age of 6, I would have kicked you in the shin and asked you where my present was. Just kidding.. kinda..
If you care to read and journey with me, I thought it would be nice to share my Christmas and the events leading up to it with my 10's of readers on The Holidaze. So much of my month was dedicated to Christmas food and candy, but the big festivities kick in at the end of December, especially my Aunt's Christmas party on the 21st. She loves Christmas and goes all out. Her house is decorated from top to bottom and we always have an amazing time celebrating with the entire family. It's here that we exchange our Secret Santa presents and take part in the annual Steal-A-Gift game. It's a blast and I'm so happy she throws it every year. Seeing everybody so happy, especially the kids who've invaded our family over the last 3 years, is an awesome feeling.
Because I'm not so sure about how my family members would feel about being pictured on The Holidaze, I'll keep most of their identities a secret and limit the personal stories. For the sake of The Holidaze, I'll focus more on the materialistic end... only seconds after telling you the season isn't about that. But hey, who doesn't like seeing what others got for Christmas? I know I do! To start, let's look at that Steal-A-Gift box. If you don't know how to play, or how we play, here are the basics: All the "kids" bring a wrapped gift and place it on the table. When it's time to play, we all pick a number. The first person picks and, for the most part, is usually screwed. The second person can then open up a present OR steal from the person who already opened. In that case, the first person would open up another present and so on and so forth. The present I wrapped was genius and - to be honest with you - it was my Mom's idea, not mine. I bought a box of chocolates and replaced the chocolate with money and scratch-offs. At first everybody laughed at such a horrible gift and my cousin, who opened the gift, looked miserable. But, had she just kept the candy sealed and not opened the cash, she would have been in the clear. The end result? It changed hands 4 times!
What did I get? A remote controlled sport quad! Yeah, for a guy who loves toys, this was right up my alley. But truth be told, I wanted somebody to steal it so I could go again. I knew my family was too creative for there to not be anything better hidden on that table. To my surprise, my cousin's boyfriend actually stole the quad from me after the money was stolen from him. Now, according to the rules, I could have stolen the very gift I brought to the party and gone home with all the money I invested into the box of candy. But damn, that would have been messed up, huh? I was the last to pick so I had my pick of the litter. In the end, there was no way I was going to Grinch out and steal back my own gift, so I ended up with a $25 gift card to the Outback! That worked out perfectly because, if you know Eileen and I, then you know we love us some Outback! Great success!
Dessert time rolled around and, of course, it's always a highlight. This year in particular, we all tried something new and it was thanks to my cousin, Allie. For as long as I can remember, she's always been a fan of cooking and baking. Whether it's a Summer BBQ or holiday party, she always comes up with something that leaves us wanting more. Well, on this day, she made Peanut Butter & Jelly cookies that we've all been raving about since the last bite. She didn't hype them up, she didn't even mention them, they were simply there. If you were lucky enough to see them and try one (or three) then you're one of the few because these were gone in a hurry. I can't tell you how she made them, what she did, or why they were so good, they just were. Normally I say I must have been hungry, but I wasn't and my entire family agreed. To my surprise, Allie didn't bring these to the Christmas Day party even after promising us all she would. Utter disappointment! If there was any downside to Christmas, it was the lack of cookies on Christmas Day ;)
My family is going through the process of entering the next generation of kids. When my cousin Kelly was born, she was the first of my Grandparents' Grandchildren. Phil was the second and I was the third. In total, I have about 16 or 17 cousins that I consider "my" generation. Well, now Kelly's son is 3-years-old and she just had a baby girl, last month. When I am surrounded by family and look around at how many kids there are, I think a few things. One, I'm getting old! I'm now at the age many of the last generation was when I was born! That's crazy! Two, they're a hell of a lot of fun and their innocence is overwhelming and only matched by their energy. While there are only a handful of kids at the moment, they're carrying the torch on to the next phase of family and I love what I see. Plus, being able to pass on the Ninja Turtles?? You can't beat it. It makes me want to have my own kids... But I'm a loooooong way from taking that step. I'm too busy being an adult kid, myself :)
The Sun set and night time arrived. We were still days away from Christmas, but it was the perfect prelude to another beautiful holiday. Between the lights, laughter, and Frosty the Snowman, the vibe was just right for a Christmas environment. By that point, all I had on my mind was getting home, getting through one more day of work, and creating amazing Christmas memories on the big day. I was in complete Elf mode and felt like decorating for Santa's arrival. All I needed were Legos and Lite Brite!
I have many traditions throughout the year and most of them are stupid and mean nothing to anybody but me. But, on Christmas Eve, I stick to it because it's not Christmas Eve without tradition. I don't wrap a single thing until Christmas Eve and then I spend the entire day wrapping everything. I purposely wait until the last minute because it relaxes me. Lighting the Holiday Bayberry candle provides the scent of Christmas, the cluttered mess provides nostalgia, the wrapping paper provides the action, the Rankin/Bass classics provide the sound, the Christmas tree provides the illumination, and the beer provides the buzz. It's everything I need for a sensory overload on Christmas Eve. There have been years where I've had other obligations and that sucked. It's the one tradition I will always have and refuse to break, but I did end early to spend the night with Eileen's family. In my 9 years and 11 months with her, that has become tradition number two!
Finally, the main event had arrived and we'd reached Christmas Day!! As always, it's such a magical day that I cherish so damn much. Growing up, my parents went all out on Christmas! When I wanted something, they got it. Every year, there was that one big thing that highlighted the season. Whether it was the Turtle Van or the WWF Championship title, they made sure I got what I wanted to see my face light up on Christmas morning. Now, as an adult, they're the big things that highlight the season. I'm so grateful to have them, my girlfriend, and the rest of my family here to celebrate.
But I'm starting to feel like Buzz McCallister at the end of Home Alone 2.
"Okay, enough with all this gooey shhhh...show of emotion."
Here are some of the materialistic highlights of Christmas and what I got :)
I think it's safe to say that I've gotten one wrestling video game on every Christmas that I can remember. Whether it was WWF Royal Rumble for Sega Genesis or WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game for Super Nintendo, it's become another tradition. Sometimes, I purposely don't buy the game on its release date just because I like getting it on Christmas. I'm telling ya guys, I'm all about nostalgia and tradition.
This isn't something I'd say is obvious from reading The Holidaze, but I absolutely love sneakers. You might have seen a few throughout various posts, but it's not something I know enough about to write about. I'm not one of those guys who will wait on line for days in hopes of getting a pair of overpriced Jordans, but I love changing up my style. If there's any way of comparing this guy from New Jersey to MTV's Jersey Shore, it's through me matching my sneakers to my t-shirt. I'm not vain, but I like to look good. I think I can pull it off for another few years, but by the time I'm 35, I probably have to stick with a generic pair of white Reebok's.
I haven't tried these yet, but it's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ice Cube Tray!! Whaaaat? That's just awesome. This is why I can't grow up. I need to go out, buy something juicy like a box of Hi-C Orange Lavaburst, pour it into a big glass and overfill it up with TMNT ice cubes. It's perfect! The only way this could be any better is if it was a cupcake pan. If they make that (or if they ever did), I'd have my girlfriend in the kitchen for hours whipping them up. Nobody makes 'em better!
God has gifted me with many things, and two of them are ears big enough to make the Big Bad Wolf jealous. Okay, they're really not that bad, but they're big enough to make headphones a problem. Everybody always talks about how great the Iphone headphones are. Well, I tried them and they won't stay in. I'd need duct tape to keep those suckers in my head. It's not happening. I've had others, including Dre Beats, but they just don't work out, especially at the gym. Well, this may finally be my solution. I haven't opened the box yet, but it GUARANTEES me that they'll NEVER fall out. I'm going to do front flips, back flips, cartwheels, and walk in a straight line just to be sure. Trust me, with my ears, walking and cartwheels lead to the same results :)
I received a bunch of clothes. Shirts, pants, hats - you name it - but nothing beats graphic tees. Even in the dead of Winter, you'll find me in a graphic tee and a zipped hoodie. These are just a few to add to the collection. Super Mario was a prelude to what was to come, Ravishing Rick Rude is going to allow me to show off my "Swag" this Summer, Boardwalk Empire is just right for a trip to Atlantic City, the Macho Man tee is finally mine and, believe it or not, that's actually my first Ghostbusters tee that I own. All in all, a great haul!
Even though the Nets are complete garbage at the moment, they're my team and I will always support them through thick and thin. I grew up watching the Nets, worked for them for 5 years, and consider them one of my top passions. Everybody in my family knows how much basketball means to me and how happy this losing team makes me, so now I'll be all decked out when I go to Brooklyn for a few games. The t-shirt, which is custom with my name and number is a nice twist because I bought Eileen a custom Nets t-shirt as well. Great minds think alike, but she topped me with those Nets sneakers. Those are siiiick!
Really happy to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Funko POP'S under the tree! I'm a little late to the Funko party, but the Pop Collection is one that I plan on diving into. They have so many cool characters available, but who better to kick the collection off than Mikey, Leo, Don, Raph, Splinter and Shredder? That's how you start things off on the right foot. Now I have to pick up a few from the Horror collection. They'll definitely be in my possession before the next Halloween Holidaze and hopefully they'll make for great pics. For now, these heroes in a half shell are more than enough!
This gift from my Mom and Dad to Eileen and I was bittersweet. I absolutely love this canvas-printed photo of Rocky, but of course it struck a nerve. After all, Rocky was a Christmas gift to Eileen in 2008 and this is our first year without our buddy. It's been sad, but we try to remember the good times and know that he's still with us. This gift, which is my favorite of the year, means the world to me. Little did my parents know, but this is actually my favorite Rocky picture of all time. Sometimes things just come together. This one made me a little teary eyed, but just like I will right now, I moved on to happier things with him in my heart.
Have you ever heard of the OUYA? Holy Moly, it's the most amazing gaming system on the market!! This little box, which is no bigger than a coffee mug, has the power to connect to the Internet and allows you to download emulators. This means you can download Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, and N64! Then, after you download every single ROM you can possibly find on the Internet, you transfer them to a flash drive and connect it to the OUYA. Now, in the palm of your hand, you have the ability to relive the past and play every classic game you've ever had... or didn't have. As of right now, I have over 2,000 games on my OUYA!
I spent the entire day playing Super Mario World and, let me tell ya, these games never get old! We've come a long way in terms of graphics, but the legends live forever and now they can be yours for only $100. The OUYA is that good and, in my opinion, a better Christmas gift than the PS4 or Xbox One would have been. The modern games are fun and I'll have a blast playing WWE 2K14, but going back to play the games I grew up on was just as fun. Maybe the novelty will wear off, and I guess that's possible but, for the time being, I'm living in the past and the nostalgia is wonderful. Do yourself a favor and buy this! If you love old games, you will be in your glory!
To conclude, here's a picture of me in a Heat Miser t-shirt shrouded in an Instagram filter. I hope you had as great of a Christmas as I did and I'd love to hear all about your Holidaze. If you want to share your story, or what your favorite Christmas present is, then fill up those comments or let me know on Twitter @HolidazeBlog! As always, thank you for reading and making The Holidaze what it is. It isn't much, but it's my way of connecting to the world and I truly enjoy connecting with you. Without all 26 of you, I'd have no readers and no reason to write.. oh, what's that? Oh, it's 24 now. I lost two with that Instagram filter..
Next stop : 2014!