Christmas Eve is THE BIG ONE in my house. We haven't really done a heck of a lot of celebrating since my mom passed 6 years ago (in December), but we've come up with some quirky traditions... - Little Brother is HOME from Boston! We still haven't decorated the house. - The Christmas Ficus got a makeover. Yes, I said Christmas Ficus. A Christmas Tree is still too painful, so we decorate our fake Ficus, complete with lights, ornaments, and a very pathetic-looking star. In heaven, my mom is rolling her eyes at me. - Good news! Santa will be on schedule tonight. I know this because he does dry runs to houses without young children on Dec. 23 and he made it to my house last night . He doesn't not seem to mind the Christmas Ficus, either. - I baked ALL MORNING. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, authentic key lime pie, butter cookies, and my mom's specialties - pierogi, kolache, and chocolate chip zucchini bread. - It's nearing time to start dinner. We try to to the traditional Italian 7 fishes, but it gets hard to work it all in. Dinner will go something like this: Wine, shrimp cocktail, cheese & crackers, wine, smoked mackeral & salmon, wine, seared scallops, wine, pan-fried pierogi with mushrooms & onions, pasta with anchovies & bread crumbs, wine, asparagus and baked cod, wine. That's only 6, so I'm counting my tuna fish sandwich from lunch. Dessert: a wide assortment of cookies. Brother breaks out the homebrew. Dad breaks open the liquer cabinet & chokes on the dust that billows out. I try not to die from indigestion. - At this point, we will be pleasantly squiffy & decide to open JUST ONE present each, while Dad reminds me that I need to go leave Baby Jesus a beer and some kolache*. (*this is the only tradition we still follow. When I was little, we didn't leave cookies & milk for Santa - we left beer & cookies for Baby Jesus. I was very worried about the effect beer would have on a baby, but my dad ASSURED me he would be ok). - An hour later, all presents are open and we are very squiffy and giggly. Someone will have stolen Baby Jesus' beer and cookies. Evidence will point to the powdered sugar on Dad's fingers. Everyone will feel be sad that my mom isn't here, but we won't talk about it. - Tomorrow morning, we will awake with varying states of hangovers, lay on the couch, and watch Christmas movies while cursing our one night of overindulgence each year. Merry Christmas!