1. The cocktail hours. Yes, it is hours for a reason. The moment your parents turn their backs, your aunts, uncles, and cousins, who are all vying for the position of coolest relative, will immediately offer you any drink of your choice. If you thought your friends were crazy, you’re in for a surprise, because there is nobody to party with quite like your family. If you’re under 21, this is especially epic.
2. The pseudo-argument that turns into love. This might be the moment where dissenting political views or clashing personalities threaten to boil over and cause a Real Housewives level family feud. Tensions are rising, and the bickering is real. Suddenly, silence takes over. You worry about who will make the first attack. Then, someone cracks a joke, and there is laughter. You sigh with relief and clank your glasses with one another.
3. The hastily thrown together family Christmas photo. Spontaneously, someone will rally the family and insist on taking a family photo because you all haven’t taken one together in three years or something. Come on, there might be new pets and new babies that need to make their debut in the picture! The whole family gathers and crowds the sofa, of course with all the taller people in the back row only. You flush with embarrassment when Dad whips out the tripod for his digital camera. You prepare yourself for at least four takes to get it right, but you’re the first one to ask for a print once the perfect picture is taken.
4. The food coma. Usually during the cocktail hours, there is “light” fare: cold cuts, bread, shrimp cocktail, and of course, the party cult classic, the veggie platter–with dip! Because it’s a holiday, there will be no slap on the wrist for overeating and spoiling your dinner, but make sure to save some room. You know that once the dinner bell rings, you’ll be greeted by a buffet consisting of usually two meats, a cheesy pasta dish (probably baked ziti), a salad loaded with all the fixings, of course another bread basket, and OH MY GOD GRANDMA’S SCALLOPED POTATOES. Once you’re finished with dinner, break out the Tums and say your prayers because dessert is coming in the form of unlimited Christmas cookies and a gratuitously chocolatey cake-brownie-trifle combination.
5. The grab bag. Plain old gift giving is a sweet and thoughtful bonding experience, but nothing is quite as entertaining–and possibly a little evil–as the grab bag. For a fun twist on the usual rules, make it so that a gift can be stolen from the person who originally opened it. Who will leave with the mashed potato scented Yankee Candle? You’ll just have to wait and see.
6. The extended goodbye. When the festivities are over, part of you doesn’t want to say goodbye…and that’s okay because it will probably take you 45 minutes from the time you announced you were leaving for you to finally get in your car and be on your way home. The long goodbye portion of the night makes time for all the inside jokes and conversations you somehow didn’t have time for earlier during the day. With another Christmas and a lifetime of memories under your belt, you’ll start planning next year’s grab bag gift in your parents’ car until you rest your head against the window and drift into your cookie coma.