Parenting Guru: Nothing says Christmas like a chain restaurant

Every year my extended family gets together on Christmas Eve. We attend my mom's church for Christmas Eve mass. We make sure to get there early to get good (some) seats. We revel in this family time as we celebrate the holiday together.

And then, when church is over, we hightail it to our cars, which we have strategically parked in the direction we need to head, and drive to TGI Fridays. The enormous table (seating 15-20, depending on the year) is usually in a back room, a combination of round and square tables alike. We order wings, potato skins, burgers, fries, beer, and the like. We are loud. We are boisterous. We are awesome. And we are incredibly, inordinately, happy.

A chain restaurant might not be your idea of a holiday meal. No one slaved over a stove to cook it from scratch. There wasn't a table elaborately set with the finest linens and china. We don't have a separate kids' table in the other room. We actually tried several other options before settling on this family tradition. We cooked our own meals, trying homemade spinach lasagna and salads or honey-baked ham. We tried fancier restaurants, where our meals were all placed in front of us at the same time and none of the food was fried (the horrors!). As we tried to figure out what fit our family, we formed a family tradition that's stuck.

There's something about being so relaxed together. We aren't putting on airs. No one is stressed out in the kitchen. Everyone can sit down together at the same time. No one has to clean up. There's something on the menu that everyone wants to eat. We don't need a reservation (though we've had to wait patiently for a table on occasion). We get to leave the wait staff a nice tip, and hopefully make their night. It's a place we'd eat any other night. It's us.

Isn't it funny how family traditions form? Traditions that we don't even realize are that. I could have told you about appetizer night and decorating my mom's tree. I could have told you about our Elf on the Shelf (whose name is Harry, in case you were curious). I might have told you about getting Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve or the excitement of waking Aunt Amie up before 6 AM. There are so many things I could have told you. Each makes our holiday, and the entire season, unique. But when I sat down to write about a holiday tradition, this is the first one that came to mind. It's everything the holiday season is about.

And I didn't even have to cook a meal or wash a dish. The holidays don't get any better than that.

Kelly Herdrich is a Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. She absolutely, positively, loves the holiday season. When she isn't decorating the tree or shopping for that elusive gift, she's writing, blogging, and knitting. She wishes you and yours a blessed holiday season.