Jeff's family often does Christmas in California. Usually, it's just a few days and it's not over the actual holiday, so it's relatively easy to coordinate with my family, but this year, they decided to get together over Christmas Eve and Christmas. Christmas is really the big day for my family - we do brunch with my mom's side and dinner with my dad's side, so we definitely wanted to be in Minnesota for that. Our solution was to fly to California on December 23rd, and then take a red-eye back really early (12:30am) on December 25th, so we were there for about 36 hours total. It was a bit crazy, but it actually ended up working really well.
We got to California around 9:30am on December 23rd and went to check-in at the hotel. Apparently Jeff and his family always stay at the same Residence Inn whenever Christmas is in the Long Beach area (which is where Jeff's Mom's grandparents lived). So he has lots of Christmas memories at this place.
The first item on the agenda was a much-needed nap - we'd taken a 7am flight, and since we were in first class (yay, free upgrades!) we stayed awake to have the nice food. Later, Jeff and I made a stop at the mall where we picked up some last-minute things and got Panera for lunch. The mall was a zoo - all of the lines in Target stretched out into the shopping area. That's a serious wait just to get some tissue paper.
In the afternoon, Jeff's parents, brother, and brother's girlfriend got in. We hung around in the room and chatted and ate lots of Christmas snacks (my gift to the family was a collection of Christmas candies and snacks - we opened it early). Jeff's aunts and uncles came over and joined us. Eventually we headed out to 'El Ranchito' for dinner - it was pretty good Mexican food - yum. After dinner, it was back to the hotel room for some mulled wine and chatting, thought Jeff's parents were definitely feeling the three-hour time difference, so we didn't stay up too late.
The next day was Christmas Eve. We decided to spend the morning touring around Long Beach. At the rental place, they had given Jeff and I a jeep, so we took the top down for the morning drive (Dave and Taylor rode with us). It was pretty crazy to be driving along the ocean in a jeep with the top down on Christmas Eve - I realized this is the first time in my life I've ever been outside of Minnesota on Christmas Eve.
We walked down a pier in Long Beach, and actually saw Santa there - he said he had to hurry and get back to the north pole. We had some really good seafood at a restaurant at the base of the pier, and then we headed back to the hotel to get out things together.
For dinner, we met up at Jeff's cousin Rob's house. Rob's mom (Jeff's Aunt Margie) cooked lasagna for dinner. The food was great, and it was nice to have a big Christmas dinner with the family. Margie also took us out for a walk. Rob had happened to move into an apartment that was only a couple blocks from where his parents (Margie and Mark) first met - at a community center dance when they were about 15 years old. So Margie took us there and showed us the building - very cute!
We had the gift exchange - I had Larry, who couldn't make it, but I sent him a Hawaiian shirt in the mail, and he actually received it before Christmas Eve, so I just said hi over the phone. Rob had me in the gift exchange, and he gave me a tiny book called the "book of secrets" with lots of little trivia, and also a game. Jeff's gift is coming from his Auntie Mar, but since she couldn't be there, it's coming in the mail to our place in DC.
Eventually everybody got pretty tired, and then we headed back to the hotel, where we hung out for a little while longer, and then Jeff and I went back to the airport to check-in for our 12:30am flight (first class again - yay, free upgrades!)