Tink and Tinkfan, sorry for your losses. I know exactly how you feel. Makes it tough, but I think you will find that you will have a heightened appreciation for the time together with your family.

My SIL lost her dear mom about 5 years ago. She was a pretty traditional Italian lady (or at least as traditional as they get in Northeastern Pennsylvania). My DW, DD, and I would be visiting my mom and dad at the time and would spend the evening together listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, doing last minute wrapping (after last minute shopping - always loved going out during Christmas Eve to hit the Boscov's department store for one or two last minute gifts), and having a drink of wine. Later we always went to midnight mass.

My brother would always leave to partake in the night of 100 fishes. SIL, her mom and grandmom, would spend the previous two days preparing all kinds of fish (bacala - salted cod, smelt, eel, flounder, calimari, shrimp, etc). They would have their traditional seafood dinner and then meet us at the cathedral in Scranton.

Usually there was lots of snow and freezing temps. We would get home after mass, put on Christmas songs and play them rather low as our mom and dad were asleep by then and DD was also in bed. We would open a few presents in exchange and help retrieve Santa's gifts for under the tree. We would then most likely sit and talk and finish that bottle of wine. Then lights out, for in a few short hours...all heck would break out as our daughter Alex would awaken and run for the tree.!