The thing that seems to have changed the most over the years is the people. When I think about Xmas past I think first about who was there and then where we were. What we actually did together is much vaguer in my memory.
When I was a little girl we would usual go to my paternal grandparents house on Xmas eve. I can't recall if we went before or after Mass or if we had dinner with them. I know we did sometimes. I remember my grandfather had many trains set up and running around the house for Xmas & we loved watching them.
Xmas morning it was the immediate family opening gifts & then we'd go to Mass if we hadn't gone the night before. After lunch we'd go to my uncle's house or my maternal grandparents' house or they would all come to us. It rotated around. My mom & her brother seemed to have some sort of game going between them involving giving each others' kids noisy toys. It was one of the few times we got together with our cousins even though we all lived in the same town.
As we grew older, getting everyone together was more of a challenge. The last time I saw my cousins for a holiday was when I was 17. We continued to visit my grandparents on Xmas Eve until they passed away. My dad's parents divorced & Grandpa remarried a woman with grown children. There were a few years when we went to their house & spent some time with this new family, but that ended when he passed away.
I married in 1993 and added another family to the holidays. DH has 3 siblings with families of their own,so they usually all gathered together sometime between Thanksgiving & Xmas. We did spend one Xmas with his whole family. I remember thinking they were very loud because there were so many of them. We've hardly seen any of them since his mother died in 2001, that would be the last Xmas we all spent together.
One year, soon after my brother married, my parents took all of us on a cruise for Xmas. There were years in there where we traveled to Wheeling to be with my parents & years where stayed at home or drove up to visit DH's mom.
So many people from Xmas past are gone now though death and lack of communication. I miss them.
But new people have joined us. I have children now and so does my brother. Its harder to get together for the holidays now. We all live so far away from one another. Last year we were all together at my folks for Xmas before that my parents spent several years traveling back & forth between my house & my brother's, one year spending Xmas day with one family & the next year with the other one.
This year it is just us. My parents are in FL. My brother is in WV. My in laws are in Maryland. This year for the first time my family will be alone. It is very strange in some ways but I am looking forward to it in others. Just to be us every now & then is a nice change but it makes me wonder if my children will drift away from siblings & cousins as the years go by. We did and we didn't even have the excuse of distance. I hope not. I hope I change that & get back with the family we've lost touch with. I'm not sure how to fix it, but I am going to try.