It’s the holiday season. No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, there is one thing we all share in our way of celebrating. That is the sharing of traditions.
When you are a youngster, you don’t see the holiday as one of traditions. The excitement of the preparations makes everything blend. Our parents, if they have had different traditions growing up, generally work through which traditions are maintained and at the same time add some of their own. To the younger crowd, the effort is somewhat seamless.
We celebrate Christmas in our home. Although, truthfully, with so many Jewish friends over the years, we often partake in some of the traditions of Hanukkah. I can remember a tradition my girls had of wrapping presents to each other in “Hanukkah” paper and exchanging them on Christmas; a nod to their Jewish friends and heritage as they lapsed into Yiddish expressions. Wouldn’t it be nice if all religions could really get along with each other that well?
My husband’s family always put up a tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I still find this tradition awkward. In true European style, it’s Santa’s responsibility to put up the tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve, before he fills the stockings and leaves an especially requested toy under it! I am sure he is grateful however, for the extra help at our house and a few extra minutes to imbibe in the libations left out for him and his reindeer. But oh what a wondrous sight it was to wake up and see the tree standing tall in its magnificence, showing off it’s finery in shiny ornaments and glittering tinsel. What?! No tinsel? Sadly, I recognize some traditions have gone by the wayside in the name of safety, being that we aren’t too fond of lead poisoning and trees going up in flames! However, in “those days” Santa always left me a bit of tinsel to put on to finish the decorating. I appreciated his thoughtfulness to include me in the preparation and that he had confidence in my decorating!
Santa sure made a raucous when he left my childhood home! You could hear him stomping on the roof, calling out to his team, and ringing the sleigh bells. No matter how fast I scrambled from bed, I could never catch sight of him. Course, the newly decorated tree with presents underneath and the spread of snacks put out in the living room served well to distract me from my mission.
Christmas Eve meant egg nog. Not your present day, garden variety, heavily high fructose corn syruped stuff. My mother always made it fresh with milk and eggs from the local farm. Carefully and lovingly made ready earlier in the day so it would be appropriately chilled in our “Tom and Jerry” bowl. Just before serving, my mother would put aside a kid friendly version, and add some Southern Comfort to the main batch. I guess you could consider that another tradition.
I do not recall who handed out the gifts to each of us. I think we all took part to some extent. I can remember certain ones, however. There were the paper dolls every year when I was little. And when I was about seven I got a toy car in my stocking. I remember that because I wanted a station wagon like my uncle’s. I also remember the discussion by my mother’s friends and her mother about a little girl wanting a car to play with. My mother, bless her soul, was progressive and saw nothing out of the ordinary with girls playing with cars.
My husband did not share in these particular traditions. Although, Santa did always leave, under the tree, a gift each for he and his siblings. And so I am happy to have the tree up the Sunday after Christmas. No really, I am.
One college year, my roommates and I put a giant yellow ribbon on top of our tree instead of a star or angel, to remember the Iranian hostages. Fortunately, that had no need to become a tradition. But our family has added traditions, such as picking out our tree on Walter Gooley’s tree farm, an event which has carried its own traditions. And opening a Keepsake ornament for each of us on Christmas Eve; mom and daughters sharing in the making of Christmas dinner; and mom’s rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Perhaps the most poignant tradition being a discussion of who will undress the tree when the season has passed!
I would love readers to leave mention of their traditions, because no matter how simple or how grandiose, they are what makes the season memorable to each of us. Traditions are a way of continuing one’s story from generation to generation.