As Christmas approaches, we prepare, as most parents do, to pass along Christmas to our kids. I suppose it sounds a bit odd to pass on Christmas, but the season is typically so complex for most families that I do not think that any other words describe what we do. When I was a kid, it seemed as if we prepared for Christmas for months. In elementary school, we glued together enormous paper chains that wound all through our classroom and into the halls.
I grew up in Pennsylvania near Lake Erie so we usually got snow early and heavy. In my memory, almost every Christmas was a white Christmas. Sometimes, it seemed as if we had a white Halloween. Anyhow, the buildup to Christmas to my child-eyes was immense and exciting and just as it was supposed to be according to all of the Christmas carols, which of course, we listened too all of the time.
At home, we strung together strings of popcorn and cranberries to wind around our Christmas tree. We threw way too much tinsel all over the tree and made every type of cookie imaginable. I remember picking different varieties of cookies from a large black water-bath canner which was packed full of cookies (talk about a dream cookie jar!).
On Christmas Eve, my family went to my aunt and uncle’s house where our family gathered for what seemed like a fairly formal meal (though, as I now think back on it, the meal was not formal, just different from what we normally did at home). My brother and I ate every last bit of candy we could find laying around in the numerous candy dishes around the house. The meal seemed to never end as we anticipated opening the large pile of gifts that were always under the tree.
Once we finally got home, we hurried off to bed so Santa could come. The rule in our house was that no one could leave their bedroom until 6am. I truly do not know how we survived the time between waking and 6am. Surely a cosmic quantum time shift happened which caused time to slow to 1/20th normal speed. Anyhow, we raced to the living room to see what was under the tree. It’s funny but Santa never wrapped our presents. I don’t think my brother and I ever noticed that Mom and Dad never gave us presents…all the presents were from Santa.
So, flash forward to now. My wife, of course, had her own set of traditions in her growing up. When we married, it was not terribly hard to merge our traditions, but when our children were born, the traditions we established as a family seemed to take on incredible importance. I know the kids will not turn into serial killers or hermits or <gasp> politicians if we don’t get our tradition just right, but I do believe it is important to keep the kids out of politics…I mean, help the kids look back on their childhoods with fondness.
At first, we tried to mix the traditions with which my wife and I were raised. It just didn’t work. And, though it took some time to figure out, we realized that the traditions we impart to our kids have to be wholly ours….MY family’s traditions, not the traditions of my parents or my wife’s parents. So, while I have such wonderful memories of the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Christmases of my childhood, I think that the responsibility to impart such memories to my children is even more special to me. So, while the traditional things we each do to celebrate Christmas is special and important, I think the more important tradition is having traditions and seeing those traditions come alive in the eyes and hearts of our children.
So, what are your traditions? How do you ‘do’ the holidays? Of course, my take here was Christmas related, bt I am curious about how folks do Hanukkah or whatever holiday you may celebrate in your home too!
Warren can also be found at My Home Among the Hills writing about the adventures of life in WV.