Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Are Holiday Traditions Important?

I’m a tradition-based holiday person–I love the familiar and the repetitious. As a child, our home-spun traditions centered on our family. We cut our own Christmas tree on our family ranch when we used to have lots of snow, so it was cold and messy but joyful and an adventure. I often had sap all over my hands.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, presents were few and heartfelt. I wrote letters to Santa and dreamed about my gifts, looked at a Monkey Ward’s catalog and dog-earred pages so I could revisit it often.

I dressed up in my Christmas outfit, and we ate Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent’s house across town. When we got to the car, often Dad forgot something and went back inside to retrieve it (later I realized that’s when Santa came!).

My grandparent’s house filled quickly with our family and my aunt and uncle’s family. Often our two great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma joined us and gave us $2 bills because one of them worked at a bank. The highlight of the evening was Granddad leading a parade of children from the front door to the back after he shouted, “I saw Santa Claus!”

We would return home after eating a savory dinner and opening our presents to see that Santa had visited our home, and I realized my dreams.

Christmas Day was low-keyed and filled with hours of playing with my new toys.

This scenario repeated itself most years, so you can see the deep family traditions I love.

As an adult, the magic of Santa changed, but Christmas continued to be a magical time for me with my new grown-up traditions. From my first husband, I added Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at an Episcopal church to my Christmas traditions, and church became a regular part of my celebration.

After my first husband and I divorced, Dad and Mom joined me in this tradition, and we drove to Trinidad, Colorado each Christmas Eve to the Lutheran church for Midnight Mass–some of our most memorable conversations happened on those late night 50-mile drives home.

As a middle school teacher for twenty-seven years, I put together a wild collection of holiday t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants and jewelry that I started wearing the Monday after Thanksgiving–I’m still adding to this collection today.

I love writing our Christmas letter that features what we’ve done for the year. This is my 30th year of writing this, and I enjoy the process of looking a back and summarizing the activity of the year.

I cherish baking Christmas candy and goodies because it reminds me of Mom and all the fun we had in the kitchen–I use a lot of her delicious recipes. And I love sending Christmas cards–I don’t receive that many anymore, but as I address each card, I’m flooded with memories of each person on my list, and it’s a celebration of my family and friends.

The last tradition I will share is one my Mom started in 1988. I was going to codependency treatment on December 22 and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. She put together ten Advent gifts–one to open each day before Christmas, starting on December 15th. I packed the remaining gifts to take with me to treatment but had the shock of my life. They went through my bags, opened each of the unopened gifts, thought a bag of potpourri was marijuana, and confiscated it.  Even though I lost the opportunity to open the remaining Advent gifts, I felt Mom’s presence in a special way that Christmas in those gifts.

We continued that tradition until she died, and I joined in the gift exchange and gave her little nonsensical gifts. We added Aunt Willie and Lin–they enjoyed this tradition.

For me, the various traditions have blessed me deeply and shaped me into the person I am during the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Are traditions important to you? Share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!

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