Christmas Comes But Once a Year….

Merry Christmas, everyone! Before I start, allow me to direct you to other Christmas-related blogs. William Kendall is at his hilarious best with his take on Christmas. At our joint blog, it’s a Christmas image blog for adults only. Karla Telega has a special greeting and offer for her readers. Grace at Perth Daily Photo has a greeting that will have you drooling! For the best ideas for food and decorating, check out Krisztina Williams‘ blog. Gayle at Two Little Square Black Dogs has an original Christmas display. And be sure to check out Ten Lives and Second Chances for a holiday greeting from Charlie and Gumtree, as well as The Desert Rocks for a Night Before Christmas parody from Evie and Fiona. And for a serious look at different religions this holiday season, don’t miss Lena Winfrey Seder’s Pearldrops on the Page. And for festive photoblogs, check out LondonLulu at Princeton Daily Photo and Bob’s St. Louis Daily Photo!

When I was a child, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. The excitement in our house would build for weeks, starting with Thanksgiving. My parents observed certain traditions and almost never strayed from them. Christmas shopping was done a few weeks before Christmas, when my dad received his bonus check from the union. He, Mom and I always went to Cherokee Street. We’d have a big lunch. Then we’d hit the stores, often going our separate ways so we wouldn’t know what we were getting from each other. We didn’t mind the crowds or even the inclement weather, because it was so much fun.It was time spent together, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Our tree was never put up until Christmas Eve, a holdover from the days when Santa brought my presents. (Looking back, I’m not really sure Christmases at our house would have been any less wonderful, had we skipped the Santa thing–but I always had the feeling Dad wanted to go all-out because his own childhood, especially Christmas, was anything but merry. I was happy to oblige him.)

We never just got one gift. Dad, who only got a pair of gloves or socks for Christmas when he was a boy, and Mom, whose parents thrived at Christmas, made sure I had a mountain of gifts. Dad would count the packages to make sure we each had an equal number–one year, upon discovering Mom was short a gift, he hastily wrapped cash around a roll of toilet paper for her. (I’ll never forget the expression on her face when she saw that familiar-shaped package under the tree!) They’d spend hours putting up the tree, decorations, and lights on the outside of the house. Christmas cards would be hung on decorative ropes (but with fewer and fewer people sending cards, that seemed pointless in more recent years). Dad insisted that Christmas was to be spent at home. For years, my maternal grandparents came for Christmas dinner, but we never went out. Family friends used to come on Christmas Eve and we’d exchange gifts. It was great.

Mom baked cookies and pies for Christmas. She wasn’t big on that sort of thing the rest of the year, but Christmas was a special time. We always had two or three pies–at least one pumpkin and one mincemeat (for Dad). We’d have a traditional dinner: turkey, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls…and even though I’ve never much cared for turkey, I did look forward to those meals!

We’d all get up early Christmas morning, open our gifts, and then Mom would head off to the kitchen to get the turkey into the oven. I did look forward to Christmas!

But after Dad died, things changed. Mom tried, but her heart wasn’t in it anymore. She and I did the best we could while Collin was still a child, but as he grew older, we dropped the old traditions one by one. Now, with both Mom and Dad gone for several years, Collin and I usually know what we’re giving each other in advance. We don’t have a big dinner, and sometimes opt to eat out. We put up our tree, but don’t bother with the elaborate decorations Mom and Dad spent hours on every year. This year, we almost forgot to put up the tree, and I didn’t send out ecards until yesterday. Cherokee Street is no longer the cheerful, bustling shopping district it once was. I get depressed just passing through. These days, we do most of our shopping online.

I miss the way things used to be, but I wonder if going back to tradition would be a good thing…or would it just make us even more painfully aware of who’s not here, of what we’ve lost?

What are your family’s holiday traditions? Do you still observe them?


11 responses

  1. There was a letter in the paper this morning that interested us, and it was from someone who'd immigrated from Germany sixty years ago. He remarked on how there Christmas trees were never put up before the 23rd at the earliest.

  2. My Mother always made sure there was something under the tree for us. Don't know how she did it. We decorated our tree early so we could enjoy it leading up to Christmas Day.
    I do the same, tree goes up hopefully the first week in December, Since I am older and after the divorce I have changed my “traditions” I get a small tree, plop it in a big pot, lights and some origami birds whalaa it is done ! The decorations are cards from past years, especially from my Japanese family and some snow globs I have collected. Very festive, fast and easy for me to do.
    I wish you a lovely Christmas Day with Collin.

    cheers, gayle and The Square Ones… hahaahah sounds like a 50's rock band !

  3. Sounds like you had such lovely Christmases growing up. I can certainly see why observing old traditions might feel painful, but you could also look upon it positively and remember all the wonderful years you had with your parents. Or you and Colin could create your own, new traditions.

    There are some traditions I keep (like watching Christmas Vacation and Scrooged every year), but for the most part, we do something different every year and I like it like that. Keeps things fun and interesting. Merry Christmas, Norma!

  4. Your description of your family Christmas sounds very close to mine Norma, when I had my own two we kept the traditions going. Dave lives in Sydney now, but comes home for Chrissy and Aimee is still at home for a short while longer so we're still big on the tree and pressy thing. I hope your brother and yourself had a good Christmas.

  5. You're right, Carla.

    We usually watch Christmas movies, too. For years, one of our local TV stations ran the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve. We'd get takeout for dinner so Mom didn't have to cook while she and Dad were decking the halls, and we'd watch that old movie. I loved it.

    Now, Collin and I watch it, The Nativity Story, Home Alone and…dare I admit this?…Bad Santa.

  6. Grace, it's funny, isn't it, how some traditions are very much alike in different parts of the world?

    Collin's my son…though we have been mistaken for siblings before! I don't know if I look young or he looks old!

  7. We all remember Christmas traditions fondly, but new ones evolve all the time. I've noticed a lot of families (parents, kids, and grandkids) showing up at nice restaurants to eat Christmas lunch/dinner out. And after years of cooking it–all day!–I think it's great!

    We used to put the tree up a week or ten days before Christmas. Now with my artificial tree, it goes up at Thanksgiving and stays till New Year's!

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