Whatever Happened to Tradition?

Recently, I had a discussion with a close friend who lost his mother this year. He talked about dreading Christmas without her. I understand how he feels. I’ve been through twenty-two years now without Dad, and fifteen without Mom. Christmas has never been the same and probably never will be again. Collin doesn’t even mind the possibility of having to work on Christmas.

When I was a child, Christmas was a major event in my family. My mother was the youngest of nine children (she had two siblings and six half-siblings), who recalled Christmas as a wonderful time in their home. My father, on the other hand, did not have any good childhood memories–of Christmas or any other day. As a result, they both went all-out to give me–and later, Collin–the best Christmases imaginable. Mom wanted for us the kind of Christmases she’d had as a child; Dad wanted for us–and in a way, for himself–what he’d never had.

He insisted the tree not be put up and decorated until Christmas Eve. When I was very young and believed in Santa Claus, they wouldn’t put it up until after I went to bed. When I was older, I got to participate. Every year, it was the same routine: we’d get takeout–pizza, fried chicken, anything so that Mom didn’t have to cook–and watch the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol. One of our local TV stations aired it every Christmas Eve, and I loved it. Looking back, I’m not sure if it was because it’s a good movie, or because I associate it with how happy that time in my life was. I don’t even have photos of those Christmases anymore.

Once the tree was up and the gifts under it, Dad would do a quick count to make sure we all had an equal number of gifts. They never just bought us one gift. Often, there would be 10-12 per person. If anyone was short, he could be pretty creative in correcting the oversight. One year, he gave Mom a $50 bill wrapped around a roll of toilet paper….

After Dad died, we tried for a while to keep to the family tradition, but Mom’s heart wasn’t really in it anymore. After she was gone, Collin and I didn’t really celebrate at all. Oh, we’d put up our little tree and get gifts for each other, but it was never the same again. There were no more surprises under the tree on Christmas morning–we already knew what we were getting. We didn’t even have to bother with wrapping them.

There were no longer any aromas of the Christmas dinner cooking in the oven. If I had tried to make a home-cooked dinner, the only smell that would have come out of our kitchen would have been smoke! We spent one Christmas, eight years ago, in a motel room. We put up the tree, but our Christmas dinner came already prepared from the grocery store.

I stopped getting excited about Christmas years ago…but lately, I’ve felt a yearning to renew old traditions. I want Collin to be surprised on Christmas morning. I want a real Christmas dinner. I want to watch A Christmas Carol over takeout and eat cookies and candy and say a prayer to observe what Christmas is really all about. I want to talk about Christmases past with Collin and remember how it used to be…before everything went wrong.

This year? No, not quite.

Maybe next year….

*****

Be sure to check out William’s latest Day in the Life blog–and he has some beautiful shots at his photoblog today as well. Also, we have a new post at our joint blog featuring a snippet of Same Time Tomorrow….

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18 responses

  1. Ah… I know what your mom went through. When hubby number 2 left me, Christmas lost its appeal. I had to force myself. But now I do Hanukkah with mr. A. Starting something new is good.

    Hugs and chocolate!

  2. It can definitely be difficult when traditions you've enjoyed for so long suddenly change, and of course, Christmas probably wouldn't be the exact same. But it sounds like you have wonderful memories, so you should think of them fondly and smile because they happened – that's more than most people get – including, it sounds, like your own Dad. My traditions have changed recently, some for sad reasons, but I've started to create my own, new traditions and memories.

  3. This is the third Christmas without my mother. I'm trying to keep her memory alive while implementing my own traditions rather than attempting to maintain her traditions.

    Perhaps we need look no further than “A Christmas Carol” to be reminded that Christmas Present is to focus on the joy of Christmas.

  4. I hope you have a lovely lead up to Christmas and enjoy the season. This year from some odd reason I have been excited by Christmas. Not the crazy consumer Christmas but the season of Christmas. I think it maybe because of the awful year (or 4) I have had.
    30 years ago my daughter died 3 months before Christmas but I had a child at home so I made sure that Christmas was fun and still do. Now that I am much older, children grown what I have done is change our Christmas “traditions” to fit where we are now in our lives. It works and can happen for you.
    My Monday post will cover some of this.
    I was at Office Max yesterday and saw 2 flash drives (?) that were Minions…. I see Minions everywhere now !

    cheers, parsnip

  5. You're right, Carla–we do have a lot of very good memories. And you're right that my dad made up for the Christmas memories he didn't have from his own childhood. His last Christmas with us was special for him, because as it happened, the gift Collin and I gave him showed him just how much we loved him.

  6. I have three of those Minion flash drives, Gayle!

    I have to confess that Collin did tell me what he got me for Christmas–he sort of had to, since he has to work tomorrow and it's being delivered tomorrow. I've been smiling ever since!

  7. Oh Norma, I know what you mean. For us it was Christmas and Thanksgiving that were very special, but things haven't been the same since my dad died a few years ago. My mom is still around, but it is hard to get back into the spirit with such an important person gone. I try to get back into it too – it didn't happen this year for Tday, but reading this makes me hopeful at least others also try too. Thanks for posting this.

  8. It's not too late for this year Norma.. that tree would look lovely, a surprise gift and an old movie watched together..go on start now, why wait! Your Mum and Dad would heartily approve I'm sure.

  9. Oh, dear. When we loose a loved one, it's so hard to feel good again about such things. I would like to get out decorations, but I haven't been into Christmas in such a long time… it's always so hard financially for us around this time of year. I don't know if we can ever go back to how it used to be.

    Hoping you do have a merry Christmas, the both of you.

  10. Oh, Norma, my heart goes out to you. I kinda understand what 'No, not quite' means. My mother passed on Mother's Day some years ago. Even though the day floats, it's always Mother's Day in my mind. It wasn't until this past year that I was able to open blog posts around Mother's Day. I guess what I'm saying is, you'll know when the day comes — there's a spurt of energy that was missing before — and you'll feel a sense of peace after you take that step, from buying a tree to opening a blog post. In the meantime, I'm sending you lots of hugs! (And wrapping a $50 around a roll of toilet paper was really cool! Loved it!)

  11. I might be able to manage one tradition I started some years ago when it was just me and Collin. I used to give him a gag gift as a surprise. The first time, it was a deck of cards from a customizable card game he'd been intrigued by. It was a very small package that I wrapped in a very large package. I think he had more fun unwrapping it than he did with the cards themselves!

  12. Thanks, Kitty–I needed to hear that. I know how you feel on Mother's Day, though. My mom passed in October, but Mother's Day still is painful.

    I'll never forget the look on Mom's face when she picked up that gift-wrapped TP. “This isn't what I think it is, is it?”

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