It is Christmas Eve morning and as I sit here with my cup of coffee, I have been reflecting on the Christmas season. I love Christmas. I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about the season…all they seem to talk about is the stress and the endless shopping and so forth.
I understand their feelings but I truly enjoy Christmas music and window shopping and finding the perfect gift and creating memories…. in particular, creating traditions …whether they are serious or whimsical. To me, Christmas provides us with one of the greatest opportunities to create traditions.
Some of my December traditions are, as my friends would say, a bit off the wall …….such as, beginning in December, I wear a Santa Hat when out and about shopping…. I try to create a bit of fun and spirit.
However, there is something about wearing a Santa hat in stores that attracts comments!! You would not believe how many Mr. Claus are out there looking for Ms. Claus or how many men tell me they have been good this year and then ask what is Santa bringing them!! (I have found the best response is to simply smile and say Merry Christmas—any other remarks seem to get me into trouble!)
And some traditions involve the use of my cell phone camera. There is the traditional picture of me standing in Wal-Mart wearing my Santa hat that I send to a friend each year—it stems from a joke and evolved to the yearly picture event.
To another friend who introduced me to the joys (and calories) of the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, I send a photo of me having my mocha and moaning about the calories I am drinking and blaming her for this decadent tradition.
As families grow and change, it is a challenge to maintain traditions as nothing remains the same. For many years in my childhood, the tradition was for my mother’s family to gather on Christmas Eve at our house and have a buffet dinner. I have fond memories of helping polish silver bowls and silverware and the use of special linens.
There was a plastic mistletoe ball hanging from a door frame in our house and the telling of the Christmas story and there were slices of fruitcake on the buffet table. I realize there are many jokes about fruitcake but that small rectangular loaf filled with mystery fruit still evokes special memories for me.
My adult family traditions continued along the same line in that we had a very nice dinner at home with family usually on Christmas Eve…. either my parents or my ex-husband’s family who made the trip from Miami or Tampa. We did not open presents until Christmas morning and we would have a nice brunch on Christmas day but the “specialness” of the Christmas season was created in the laughter and joy that occurred over the dinner table on Christmas Eve.
And now, in my life as Nana, I hope to create traditions for my grandchildren. For the last three years, Lauren has helped me buy my Christmas tree. It is truly a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I had a very large artificial tree in my previous home but in my new life, storage space was an issue. So, each year she and I purchase a small table top tree which we then decorate.
There is, of course, the wooden manger scene. Lauren became very enamored with it last year and likes to take Mary and Joseph and “Baby Jesus” to different locations in my condo as they travel about. (Travel and moving can be dangerous—the roof of the manger took a hit last year and had to be repaired with duct tape!!)
We play with the manger and the Bible characters on Nana days and I created a special Bible Story book with pictures that tells the Christmas story. Once she gets a bit older and the time is right, we will read from that book before we open presents at our Christmas celebration—but for now, it is enough that we read the story on Nana days.
I do not have Christmas stockings at my home but we have gift bags—giftings? They sit on the fireplace mantle and each bag always has something to read such as a cooking magazine for Allison or a book for Lauren; a toy such as a yo-yo for Chris which he has had in his stocking since his childhood; some candy and perhaps a gift card.
We all get our “gifting bag” at the same time and open them and share the toys and Lauren checks out what each of us has in our gift bag. (I am sure Sean will do so when he is older—this year he just kept roaming around the condo trying to color my sofa with the crayons he found and throwing balls and bean bags around the room!!!)
And of course, there are the reindeer cookies which are sugar cookies that you decorate to look like a reindeer face. I make the cookies in advance and then we decorate them at our Christmas celebration.
This year, while Sean was napping, Lauren and her parents decorated the cookies..… they iced them with vanilla icing and created a face using M&Ms and chocolate chips and red icing. The finishing touch is the chocolate pretzels that are used for ears. Her joy this year was contagious! She remembered making them last year and was ready to decorate them as soon as she walked into my condo.
I fear that traditions can get lost in the “hurry-up and move-on-to- the- next-thing” world that we live in. Yet, traditions tie one generation to the next. They create the base on which we can build memories and provide us with ways to share one generation’s stories with the next.
So, here’s to traditions… to fruitcake and mistletoe… to yo-yos and reindeer cookies…and to the memories they create.