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?