Is it lighting the menorah? Hanging an ornament your child made in first grade? Grandma’s special recipe you recreate yearly? Thinking about a Kwanza celebration?
This is a season when memories are made and family is celebrated in unique, joyous ways. Please join me and my #Gr8Blog colleagues as we share our holiday traditions that ring in our season. Please scroll to the end for more holiday traditions to inspire and bring a smile.
btw...I'm posting one more blog on 13 December, and I'm then taking off until 13 January to be with family and friends. Catch you in 2018!
I wonder how Christmas traditions start.
I believe they often develop based on where you live. For instance, I grew up in a coastal Connecticut town, an hour from Manhattan, that was a microcosm of diversity. My classmates had surnames that contained as many vowels as there were consonants. Others had parents who spoke with thick accents of their native countries
In our ethnically diverse neighborhood, I enjoyed countless sleepovers next door at my BFF Elaine's house, where I learned about Hanukkah and devoured her mom's blueberry blintzes any time of year. I can't remember how the tradition started, but the Sirkins spent Christmas afternoon with us. While our parents chatted over coffee and dessert, we kids jammed into our small living room to share Christmas and Hanukkah toys.
Other traditions develop organically: what begins as a good idea one year becomes something people clamber for the next. One season, Mama and Granny Chris started baking holiday cookies early in December. Because we gobbled up those sweets right away, we generated the need for an endless stream of fresh-baked cookies, and Mama and Granny Chris happily complied.
Picking out our tree from the church lot and hauling it home to decorate tree was another natural evolution.
We draped tinsel one-by-one over the branches (throwing tinsel in clumps was not allowed <wink>). Topping our masterpiece with an angel was always last. Making sure the dog didn't tip over the tree was constant.
Another family tradition started when driving through quiet streets after candlelight service on Christmas Eve, ooohing and aaahing at the sparkly Christmas lights. In fact, Mama told me the first words I ever spoke were at Christmastime, when I was nine-months old: Lights. Pretty, pretty lights.
On Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to run downstairs to see what Santa brought; however, I had to wait until the youngest sibling was awake. As oldest child, I almost felt sorry for the little ones I dragged from their warm beds.
Season of Changes
This joyous season is tinged bittersweet for me this year since we lost Dad in February. Reality smacks me. Our parents and grandparents are gone. Most aunts and uncles, too. Some cousins. JM’s brother. I take comfort remembering they still surround us in traditions from Christmas past.
As unofficial family historian, I carefully include short notes about the provenance of our Christmas decorations. When we unwrap the collection of gold ornaments, we remember Paw-paw Pete, who gave us these beauties for my first Christmas with JM. Or those glass-blown ornaments JM’s parents have given us each year that sparkle on our two holiday trees.
I still have Grandma Granger's tiny Depression-era glass balls, tucked proudly into the small wooden sleigh handcrafted by Grandpa Jerry in the 1950s. These nest in pride of place next to the delicate glass tree Mama gave us on her last visit with us in 2008.
And those glue-smudged, kid-made ornaments made with love as school projects! I can't bear to toss ‘em, even though they’re aged and worn.
Two of my dearest treasures are Mama Marg’s gifts she gave to all her children in the 1990s. The sea-faring New England village collection symbolizes our love of the ocean and childhood growing up on the Connecticut coast; the fabric crèche she sewed for her four adult children reminds us of the reason for the season and dad's deep faith.
These gifts tug at my heart when I pull them from the attic. It's a profound sadness from missing Mama mixed with joy in feeling her love again as I handle each piece.
But we still channel Mama and Granny Chris in cookies we bake. My sugar cookies are never as tasty as theirs, so I switch to easier drop-chocolate concoctions. We’re also perfecting our version of MIL Rae-Jean’s peanut brittle. We're blessed she still cranks out yummy batches for the family each Christmas.
As much as we love drawing from the past, JM and I started our own tradition with Christmas villages, Yule-time porcelain miniatures that glow from tiny lights tucked inside them.
At last count, we had more than 100 buildings, figures, and snow-capped accessories. (We finally stopped buying villages because there was no room for more.) Sprinkled throughout our home, these holiday towns glow warm and welcoming in long December nights.
Last season, we combined smaller villages into one huge city on the dining room table and encircled them with JM's train layout.
Yes, we gladly eat during the hols while holding dishes on our laps. Food takes second place to watching Christmas trains whistle by in our home <winking here.>
Following a 21st-century tradition started a few years back, I'm unplugging from my blog and social media during the holidays, taking time off from 13 December until 12 January to be with family and friends.
This season, I’m gentling my heart and wrapping my soul around how our family has changed these last years:
Missing more dear ones.
Reconciling that I’m nearing "eldest member status" in my family’s orbit.
Wondering how it all went by so fast.
Most important, embracing our next generation, now grown with little ones of their own and new traditions to discover.
Wishing you and yours
all the warmth and joys
of the holidays
and of YOUR traditions new and old.
... Travel safe.
... Stay sweet.
... Catch you in 2018!
If you celebrate the season, what's your favorite holiday tradition? How did it start? Please share in the comment section.
For more holiday smiles and inspiration, please visit my #Gr8blog pals below. If you blog and want to tag on, just add the family-friendly link to your post in the comments section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love!
* K. Lamb
The Smells of Christmas
* Rebecca Lindsey
These are a Few of My Favorite Things
* James Milson
* Rosie Russell
Holiday Family Meals
* Sandra Bennett
Christmas Down Under with Gingerbread Aliens
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