Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Reflections 4: Our Traditions

Christmas 1960
Love those holiday traditions of childhood as we may, they tend to change as we grow up and, when marriage and/or children become part of our lives, those traditions can really be transformed.  In our family, the biggest change was simply location.  We were blessed to have extended family close by and none further than 4 hours away.  As our daughters grew older, it became easier for everyone to come to us--we would have had to rent a trailer to haul the six of us plus presents and 'Santa' surprises.

At the tree farm 1991
Our favorite part of the holiday season was (and still is) preparing for Christmas.  The advent calendar, decorating, baking, getting the tree.  Everything!  We always waited until the second week of December to get our tree... until 1991.  Prior to that year, we would pack the girls up and head to Hubs' family farm land where they were attempting to grow Christmas trees and either cut one down or dig it up live and replant it.  But 1991 changed all of that.  The FIRST tree we brought home that year was just perfect.  Except that it died within five days.  We undecorated it and, this time, we bought one (hurricane Hugo pretty much wiped out the tree farm and the pickins were slim).  It died.  WTH?!  We had to buy another one. We had brought THREE trees into the house, decorated twice, undecorated once and now WE HAD TO DO IT ALL AGAIN.  Way uncool.  The third tree didn't last too long but we did get through Christmas.  The next year, we went with an artificial tree and have used one ever since because I refuse to risk the 1991 multiple tree decorating disaster ever again!  While the girls were growing up, the decorating of the Christmas tree was followed by watching the town Christmas parade--although, after the first few years, there always seemed to be at least one daughter IN the parade which meant that one of us had to walk along--that would be me. 

There was, of course, the annual letter writing campaign to Santa at the North Pole (we still have every single letter--to AND from) and the making of gifts.  The girls made gifts for relatives for many years including ornaments--wooden, ceramic, crab shells, corks, craft sticks, etc.  But, in 1994, we made a Christmas anthology of sorts.  Each daughter made up a story about Christmas, retold the birth of Jesus and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, and answered 10 questions about Christmas.  These were treasured so much more than 'store bought' gifts.

Once school was out for Christmas break (actually called Winter break) the BIG fun began.  The girls and I spent hours making Christmas cookies--rolling out the dough, cutting out the shapes and getting icing and sprinkles all over the house decorating them with icing and sprinkles.  Next, we made the annual gingerbread house.  Which, as it turns out, is NOT THAT EASY.  Oh, decorating it with the candy is a cinch.  It's putting the walls up and, the granddaddy of the difficulty, the roof on top.  Yep.  Not that easy at all.  We had to call Hubs in on this part the first couple of years as he is known to us, fondly and among other alias', Mr. Fix-It (he will say that he can't fix everything, but the women in the family know differently).  The next step in the cooking/baking department was the Christmas goodies for the Christmas Eve gatherings--the ham; cheese and olive balls; sausage balls; spinach balls; fudge- butterscotch and chocolate; meatballs and little smokies; Chex Mix; cheese balls; cream cheese and pepper jelly; etc.  And, in the middle of the table, the girls always insisted on a birthday cake for Jesus.

There was (and still is) the writing of the annual Christmas 'newsy' letter to be included, with the Christmas photo of the girls, inside the Christmas cards.  One year, we couldn't get the picture in time to be included so I mailed the letters inside the cards but NOT a picture.  We have our family reunion (this is the huge side, my mother's side) every August and I had to hear about them not getting a Christmas picture from December until the reunion in August.  That Christmas, I sent them TWO pictures, one from the year before AND the one for that year.  If you send something like this to your relatives, please don't ever NOT send one.  You'll pay dearly for it!

Christmas pajamas 1991
Christmas Eve, especially when we hosted the gathering, was very similar to the ones when I was growing up--the family gathered, the food was nearly identical, and the excitement was abundant.  The girls wore coordinating outfits handmade each year by Mimi (my mother) up until they developed their own, individual styles.  Even then, they coordinated colors most of the time.  We generally started out with Hubs' family for the opening of gifts followed by the Christmas Eve service at church (which changed to the midnight service as the girls got older).  The night continued with the gathering of my side of the family where the girls were allowed to open another present--the Christmas pajamas that Mimi (my mother) gave them every year--she still does this!  All of the evening's festivities were topped off with a good reading of Clement C. Moore's 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and the perfect placement of the milk and cookies.  Finally, it was time to await the arrival of Santa and, to this day (and this includes BestSonInLawEver) they all sleep in the same room. 

Christmas morning 1996
Christmas morning was a hullabaloo of brightly colored wrapping paper all over the place everyone talking all at the same time and the shrills of delight that only children have the ability to project at Christmas, or any other time for that matter!  The sounds of laughter and toys filled the morning and stopped only for a moment while we ate Christmas dinner--traditionally like Thanksgiving until 1993 when we traded in the turkey for prime rib.  Now, I prepare a Christmas brunch instead for any and everyone who wants to join us.  Changes in our family do not usually go over well but everyone seems to enjoy Christmas brunch.

After the college feeding freenzy
And now?  Now we have an empty nest and the first year of one daughter not being here for Christmas.  Breezy and BestSonInLawEVER will be at their home but will join us for New Year's Eve.  We have added the FIRST ANNUAL EMPTY NEST CHRISTMAS OYSTER ROAST to the festivities.  Everything else should pretty much remain close to the tradition--including those handmade gifts (which we are all making for one another this year).  It will be an adjustment, just as Thanksgiving was without Deanie (DD2), not having all our daughters with us.  And, the married lovelies are going to miss out on their Christmas Eve pajamas!  But, this is what happens when you successfully raise your kids to go out and make lives for themselves.  We have discovered that, sometimes, you can pick up an extra kid or two when your college daughters bring some of their friends over to help decorate--in exchange for a free feeding frenzy home cooked meal.

It's going to be a grand Christmas this year with family and friends.  I'm sure of it!  And, with the decorating almost complete, I can see that the Christmas spirit is beginning to overflow because Hubs has been in the middle of everything singing Christmas songs and quoting Christmas movies (and he does it in such an obnoxious manner--no matter, it's the holiday season!).  Yep, it's gonna be a grand Christmas! 

I'm linking up with Follow Friday 40 and Over this week at Java's Never Growing Old!


  1. Your family traditions sound wonderful! It takes a lot of planning and energy to keep this going year after year, and I admire you for doing it!

  2. Yeah, like I've always said, 'You raise your children to be responsible and independent and what do you get? Kids who are responsible and self sufficient...and leave home.' Which, of course, is exactly what we were aiming at, and we're proud of them for turning out so well, but life is never the same without them all here. I enjoyed reading about all your great traditions. I'm thinking that we may go with an artificial tree next year because the one our daughter and son-in-law bought this year is just gorgeous!

  3. I truly enjoyed reading through your blog! I miss the traditions we had when the kids were growing up, but we're enjoying the new ones we're creating since they flew the coop!

    I'm stopping by from FF40 and am your newest follower! Come by and visit me!

  4. I have really enjoyed reading the posts about your Christmas traditions and seeing the photos. Yes things change...wonderful that we have the memories...Michelle

  5. A woman after my own heart. I really believe that traditions help anchor a family and I love creating new ones and sometimes don't mind letting old ones go. We've got a blended family and I promised myself long ago that I would always keep tradition so that there would be a place for the kids to call "home." I never insist on their presence and in the first years they scattered, and I still smiled and wished them great visits away. And now..."There's no place like home," for them and I love it :-)It is heartwarming to know that we have given them a sense of place and great validation to see them carry on the traditions they loved at home, in their own lives. I love reading about you experiences and look forward to more. Blessings, Janet

  6. Thank you for sharing your memories. Those were the days weren't they, before the empty nest. Growing up Christmas Eve was a big deal for gathering with the family. I do enjoy the quiet Christmased now that we have but am thankful that our children are always here on Christmas day.

  7. Thanks for dropping by my blog today, and for following.

    Following you now too, and look forward to getting to know you better. Have a lovely weekend :)
    The enigmatic, masked blogger

  8. This is such a lovely post. What wonderful girls you have raised! My two are still at home, but with both at uni next year, things feel very different and it is the slippery slide until they are both gone.

    Enjoy your mix of new and old traditions and thanks for visiting my blog!


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