Over the last few days I have thought a lot about Christmas traditions. What traditions do I bring to our little family from my childhood, and my husband from his? Does my mother-in-law want to spend the night next Christmas Eve so she can see Wes wake up and open presents? What traditions do we want to establish with Wes? Opening presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Santa or no Santa? What are each of our favorite Christmas songs? What are our favorite memories of past holiday times? How will each of our religious backgrounds and current views play into our Christmas traditions? How do you handle Christmas if you aren’t religious? Is Christmas then just a reminder to be nice to each other and show each other love and appreciation, including for strangers who are in need? Is it an agonizing reminder to those in need that they are in need? How can we spread the warm Christmas feeling throughout the year for ourselves and others?
I don’t remember how my parents handled Santa for me as a child, although I do have a faint memory of finding the cookies I left out for Santa in the drawer of my dad’s nightstand the day after Christmas. My parents divorced when I was six, and lived many states apart for pretty much all my life (if you count active duty military service). Most holidays and birthdays I was with my mom, and I don’t remember having many real traditions for anything. Our holiday meals consisted mostly of a store-bought-pre-cooked ham, a can of corn, and a box of mashed potatoes. Our Christmas tree was about 3 foot tall and stood on a table. I was too young to really do much shopping for my mom, so the present-opening was pretty lop-sided in my favor. We didn’t live near any family and we didn’t have a lot of family friends so it was just the two of us. We didn’t do birthday parties after I was about 8, but I was a big loner dork in school so I didn’t really have many friends I would have invited anyway. The one tradition we did have is going to Christmas Eve service at our church. I call it “our church” but this was really the only time each year that we attended for several years. I absolutely loved the singing and the candle-light service.
At Thanksgiving I talked about how my friend Jenny and her family really showed me what Thanksgiving can be like, and I have valued that appreciation now with Jake’s family. We have also started to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jake’s dad’s side of the family and my mom’s side of the family. I am jealous of folks who have the problem of too many Thanksgiving celebrations to go to in one day. What a glorious problem to have!
This year I have realized that Jake’s family has shown me what Christmas can be like. I have always said that I love his family’s boisterous celebrations. They are so different than what I grew up experiencing! But this year in particular, when I reflect on traditions, I realize that most of our little family’s traditions come from Jake’s side of our family. The remainder are things I always dreamed of having as a tradition.
Jake’s favorite Christmas song is “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Mine is “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”. We will see what Wes’ will be!