I have heard that expression since I was a little girl, but it seems the older I get the more I realize that adage is true.
My Christmas celebration has been steeped in tradition since I was born. I remember it started with decorating tree. My dad would spend hours making sure that the tree stood straight - in the right spot in front of the living room picture window - and each light bulb worked before stringing them on the tree. He would then take a a long dowel (about 36 inches) where he would evenly place the 4 cardboard cutouts of the current year - each cut out lined with glue and highlighted with festive glitter. My brother and I would stand by the tree holding the sign so that Dad could take a "picture for posterity" My brother and I would decorate the tree with ornaments (which I have a feeling might have been repositioned after we went to bed) and then Dad would meticulously hang individual silver icicles for that finishing touch. This would officially begin our family Christmas.
There was some traditional baking during the days that led up to Christmas Eve - such as M&M cookies, bishops bread, and orange balls. Usually Mom would take an entire day to wrap the presents while Rodger and I were at school. When I came home and saw all those lovely gifts "magically" appear under the tree I knew that Christmas was just around the corner.
Christmas Eve was not celebrated much in my house - except that we did often attend the midnight service when Rodger and I were old enough to stay up that late. But no matter how much we pleaded, Dad would never allow us to open even one present on Christmas Eve. All the magic had to happen on Christmas morning. Consequently, the anticipation would keep us awake much of the night and when we would normally welcome sleeping late any other day of the week, Rodger and I were out of bed before 8:00AM to discover the treasures within the packages - and the surprises from Santa. Yes, Santa came to our house as long as we lived under the roof. The gifts were opened by mid-morning, we would feast on Christmas lunch of prime rib and mashed potatoes, and then all of us would take a nice long nap to round out the holiday.
Geoff also brought his father's love of Christmas lights into our home. It would not be unusual for him to detangle ten or twelve strands of lights before placing them on the tree. It often took several hours, but it was a true labor of love and resulted in a well-lit tree.
When we had children we knew that we wanted to institute some new traditions - that would be particular just to our family. We still made the traditional cookies, although we added a few more to the list: I eliminated orange balls but now include decorated sugar cookies and white chocolate dipped pretzels. We decorate a tree --- although I eliminated the need for an elaborate sign to announce the date, and Geoff relished the idea of a pre-lit tree rather than dealing with all the tangled cords. We began the tradition of inviting friends over to make gingerbread houses in 1992, which is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. The Christmas Eve vigil continues, although we have substituted chicken tenders for bacala fritters, and shrimp and crab for bacala salad and white fish. A bit more expensive than the original meal, but so delicious. We allowed our children to open gifts from Cora and each other on Christmas Eve - but the remaining gifts would have to wait until Christmas morning. Santa still comes to all in the house, but here all the stocking stuffer gifts are individually wrapped to help make the Christmas surprise last a bit longer. The Christmas breakfast consists of egg casserole and bagels and cream cheese (a bit of New England in the Midwest) and the Christmas dinner continues to be roast beast, potatoes and gravy, and two kinds of pie: pumpkin and mincemeat. The required nap is still a staple.
This has been our family tradition for a generation, but the times are changing. This Christmas will be slightly different as my daughter will be celebrating with her in-laws in Memphis, my son will be splitting his time between our family and his girlfriend, and my mother is not sure that she is up to join us for all the festivities. We will be small group around the dining room table. I will still bake the same cookies - although it will not be quite as elaborate or nearly as much; I will still wrap the stocking stuffers in the hopes of prolonging the magic of Christmas just a bit longer (although I anticipate the two kids at home will opt to sleep a bit later this year), and the two primary feasts will remain the same, although noticeably smaller.
|My eldest - racing to find what|
Santa had brought (1993)
It is my expectation that many of the traditions will continue because it is what Geoff and I desire of a Christmas holiday. Perhaps the cookies will be fewer, the meals not as elaborate, and the decorating a bit toned down, but it will still be our Christmas. I also hope that as the children grow older, we can continue to have a Christmas Eve vigil together every two or three years --- and perhaps on the off-years we can celebrate a Christmas Day together as well. Santa will still visit for all - although the wrapped stocking stuffers may be fewer as his helper seems to be developing a touch of arthritis in the knees and can't wrap as much as she once could.
Yes, the more things change, the more the stay the same. This is particularly true of our Christmas celebration.