Every Christmas time we seem to start new traditions, maybe drop a few, and make sure we meet the favorite ones. I am fascinated by other people’s traditions around this time. One that seems to be growing in other families, I think would be fun, which is to wear brand new pj’s on Christmas Eve night. I resist that one because although new pj’s would be good for early morning Christmas photos, it would be just one more thing to do during the busy time.
Along with my fascination for other people’s Christmas traditions comes the fascination of what traditions were like in the past. Following is an excerpt from my grandmother’s book, “how did we get from there to here” :
The first Christmas tree that I remember was decorated with real candles. The kind with metal holders that clipped on the branches of the tree. The tree was lovely with the candles on it. We let them burn long enough for everyone to oooh an ahhh over them and then snuffed them out. It was much too dangerous to let them burn down any further even though the tree was fresh from the woods. After that, we had strings of electric lights much like we use now.
–Helen Hopkins Titus
I seem to remember that in the past, people didn’t get a tree and decorated it until Christmas eve. That isn’t the case for most people these days though. It is not uncommon to see hoards of cars with the wrapped-up green bundles on the tops of their cars or back of their pick-ups the day after Thanksgiving.
The tree seems to be the center of our holiday traditions. My oldest told me that getting our tree was more important to her than getting Christmas gifts. Every year we travel long distances to a tree farm that we have adopted as our favorite. It is a small family owned farm that has such a friendly, warm feeling to it. We look forward to running the fields looking for the very best one, calling “Marco!” and “Polo!” trying to find each other to show what we found. Then, when the tree is finally chosen, the tradition is to make Dad lay in the mud to cut it down. The tree is then tugged and pulled in the special tree wagon to the shaker and baler. I love the sign on the baler that indicated the price: $2 to bale a tree, 50 cents to bale children. I wonder each year how many people consider that. I dream of one of those machines for my house. I certainly need it from time to time. When all is done, the tree paid for and on our van, we reward ourselves with a nice hot cup of hot cocoa provided by the people at the tree farm.
While we were camping this past summer, we had an interesting conversation around the campfire about Christmas. Apparently some members of the campfire conversation were not Christmas fans. Somehow, they must have missed the point to Dr. Seuss’ , “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. To them, they felt as if Christmas was all about gift giving, and had missed out on the feeling you get when families and friends get together to give those gifts. Here is another excerpt from my Grandmother’s book:
I remember one Christmas in particular during the depth of the depression when I was about twelve. We agreed to limit our gift purchases to ten cents. It sounds impossible, even for those times. The gifts were not much, but we all had some packages to open. Our expectations were low but it was fun and no one was headed for the poorhouse.
I am convinced that my grandmother and her family discovered joy, no matter what the gifts were or how much they cost. It was getting together and enjoying each other that was the most important. I think that we get all wrapped up in the commercials that invade us wherever we go that make us feel as if we are not adequate as people unless we can top last year’s gifts, or can give the ‘best’ gift of the season. Little do we know that sometimes the best gift is the experience of the season, the traditions, the good feelings that we get when we enjoy each other.
Now I have to get back to my kids who are out of school for the holidays. We have more of the season’s traditions to meet, stringing popcorn for the tree, baking cookies for Santa and making snowmen in the fresh snow. I have a request though. Please give me a quick comment about what your favorite holiday tradition is (it doesn’t have to be Christmas).