Saturday, November 29, 2008

Family Traditions

Traditions are funny. Have you ever noticed that some traditions are deliberately created and nurtured, while others are purely accidental? And then there's habitual traditions...which is pretty much a different beast entirely, if you ask me.

My little family has a handful of holiday traditions. Some are well-loved. Others...not so much.

For instance, as a child, Christmas in my parents' home meant pulling out our entirely unique and handmade stockings (crewel, cross-stitch, beaded, sequined, you name it!) each year and cooing over how much you liked your own better than all the rest. As an adult, each year at Christmas I pull out the store-bought stockings that I FINALLY broke down and bought for my family once I gave up on the dream of living up to my mother's tradition and sewing everyone their own stocking. Then, my mother, husband, and in-laws crack jokes about my husband's and daughter's stockings which are STILL in different stages of INcompletion. In my defense, I DID finish one stocking for my neice. And it's lovely.

Here's another favorite of mine. Ha. Each year, as we decorate the house for Christmas, I carefully unpack the nativity set from my husband's childhood home, unwrapping the weathered newspaper from each figure, stuffing it back in the box for another year's use. I delicately and thoughtfully set up the scene, as logically and "correctly" as I can muster. Then, my loving husband rearranges them all, claiming I didn't do it "right". (Not sure where he found the blueprint from Bethlehem, but apparently, he did.)

Some traditions are gifted to your family. A few years back, my brother and sister-in-law sent us a lovely advent house, filled with little prizes for us to share with the Little Princess(es) each year. This tradition has continued, and evolved, throughout the years. The doors, you see, are quite small. It can be quite difficult to find goodies for the little compartments. Never fear! Santa is a wise man. He has been known to leave a message in the compartment, sending the children on a scavenger hunt for a mysterious package, wrapped and labeled, somewhere in the house!

Other traditions are copied. My mother always had a collection of Christmas books for us to read each year. Each year, after the holiday had passed, she'd box them up and put them away. As the decorations were pulled from their yearlong hiding place, we were thrilled to meet again our old favorites! I, too, have been working on a collection of Christmas books for my girls to know and love. (This -- children's books -- is already an obsession of mine. As a literacy teacher, I JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH BOOKS!!!) I coo at the books in the bookstores this time of year. Running my fingers over book covers and pages, I imagine myself reading to my babies year after year. Then, I imagine the years when they will quietly steal away to a corner of the house and read the books about Santa and his elves, despite the fact that they are long past the age of believing.

With a firefighter for a husband, our holidays look different year after year. Some years he works on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so each year we vary our schedule. Gone are the days of my childhood where traditions allowed one present to be opened on the Eve, while the rest were reserved for after the Early Morning Stocking Jubilee. Some years we've woken up very early and shared Christmas morning before his departure for the station, while other years we've waited till later, so he could hurry home for the festivities. These are minor sacrifices we will gladly make so our Daddy is there.

One thing I love about traditions is that they are yours. Whether you love them, or hate them. They belong to you. You control these traditions, just as you control your parenting style, your home decor, and your travel plans. If you've grown up with traditions you never really cared for, ditch them! Always wanted to do something different? Try it! This is your ball game now!

I suppose, in theory, I could change our traditions of roasting Mommy about unfinished stockings, or rearranging the wise men and shepherd boy. I don't know...maybe next year.


  1. Are you kidding? I couldn't stand all that STUFF. I need more open spaces than that.

  2. that picture is too perfect anyway. Who would want to have your house look like that!


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