Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a magical time of year. Children are overly giddy with excitement and impatient for the big day to arrive. Adults are frazzled, rushing from store-to-store in search of the perfect gift, or the most popular gift that no one seems to have one more in stock, including Amazon. Delicious aromas of cookies baking in the oven waft through the home. Lights twinkle from windows and rooftops. An angel, or a star, sits atop a Christmas tree. Family and friends gather for a feast, which leads to New Year's resolutions of going on a diet. I've often wondered if our fore-fathers felt this same kind of insanity and gaiety, but rather blog about them, I thought I'd use this column for you to become more acquainted with me.  
I love Christmas. I have ever since I was a kid, though if you ask my son, he'll tell you differently. The first words that'll probably come out of his are: "Mom can't wait to take down the tree and put it back in the box." While that might be true, (and it's because I'm the one who ensures the branches, ornaments and lights are packed away neatly) I do enjoy watching my son open his gifts Christmas morning. But before that day arrives, there are many other holiday traditions that I enjoy.   
Back when I was a child, I had fun opening presents with my brothers and sister, oohing and aahing over what everyone got, visiting relatives and then returning home for an Italian dinner of lasagna. A few days later, we'd load up the car and drive to my grandparents' house in New York City, celebrating both Christmas and New Year's Eve with them. Gram and Gramps lived on the first floor and my aunt and uncle on the second. Gram would cook a German meal and then we'd go up to my aunt and uncle's for a spell to celebrate the holiday. Somewhere during that time, Mom and Gram would sneak down to Gram's, arrange presents under the tree and then Gram would ring a little bell for us to return to her home. We'd open presents, have dessert and watch the ball drop in Times Square. The following morning it was time to return home. For me, this tradition lasted until I married and moved away. For the rest of the family, the tradition remained until Gram passed away.
As parents, the hubby and I have made our own traditions that, hopefully, our son will look back on with fond remembrance. As a mom, I have my own traditions to keep me sane throughout the season; the first being I do the bulk of my shopping before Black Friday. I hate crowds, standing in long lines and rushing. Once Thanksgiving has past, the tree goes up and the lights are strung on the house--a family activity that is usually done the day after Thanksgiving. Then I take a day when the kiddo is in school and wrap everything. (Again, I hate doing something last-minute. I once put together a drum set on Christmas Eve and never again.) Sometime during the weeks leading up to Christmas, we pick a night to make hot cocoa, pile into the car and go out looking at Christmas lights. As a family, we decide what to have for the Christmas meal and then, in a blink of an eye, it's Christmas Eve. We attend the children's mass at church, where the pews are over-flowing with people and the altar is aglow in candlelight. Even if you're not religious, this is one evening when you can literally feel the spirit of the season. Our last traditions consist of a light supper on Christmas Eve, to be followed by the kiddo waking us up at 5:30 Christmas morning and racing us down the stairs, with the dog squeezing past, eager to get to her stocking.    
While our fore-fathers didn't rush to the store, or drive around town looking at Christmas displays, I do envision them as having enjoyed this time of year, of having felt the wonder of the season and their hearts softening as they watched their children's faces light up in awe over something left for them beneath the tree.

Merry Christmas, Everyone! Enjoy the magic of the season!

Note: The Christmas tree in the picture is my current tree. The previous one had special meaning to me. It belonged to my grandparents. When Gramps died, Gram gave the tree to my husband and me. We had it for 10+ years, until the day the dog knocked it over, breaking it close to the top and a few of the ornaments. The best we can figure is he was asleep on the couch when someone rang the doorbell. Being the great guard dog he was, he knew he had to get to the window and bark, and didn't care that the tree was in his way.


Unknown said...

Loved your post. It brought back some very warm memories. I also identify with putting away things. I'm one of those who take the tree down the day after Christmas because it looks so sad without the gifts beneath it.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Thanks for sharing your traditions. I enjoyed reading your post. It brought back a lot of memories for me also. I remember going downtowan to see the window displays. Back then they had all the mechanical figures. I so loved walking past all those big stores and stopping to admire the windows. There was also an electric company that had a fabulous display. I think it's still there, but you have to pay now.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Nice post, Julie. All the old ornaments that were my mom's from early in her marriage have broken by now, but I still have a few later ones. She was crazy about Precious Moments because she toured the store and I have a few of those.

Lyn Horner said...

Hi Julie, fun post! We don't put up a tree anymore because we have a Christmas village and it just too much work to do both. We split up our tree ornaments between our kids. Nice to know they're still being used.