If you don’t have traditions at Christmas, I ask you, do you really have traditions at all?
We always enjoyed putting up the tree, decorating the house and getting gifts wrapped in preparation for the big day. Now, to be fair, the struggle of shopping beforehand is somewhat of a tradition as well, but let’s not focus on the negative just yet!
This year, instead of stressing over parking spots and jostling through the crowd, on two separate occasions I just left the parking lot and returned home. I wasn’t up for playing bumper cars with overly stressed and aggressive motorists. I like my Jeep too much.
It doesn’t hurt that there aren’t as many gifts to buy as in years past. With some family members opting to go gift-free, it means less need to shop, haul and wrap. This is definitely a change. I will never forget the Christmas about 15 years ago when I sat up until 3 a.m. wrapping presents, only to get up at 6 a.m. to head to work. In.Sane.
There are other changes as well this year. First Born Son, who has been less and less interested in decorating in recent years, wasn’t around for this year’s exercised, which may have been for the best, because honestly, he was getting vocal in his dislike of being asked to hang Baby’s First Christmas decorations. Second Born Son, who always enjoys the trimming of the tree, not to mention the selecting and installation of the tree, was away for the weekend. We couldn’t put it off any longer, otherwise we’d decorating on Christmas Eve.
It was mid tree anchoring when The Big Guy and I realized that THIS is our new tradition. No guilt, no inflection. Just reality. Our kids are getting older and things will change – especially if we have done our jobs right and raised two confident, independent young men. It’s a change.
Another change this year is the addition of a third tree. Yes you read that correctly. Three trees, more than two, less than four. Never saw myself being a “crazy tree lady” but hey, it takes care of the decorating in the kitchen. It’s the only artificial one since it’s adjacent to the fireplace and if it was real I’d have to a) run a hose directly from the sink to make sure it stayed hydrated or b) be prepared to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
The other two trees are real. When we were picking out these trees at the local tree farm, I was chatting with one of the employees about our shared experience of man-children who may or may not have outgrown their youthful Christmas traditions.
She asked why we were getting two trees. I explained that I have one in the living room with the more formal, cohesive decorations and one in the basement where we break out the amazing ornaments from the boys’ childhood. Adorable baby baubles, John Deere tractors, Pirates of the Caribbean, hockey skates and handmade treasures from art classes all find their home on this tree. It’s in the rec room where we will play pool, throw darts and listen to music. I never want to forget these decorations. I want them out every year. The lady was impressed with our tradition and insisted she was going to do the same thing with her 20-something kids and their ornaments.
Not all traditions are good ones. For years the real trees we erected had a familiar pattern of behaviour. We’d put them up, decorate them and within an hour or two, they’d be on the floor – ornaments smashed and branches twisted. Eventually we smartened up and used a counter weight to ensure the tree wouldn’t land in the middle of the living room.
I also used to do a great deal of baking. Hours of butter, flour and chocolate. The evolution of our family has resulted in some dietary restrictions. No nuts and no dairy. That takes out a BIG chunk of Christmas baking!
One thing that hasn’t changed is my thoughts of my Dad during Christmas. He loved this holiday and went all out with decorating. Ironically, as The Big Guy strung the lights on the upstairs tree, he noticed a number of the bulbs were out. He smiled and said to me, “When you are talking to your Dad, can you ask him to take care of these lights?”
The moment brought a smile to my face. Dad has been gone for more than five years now. Invoking his name while we decorated was perfect. Dad would spend hours in his chair going through strings of lights, finding the burnt out bulbs and bringing back strings that had been destined for the landfill. We could have used him last weekend.
A couple of years ago was another change in tradition. My sister and I took over the tradition of hosting Christmas dinner. Our Mother had cooked for the better part of 45 years and we felt it was time to give her a break. At first it was a change for her, but now she’s glad to bring something to our homes, without the stress of planning and cooking for hours.
Moving forward we have decided to start a new tradition – to include the girlfriends of our sons. While we don’t expect them to join us on Christmas Day or Boxing Day when they have their own family commitments, we plan to have an afternoon filled with food, fun and festive movies. We will have memories thanks to the evolution of our family and our willingness to adapt.
It won’t be the same, but it will be awesome.
Merry Christmas to you and may you embrace your new traditions.