Posted on Saturday, at • bought • 79 views
When I was growing up, there were formalized holiday traditions…and they drove my brother and I crazy-in-bad-ways. (My mom didn’t love them either, but since she felt that She Had To Do These, we did them.) As we’ve all grown up and grown more confident with ourselves and with each other, we’ve been able to admit which things we like, which we could put up with, and which we’d rather not ever have to do ever again. (I like to think of it as my family’s very personal long-drawn-out Airing of the Grievances.) We’ve been able to do this without any lasting anger or disappointment, which is kind of amazing. It’s taken us a while to get here, but for the past decade-or-thereabouts, we’ve jointly and individually come up with our own traditions.
When I was growing up, it was a very “typical” American family type of season, with a few personalized tweaks. We had our advent wreath at every family dinner starting in latest November (or whenever Advent started that year, according to the liturgical calendar.) The Christmas tree and outdoor lights went up over Thanksgiving weekend. Dad put up the tree, and the kids helped decorate while Dad strung the outdoor lights. Sometime around age 15, tree-decorating was pretty much left up to me and my brother. We baked many different kinds of Christmas cookies, bought presents and put them under the tree, and opened gifts on Christmas Eve. Then, Christmas Day, we went over to my aunt's house and did Christmas Day (opening gifts one at a time, in sequence around a circle, then having dinner) and the next week was a blur of cleanup, tear down, and trying to find places to put everything.
In the years since I've moved away from home, things have gotten MUCH more relaxed. Mom and Dad don't put out lights or a tree any more, under the theory that it's too much work for too little payoff. Likewise, as the family has dispersed, the gatherings no longer happen. Christmas Dinner is now - I kid you not - frozen CPK pizzas nicely heated up, and maybe garnished with additional cheeses or sauces but otherwise just enjoyed as-is. I've visited a couple of times, and the atmosphere is much less strained, much less scheduled. We all still laugh and talk and enjoy each other's company. There's minimal cleanup and maximum enjoyment. It's a thing, it works for us.
On the homefront, I have never been a huge decorator - aside from the annual fresh-evergreen wreath that I buy and hang inside my front door (yes, inside. I want to see and smell that pretty wreath, and I can't exactly do that when it's outside) I will burn evergreen-scented candles in the wall sconces on either side of the fireplace, and I have stockings for all of my cats that I hang off of the drapery rods. But…that's about as decoratey as I get. I do bake Christmas cookies, though, and give about half of them away to a local shelter (because I do not need to eat all of those cookies!!) There are some areas in the city that are noted for their amazing light displays, and I'll go walking in those neighborhoods all bundled up so that I get to see pretty holiday lights without having to try and hang them myself. I will get a can of peppermint cocoa in September when they start showing up at Costco, and merrily drink that every evening (mornings are strictly “coffee time.”)
What do you do for the holidays? What do you wish you could change about your holiday traditions - either adding, changing, or leaving behind?
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