I just read this wonderful post about Christmas Traditions on footnoteMaven's blog, and it started me thinking about my family's traditions and Christmas past.
Tradition of the trees: Yes I said trees. We had one in the living room, standing over 7 feet tall with a branch span of around 6 feet. The tradition of each child having a small tree in their room, covered in our own personal decorations (more about them later). The tradition of the entire family climbing into the family station wagon to go down to the Christmas Tree lot to pick it out. We never had fake trees, only real trees in our household.
Memories of my mother watering the tree with an empty glass coke bottle. Needles falling onto the carpet, some to be vacuumed up immediately, and others working their way down into the nap waiting to be discovered in July, a secret promise of things to come. Daddy climbing the old metal stool-chair to get the decorations down from the attic.
Tradition of the decking the tree: what memories I have of the boxes of decorations. Gold, silver, red, green, blue, smooth, shiny, new, old, small, large, every conceivable shape, size, color, and texture. Here are the small plastic balls, not much bigger than a large marble, that hook together to form a chain. The glass bird that clips to the tree branches with its full, feathery tail hanging down. The glass, gold icicles that were always hung closest to the tree trunk. Decorations that Jane, James, and I made in school, childish concoctions of paper, glue and glitter, slowly fading and falling apart, yet still placed in the prime positions for all to see. Gold and red glass beads strung on waxed thread for draping as garland on the tree. Just when you thought our main tree could hold no more decorations, we brought out the thin, shiny, silver icicles that we hung so thick our green tree looked silver. With the many string of tree lights turned on, the tree sparkled and colors danced everywhere you looked.
Tradition of personal ornaments: My favoirite tradition was the new ornament that Jane, James and I received each year. This is one tradition that I have kept alive for my children. Each year a new ornament is presented to each child. Each one has a story behind it: the teddie bear for the son that collected them, the nutcracker for the son who collected them, the Star Trek ornaments to celebrate the movies we saw together, the glass birds bought by Grandma, the musical instruments exactly like the instruments the boys play in school, all of the ornments have a meaning and a memory attached to them. While my mother was alive, the boys often received two ornaments a year, one from me and one from her. Last year I gave the boys a John Brown ornament from the National Abolition Hall of Fame, while this year I needlepointed a reindeer ornament for the boys and for Geoffrey's fiance, Lucia. And so the tradition continues.
Tradition of Food: My family always had two Christmas meals. Christmas Eve at our home and Christmas day at Grandma and Poppa's house. We always had relish trays packed high with radishes, celery, carrot sticks, olives (to were on your fingers), green onions, and pickles - bread and butter and sweet pickles. On Christmas, after all gifts were open and shared with one and all, we drove to Grandma and Poppa's house for Christmas Lunch! More yummy food including the Cook Family Fruit Salad - made with oranges, pineapples, bananas, and sweet condensed milk. Not healthy, but oh so yummy. We also had a tradition of making candy - lots of candy. Fudge, Almond Roca, Divinity, Orange Nut Roll, Coconut Haystacks, Peanut Brittle, Caramels. This is one tradition that I have not really continued with my children.
Tradition of the Gifts: After Christmas Eve dinner at our house, we would retire to the living room and everyone was allowed to open one gift. This early gift helped the little ones get over the "I can't wait till morningism" and allowed for a calmer opening of gifts. One of the younger children handed out one gift to each person and then we opened them one at a time and oohed and aahed over the contents.Then cookies and milk left out for Santa and the children were put to bed. I have continued the one gift on Christmas Eve with my children.
Traditions of Santa: When I was in Jr High my parents remodeled our house and bricked up our fireplace, so Santa had to visit us through our front door from then on. But the biggest Santa tradition in our house was that he left at least one of our Santa gifts in our rooms. In fact, that is how I learned there was no Santa Claus - I awoke and saw my dad putting my portable record player in my room on Christmas. Santa left the rest of his presents and our stockings under the tree in the living room. In our house Santa left unwrapped gifts. The whole family all had to be up and in the living room before we started opening gifts and going through our stockings. Santa always brought us an orange, candy canes and nuts in our stockings, traditions that I have continued with my kids. The orange and nuts are a continuation of a tradition started in the Brown Family Line, by Annie's daughter Bertha.
NEW TRADITIONS: My friend and neighbor, Judi, and I have created new traditions for our families at Christmas. Our two families spend Christmas Eve together snacking, singing carols and doing "Christmas Crackers" that are home made. The crackers have jokes, hats, toys and treats inside. Then we all gather around for the readings. Her husband reads the Bible story about christmas and then my husband reads Twas the Night Before Christmas. Then we tuck the children into bed. On Christmas Day, our families share Christmas lunch together.
I hope you enjoyed my memories of Christmas Traditions. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas with your family and your own traditions