Traditions are pretty thick this time of year. Many traditions seem to revolve around each of the holidays but none more than Christmas. Meals, music, decorations, movies, bad sweaters…they all drip with holiday ritual.
Just in case you’re interested, here’s the rundown of the Christmas traditions that have been built over the years in the Staires home.
First of all, Christmas season is not allowed to begin until Thanksgiving Day. That means no Christmas music and no decorations until at least Thanksgiving morning. In the same way that the first meal after a fast always tastes so good, forcing yourself to wait until Thanksgiving to play Christmas music makes it just that much more special.
On Thanksgiving night we always watch Miracle on 34th St. By the way, it has to be the first one with Natalie Wood and Maureen McGovern and it has to be in black and white. These points are non-negotiable.
Then on December 2 we always watch Christmas Vacation. The reason for the timing for this is long and involved and frankly is difficult for me to tell. I’m just now healing!
On the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend we get the tree and this tradition has it’s own list of sub-traditions. First we decorate the house with most everything except the tree. Then we load up and head out to the local tree farm to cut down our own and haul it back to the house. We’ve had all kinds of trees in the past; tall and skinny, short and fat, blue spruce, Douglas fir, even cedar. One year when we lived in Colorado we even paid to go into the National Forest to cut down the tree. Very cool.
When we get the tree home we bring it in and decorate it and when all that’s done we have homemade chili and Lainey’s apple pie while watching White Christmas. Of course we have to watch the two “shorts” beforehand; How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas. Without a doubt it’s the best bowl of chili I have all year.
There are other movies…Elf has become a recent tradition and we love Home Alone and A Christmas Story. But the highlight is on Christmas Eve when we watch The Muppet Christmas with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as Scrooge. I know there are many other versions of A Christmas Carole but this one is our favorite.
Advent is a family tradition as well. Every Sunday evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas we gather around the candles (and of course the kids vying for the chance to be able to light the candles!) and tell the chapters of the Christmas story…the prophecies, the shepherds, the wise men and Mary.
Then on Christmas morning we have cinnamon rolls and open gifts. On Christmas night we have a big dinner and finish Advent with the full telling of the Christmas story. We sing. We laugh. We share.
These traditions are much harder now that our kids are grown but you can bet when we get together this year, we’ll do all we can. These things are important.
Traditions are how we mark time as a family. Traditions are the glue that holds us together. Our traditions make us a family…and your’s make you a family.
Good parents never underestimate the power of making something (anything really) special. Yeah you can go buy the tree in a box from Home Depot and mom can decorate it while everyone’s at school. But why do that when you can make it special. Why do it alone when you can do it together. Sure you can watch The Christmas Story in the afternoon while you fold another load of laundry but why not always watch it on the same day and make the occasion something memorable.
Traditions and stories. This is how we do family. It’s how we pass along the important stuff to our kids.