A traditional Christmas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:36 PM

When we were growing up, my mother always worried that we weren’t having a traditional Christmas. We rarely had any extended family; it was usually just the five of us, plus the dog. She would make cookies, seemingly for weeks, putting them in the freezer. Pecan tassies, apricot twists, thumbprints. She was a phenomenal baker.

When we lived in New York, we had a split-level ranch, and one tree. It was in the living room and on Christmas morning we’d all gather around on the shag carpeting and open presents. When we moved to New England, we had a kid’s tree in the family room and my mother’s tree in the living room. That tree, all white and gold, with garland, glass ornaments, white and gold “space balls”, glass icicles, and white and gold and red birds, was the tree under which all of the packages went. On Christmas morning, we’d gather in there and open presents, one at a time. It was her way of making sure that everyone was involved, and that Christmas wasn’t over in a flash of flying wrapping paper, bows and string. 

She would sit on the couch and watch, collecting wrapping paper that she would dutifully fold for use next year. She did the same with bows. And then it was over. And she was always a little down. Years later, we talked about it and she said that one of the reasons she felt that way was because she had convinced herself that everyone else had a more traditional Currier and Ives kind of Christmas, with extended family gathered around and everyone making merry. Then she found out that no body actually had that; that the paintings and prints were fantasies made of snow and sleighs. 

For the longest time, I was often down at Christmas, too, especially because I was away from my family. But then, I too, realized that there really isn’t a traditional Christmas. The traditions are yours and your family’s to make. Kevin and Justin and I, along with Maguire, made our own. We would get up, just the four of us, on Christmas morning and with a nod to how we did things as a kid, we’d open packages one at a time. Justin was in charge of picking out presents for everyone, and he was always so good about waiting. He actually seemed to enjoy the process. Maguire would lay on the floor and watch everyone. We’d give him one of his toys and he’s chew for a bit, then, keeping it close, return to watching. After presents were opened, but before stockings, we’d all go to the kitchen. Kevin would pour coffee and we’d make Justin some hot chocolate. I’d put the cinnamon coffee cake I made every Christmas into the oven, then we’d all go back into the great room to open stockings. 

Because we live west and away from immediate family, we long ago created our own western version. We’d spend Christmas late afternoon into the evening with Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and whoever else. We’d make a great meal, open more presents and enjoy each other’s company. On the 26th, we always went wine tasting. It was tradition, and a great way to extend the holiday.

Today I baked cookies. We listened to Christmas music and wrapped presents. We gathered in the great room, the five of us – Roy and Bobbi and Kevin and I and Riley – and we huddled around the fire as a cold storm blew in. It’s the new tradition, having Roy and Bobbi here with us in the desert. It’s the third year they’ve come, and it’s lovely. We went out to dinner, listened to some jazz and came back to once again gather around the fire and listen to music.  

I’ve decided that traditions are anything you want them to be, anything you make them. There’s no right or wrong tradition. There’s no Currier and Ives, except on paper. We are our own Currier and Ives. We do our best to embrace those we love, both near and far. We wish for snow and accept rain and cold. We eat cookies and drink wine and enjoy each other, always. It’s what traditions are made of. 

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and more. Feliz Navidad from the all of us in the desert where we’re celebrating out loud.

Comments (1) -

12/25/2016 9:00:06 AM #

Merry Christmas to you!

Larissa Tepper United States

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