Some things never change, and some things must. It's up to us to figure out which things are which. That's life, in a nutshell. Holiday traditions are no exception to that rule. Here is a top ten list of our family's holiday traditions, some that will never change, and some that are in the midst that very process this year.
1) The Winter Holiday season does not begin until after the fall harvest celebration, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. Regardless of the stores that tried to force it down our throats while we were still preparing our Halloween costumes. As tempted as I may have been, which was somewhat tempted, I didn't even dig the Christmas boxes out of my closet until after the turkey platter was used, cleaned, and stored away. However, my daughter had been hospitalized for two weeks before the Autumn Feast, and I had promised her that I would not put up the tree until she came home. So this year's tradition was almost thwarted ... but we were blessed once again, as God brought her home to us on Thanksgiving Eve!
2) The countdown begins. Some of you have calenders, with little windows that you open each day to reveal a festive scene, as you count the days until Christmas eve. Some have calenders with pockets that you fill with a treat to take each day until the BIG one. We have candy ribbons. My mom made one for my sister and I when we were very little, and each night we ate a piece of candy before bed to help us keep track of the days of December. She crafted one for each of my children, to keep the tradition going. I tried to go without the ribbons this year, I really did. But on December 9th, I fell to the rebellion. The ribbons are up.
3) Santa Claus will NOT be coming down our chimney this year. Not because I intend to light the logs in the fireplace. And not because we're on the naughty list, although some of us may very well be. But because the youngest of the young'ens has finally been made aware ... of what I won't say because I don't know who may be reading this, and I'm not one to spill someone else's secrets. Let's just say that we've said our farewells to the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Slash (for you South Park fans).
4) Holiday cookies... are coming out of a Pillsbury tube this year. Last year I spent a whole day kneading and rolling dough, just so my girls could cut and decorate ONE tray of cookies before they declared boredom and abandoned me. Hubsy, The Boy, and I were left to cut and decorate another three dozen sugar cookies on our own. I am NOT doing that again. Another tradition gone.
5) The Christmas Ham. Yummm. Each year the whole house fills with the wafting scents of that roasting thigh of pig, the honey/brown sugar syrup in which it bathes, and the tender hint of the cloves that pin the sweet pineapple slices to the meat. I can almost smell it now... which is weird because we're having turkey this year, dammit. I waited and waited for the grocery store to stock their freezers with the hams that go on sale this time of year. They never came. Instead, those freezers just kept filling over and over again with turkeys, and at the lowest prices for the biggest birds I've ever seen. So there's another tradition busted. Dammit.
6) Sort of a recent tradition that we enjoy is taking the Neighborhood Tour. We head out just a few days before Christmas to oooh and aaah at all the twinkles and sparkles that light up the oaks and maple trees, the snowmen, stars, nativities, Santas, and such on display in front yards, and on various roofs. I think my favorite thing to see is a Christmas tree lit up in the front window of a home, for the world to see. Last year we began counting how many "trees in a window" we could spot. Maybe this year we'll make a scavenger hunt out of it.
7) Mrs Smith will not be invited for dessert this year. One tradition I am happy to bust. I have finally learned to make my very own pumpkin pie. And I'm not talking about popping open a can of Libby's mashed pumpkin. I'm telling you that I bought three huge pumpkins this past Halloween. I cut them into chunks, I boiled them, I mashed them, and I stocked my freezer full of the pumpkin guck. I have already baked four pumpkin pies, and three pumpkin breads since then, and I still have enough for two more pies, and three more breads. C'mon Christmas.
8) Homemade ornaments on display. That is one tradition I simply cannot give up. Whether it's the ones my twenty four year old made in Sunday School or Kindergarten, the ones my nineteen year old son made in Cub Scouts, or the ones my younger daughters have made almost every year in elementary school ... I have to have them out. One year I felt so guilty about not including my children's ornaments on my blue and silver themed tree, that I bought a small three foot tree designated only for homemade treasures.
9) Christmas Eve has always been a very special time for my family. We've always had our big Christmas dinner that evening, and as we sit around the fire, we open the gifts that have been sent from our out of state relatives. I also use this time to remind my children about the spiritual meaning behind it all. As exciting as it is, to get that early taste of Christmas, it's also satisfying enough to help the kids get to sleep at a decent time.
10) Christmas Day traditions? I don't think it's a tradition as much as it's just something we always do. There will be coffee, and Christmas music. I'll put on the seasonal cable channel that shows us a crackling fire while playing carols in the background. We'll pass around gifts, and watch delightfully as each person receives something they either desperately wanted, or desperately needed. There will be horrible photographs of everyone with bedhead (and me without makeup). Afterward, we'll snack on coffee cake and fresh baked pumpkin bread. The rest of the day will be spent enjoying our gifts, and each other's company. We'll make phone calls to Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, and Texas. We'll pull out the Christmas Eve leftovers, and top it off with coffee (or cocoa) and pie. At the end of the day, we'll all be exhausted, but who wants a day like that to end?