Christmas traditions come and go
It seems as though many folks are talking about their Christmas traditions this year. Most of them include family, food, gifts and church.
My family Christmas tradition is that we really didn’t have the normal traditions. In fact, you could say we didn’t really have any traditions that lasted very long.
Oh sure, when I was a kid we did have a Christmas tree and had food and opened presents and went to church Christmas Eve.
But the routine changed from time to time.
For a few years we got to open one present before Christmas Eve church, one present after church and the rest on Christmas morning before we went to church again. Of course, Santa’s gift was also next to the tree when we got up on Christmas morning.
After a while, when we got older, my parents sometimes caved in to our whining and we got to open all our gifts on Christmas Eve, and only the Santa gift was opened on Christmas morning.
That Santa gift was the biggie. Sometimes it was something like a new bike, and wasn’t wrapped, only sporting a ribbon and bow.
Since I spent the first 14 years of my life in San Diego, my brothers and I were able to take those bikes outside immediately and ride them around the neighborhood on Christmas Day.
And, of course, Santa was smart enough never to bring us sleds.
The year I was 12, our Christmas was a tad different just from the fact that my baby brother Tim was born three days after Christmas. That meant more concentration on adding to the family than on Christmas itself. But I guess getting another brother is sort of a wonderful gift although maybe I did not realize that at the time.
Our Christmas meals were often a little different from the norm of all those folks in the Midwest. It was not unusual for our Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner to be something like tacos or enchiladas. That was because my entire family loved tacos and enchiladas.
I don’t remember lutefisk ever being on the menu.
Our Christmases were also different because we lived in California and almost all of our relatives lived in Minnesota and Tennessee.
My parents never had to go through the “discussion” of whether we would go to my dad’s parents or my mother’s parents for Christmas. There wasn’t any argument over which one when. We were not able to do either.
That, of course, meant we usually celebrated Christmas with just us my parents and brothers. It also means that growing up I rarely saw my grandparents, except maybe once every couple of years or so.
Perhaps that is why I spend a lot of time and energy trying to be a good grandfather to my grandkids.
Saying we spent Christmas just with my immediate family is not quite true. I did have one aunt and uncle in California we did spend some time with.
And then there is the mystery family at our family Christmases.
I had some of my father’s Super 8 movies made into DVDs and when I watched them I was astounded to see a family celebrating Christmas with us, at least twice, maybe more.
My brothers and I have no memory of who this couple and their kids were, or even that they were at our home. And it is too late to check with my parents.
It is a mystery we may never know the answer to.
Once my wife and I married, we began the trek to my parents and her parents homes for Christmas and other holidays.
Sometimes Christmas included a big feast. Sometimes it was a big feast at both homes. Sometimes it was even prime rib. Eventually my parents went to the hors d’oeuvre route, with lots and lots of great and sometimes fancy snacks. And a spiral cut ham, as well.
There still were presents around the tree. Sometimes it was hard to see the tree with the stacks of gifts surrounding it. And almost always the presents were opened on Christmas Eve or whenever the family was gathered together.
We have continued that tradition with our own kids, who now have to make plans for when they can come ‘home’ for Christmas. Or, even better, one of them hosts Christmas for the whole family like is going to happen this year.
We don’t always have family Christmas on Christmas Eve. Sometimes it can be the weekend before or after. This year the celebration is the weekend after, and will culminate with a family trip to the Vikings-Bears game on Sunday.
Now, I am not sure that attending a Vikings game will become part of our family Christmas tradition, but you just never know.
The number of gifts has decreased some over the years, with our kids and grandkids opening many of their presents at their own homes, before getting together as a whole big group.
One change in our family Christmas came on Christmas Day of 1992, when my father passed away. We have added a family tradition since that time, which is wherever we are on Christmas Day, and whoever we are with, we pause to remember my dad. And now we will think of my mom at the same time, I am sure.
So while the way we have celebrated Christmas has changed quite a bit over the years, the two main elements have remained the same, no matter what day we actually celebrate it.
A time for family to get together, and a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I hope your Christmas is blessed and happy and you follow some old traditions.
Or create some new ones.