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Dec 25, 2009

New Traditions

In the house where I grew up, Christmas was revered as the most holy, the most sacred time of the year, but not for any strictly religious reason. Instead of church and communion, we had our own traditions that we held as dearly as if our little girl lives depended on them. For us, the sanctity of the holiday was in the family traditions and spending the day in our pajamas playing with each other’s new treasures in the glow of the Christmas tree lights and White Christmas in the background.

But, like every family, we have been forced to grow up. We have had arguments and we have had to change. Always always it was hard to give up any tradition or expectation, and the person requiring the adjustment was usually regarded as selfish and bothersome (and was usually me). However, as Patrick entered my life so did his family. The Baby Mama had obligations elsewhere and we were forced to delay Christmas proceedings or change the timeline to accommodate life outside of my immediate family. Even worse, The Best Nephew Ever and Colin necessitated even more change, as the next generation deserved traditions at their own houses. But what about the original traditions?

Growing up, after making cookies, a flour fight, and writing a lengthy letter to Santa, we all slept in my parents’ bedroom for fear that someone would be possessed to check to see if Santa had come yet. We would stay in the room until my parents had gone down to see if Santa had come, at which point we would line up on the stairs and wait for the cue, my father’s customary “Doesn’t look like he came this year, but I guess you can come check for yourselves.” The Great Stair Race caused more bloody noses and missing chunks of hair than any other organized event in my house, but it always ended in squealing and laughing girls, as it ended in the sight of my living room lit up with twinkling lights reflecting off wrapping paper and overflowing stockings.

Sadly, it became difficult to fit husbands and babies into one bedroom, as it became nearly impossible for everyone to gather at the same time at all. One by one, traditions were grudgingly relaxed, sometimes abandoned altogether.

Until this year, when there was mysteriously, magically, blessedly no grudges, no guilt, only excitement for our time together and for new traditions.

This year, for the first time since I brought Patrick to Christmas, or perhaps since my parents split up, it felt like it clicked. Christmas felt joyous and sacred again. Perhaps it was the two little boys who now steal kisses and candy from us and who make any changes in their favor seem like an obvious betterment of the tradition. Or maybe it was the collective effort of the family to make Christmas smaller and more personal, swapping names for stockings instead of expecting Santa to fill that role. It could be my mother’s repeated mention of the fact that this may have been the last Christmas in that house, our childhood home, as she would like a smaller place now that Littlest Sister is out and about.

Whatever the reason, we had an absolutely wonderful time today. In place of the Great Stair Race we had Nerf Wars. For the first time, Santa left me margarita mix in my stocking (a welcome change from hand sanitizer) and the room rearranged so our traditional “Santa spots” jumbled, replaced instead by the four sisters exchanging gifts one at a time.

We rediscovered the childlike joy in Christmas. With the focus on making it special for each other, it was inherently more meaningful to each of us. I hope that the new Christmas tradition is to remember each other in the chaos, to keep holy the bonds that bring us together in the first place, and to treasure family as it deserves. That is the real meaning of Christmas and this year was nothing short of a miracle.

I hope that wherever you are and whatever traditions you celebrate you are happy, healthy, and loved.

2 Readers rock!:

Apryl said...

You got me all misty-eyed thinking about all of you girls and your families celebrating Christmas together. This was such a heart-felt post. I'm glad this one was so special for all of you! Merry Christmas! We need that play date sometime soon. Let us know what your crazy busy schedule looks like.

Long Family Chronicles said...

I would agree with Apryl, what a touching post! I remember having those similar conversations with my parents regarding Santa not coming --- followed by us running down the stairs to check and see. I think I might have pushed my sister down once or twice to be the first one there -- well, I was the oldest right? It is always hard to come up with new traditions, especially now with a little one around! However, it is so worth the effort for the amazing memories!! Thanks for sharing Katie!