Thursday, December 19, 2013
My holiday traditions have changed significantly over the years.
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was an all day food affair that had its start several days prior. The turkey was thawed (purchased anywhere from one year to three months prior), prepped and refrigerated; stuffing ingredients collected; pies, cookies and candies baked at least two days before. And we always ate dinner by noon on Thanksgiving. I never liked eating such a big meal that early, but we had buffet food all day long, and the day after too.
Christmas season started on the Saturday following Thanksgiving every year. The tree was placed in the usual spot before the living room window; the decorations were hung in all the same places and designs every year; the same routine was followed for church and the annual mad purchasing trip to the mall to spend our allotted Christmas allowance (and collected allowances for those of us willing to save all year) on gifts for family members – mom, dad, siblings, grandparents.
Packages started arriving under the tree within a week after its installment, but of course us kids already knew what they all were. We’d started looking for hidden gifts in July (my parents started buying next year’s Christmas shortly after New Years, and by Halloween we’d already discovered all the surprises to come. Sometimes a gift went to someone other than anticipated; and there was the occasional unknown purchases in the week before, but there was rarely a surprise gift under the tree
for us to unwrap.
We unwrapped our gifts about 8pm on Christmas Eve, including the overstuffed stockings, so I never really had a belief in Santa Claus.
Although my upbringing was Southern Baptist, I've rarely entered a church during my adulthood, and
my first husband was not associated with a specific doctrine. We raised our children perpetuating the Santa myth. Neither of us could stand to look at the empty Christmas Tree all month (the tree was assembled and decorated the first Saturday after Thanksgiving) so we had presents under the tree all month. But stockings were always filled about midnight Christmas Eve (when we were sure all kids were finally soundly asleep), and the last gifts were put under the tree and labeled from Santa.
The Santa gift to each child was the most expensive, never wrapped, and usually the gift the children wanted the most, and purchased last minute to avoid the kid’s inquisitive adventures. There were also “family” gifts such as video games, music CDs, and other electronics all the kids (and parents) would share. When I divorced, the gift was often something we collaborated on and mutually paid for. Or something I purchased for the absent dad who forgot to buy for a child he no longer lived with.
But the stockings had a tradition of their own. It held the usual candy, a funky dollar tree puzzle game or slinky, and a wind up toy. As the kids grew to teens, there was always gift cards for movies and fast food, a tooth brush (seemed a good time to replace those), and some form of jewelry - even for the boys. The first year I did not hang stockings for my adult children who had moved out they all complained about the lack of a tooth brush and missed the Christmas morning wind up toy races. The races are a tradition from my first husband’s family, and so I also miss the early morning activity as it distances me from that coveted connection.
Back-to-School displays are barely removed now before Christmas advertising replaces them. Halloween and Thanksgiving are downplayed in anticipation of the major shopping season of the year. I can’t afford Christmas anymore. Five kids and their two spouses, three grand children, my siblings and their family, my mother, and those few friends I've garnered all are close enough to require a give this time year. Christmas season should be amended to fall in line with Tax season. Kick Cupid to the curb and insert peace, good will, and charity into the February Love purchasing frenzy.
Social Services has a tradition of supporting many charities which include Adopt a Family, Adopt an Elder, Toys For Tots, and any number of food drives; and employees are expected to contribute to all these charities. Little by little, my Christmas spirit has waned with all the commercial and enforced emotional investment into the holiday season. I feel the guilt when I pass bell ringers (often sitting next to the year-round beggars) at every store and street corner without dropping everything in my wallet into the pot. I do hand over checks and cash whenever co-workers personally stop by my desk and plead their cause.
My Christmas wish is to have the money to give to everyone who expects a contribution between the months of October thru January. Sadly, the CA and Mega Lotto has not paid off any time I contribute my $1 quick pick choice, and the writing world accepts my contributions to publication at a significant loss of revenue for my hard work and creativity. IE: all my get-rich-quick schemes are not economically sound.
Now I’m down to one child in the house, and my bah-humbug Christmas attitude has rubbed off on him. He wants gifts in December of course, but doesn't care for all the trappings of the season. We haven’t put up a tree in about four years, and he wants what he wants as soon as he wants it! I oblige as funds permit. I don't buy Christmas presents - not winning any GIFT GIVER OF THE YEAR awards - but still manage to overspend this month every year.
My daughter is the only one with a family of her own, and it pleases me that she is carrying on a lot of
Tis the season for celebrating Family traditions. Where ever YOU are in the world, I hope you are thinking of your family and friends, and the gift you give that is your love and hope for the future, quaint and unpopular as it is. I’d love to read your stories of Tradition, either in the comments here, or on your own blog by signing up on the linky at Write . . Edit . . Publish hosted by L’Aussie Denise Covey.