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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
the holiday traditions she grew up with. Her and her husband are usually socially active with all their friends, more than I consider prudent, but they reserve Christmas Day as family time with their kids. If I (or anyone) knocks on the door or calls she may not answer. She is instilling in her own family the values and traditions she feels important this time of year. She is making her own traditions – influenced by her and her husband’s upbringing – and passing along something unique and special to future generations.

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.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We always had presents under the tree early and knew they came from the parents not Santa.
That's really sad your work expects everyone to donate. A gift has to come from the heart and from a willing spirit or it's meaningless.
And even though we have no kids, we've always had a tree (several actually - I feel like I live in a forest) and do stockings for each other.

Pat Hatt said...

I don't do much as it is just me and the cats, but when I go home everything is up.

DEZMOND said...

it seems that doing everything in advance is tradition in your family :)


My wife's birthday is Dec 4th that is when we put Christmas our. My son's birthday is Jan 20th That is when we put Christmas back up. That might be a long time to have it out, but it became a tradition the year he was born, so we still do it that way.


*out* not our sorry!

Denise Covey said...

Donna, your Christmas traditions have evolved over the years as your circumstances changed. You don't realize how much these traditions mean to our kids till they don't want it to stop. My youngest misses the undies she used to get in her stocking, much like the toothbrushes your son missed.

I guess I understand your work expecting donations, being social services, but it doesn't take into account your less financial situation.

I hope you still have some special food. i've no idea what i will be doing for Christmas other than missing my kids, but I'm sure i'll find something...

Happy Christmas honey !


D.G. Hudson said...

I learned to say 'No' at work, 'I've already donated to another cause' (usually to do with kids, women or abuse).

Now I have toned down our Christmas too, but our daughters won't let us do away with traditions like the same turkey, dressing, candied yams, and so on, my Christmas village and Santas I put out.

BTW as a parent - I never admitted anything about Santa. . .nor the tooth fairy either. . .

Lisa said...

Having a large family can seriously put a dent in finances at this time of year. I don't worry so much about donating because I donate during the year and so don't feel guilty if I don't during the holiday. We always open presents on Christmas morning. We open ONE on Christmas eve. The stockings are always opened first, before the presents on Christmas day so the "Kids" will let the "adults" have their coffee and eat a little before the big opening spree! Hope you are able to enjoy your holiday this year!

D.G. Hudson said...

Duh - forgot to say Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the new year, Donna! This too (the season) shall pass.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

We're doing our traditional tree trimming tonight. We don't have a set date, only that everyone has to be there. Over the past twelve years, we've always had one of the kids away at college so the tree goes up late. After it's up, we sit in the dark with only the tree on and the boys pick on each other a little until we're all laughing so hard we cry. It's tradition.

Lexa Cain said...

Your children sound lovely - even if they're not children anymore. Your wish is so generous. I adore the decorations and trappings of Christmas, but admire them in hotels, shops and restaurants. I never decorate my own home...just too lazy. :P

Wishing you happy holidays!

Carol Riggs said...

What fun reading about your traditions past. I like the wind-up toy race idea. I like to have the tree up and a few decorations, though I don't go crazy with it. Now my hubby has grandkids for me to share, so partly it's for them. :)

Jenny Brigalow said...

I love that your daughter is following old traditions and inventing some new. My family are a long way away, so I like to keep some old traditions to keep them close as I can. I always decorate the tree with the kids like we did back home and I always cook a roast turkey even if its forty degrees in the shade (crazy I know). I hope you have some time with your family this Christmas. Thank you for sharing.

Donna Hole said...

Alex: I do miss a tree. Maybe next year when I move closer to the grandkids I'll get more excited.

Pat: I imagine the cats would have different ideas about the purpose of the tree than just decorating it anyways.

Dezzy: makes you wonder where I went so wrong, lol.

David: LOL, well your son should appreciate the the length of time you celebrate his birthday! Sounds like fun to me.

Denise: good food is something that is always a part of my celebrations :) You have a Merry Christmas too.

DG: my kids caught me being the tooth Fairy one night and demanded more than a quarter for the tooth!

Lisa; oh yeah, gotta have the coffee before the frenzy, lol. Priorities, I totally understand.

Susan; it is soothing to sit in the dark by the light of the Christmas tree. Its the thing I miss most about not having a tree.

Lexa: I like walking through the mall and seeing all the decorations too. And I still drive through the neighborhoods to see all the decorations.

Carol; I'll have to come up and see how you decorated the house this year. Ah, I bet you have missletoe on your trees :)


Donna Hole said...

Jenny; yep, need those traditions for grounding :) I love watching my daughter and all her activity. Have a merry Christmas yourself.


Julie Dao said...

Family traditions are what makes the holidays so special! It sounds like your daughter is carrying on a lot of the lessons and traditions of your family... what a great way to see those passed on :) Merry Christmas, Donna. Hope it's a very happy one!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

It is great that your daughter is carrying on some of your old traditions. Work pressuring you to give is dysfunctional. The agency wants to look good on paper I know. The charities' goal actually don't matter probably.

D.G.'s idea might help at work -- or not -- work wants what it wants no matter your financial situation.

Of course your traditions would evolve as your circumstances change. People and family who care about you understand you do not have the national budget to work with -- those that are irritated are not your friends anyway.

My Christmas Tree is the replica of the tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I keep it up year round to remind me that people, like this tree, just need a little love.

Merry Christmas, Roland

klahanie said...

Hi Donna,

It's encouraging to read that your daughter upholds a lot of your family traditions. You have many traditions to cherish. Indeed, this is a time of the year that families can get together and hopefully be thankful for what they have.

Often, I am on my own on Christmas day. Well, not quite. I do have Penny the Jack Russell to keep me company. My son goes to his mother's house for the day. I feel very fortunate that I have a roof over my head. Traditions, I have none. That's okay because I can still sense the love all around.

A peaceful, happy Christmas to you and your loved ones, dear Donna.


Yolanda Renee said...

I'm a sucker for the holiday and hubby gets irritated because I say every year - not this year - and then turn around and do it anyway! Can't help myself - it's too much fun, although I've really cut it back, I enjoy the busy work.

Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season!

Donna Hole said...

Julie: Right! Its cool to see my kids as grown-ups.

Roland; Charlie Brown had a tree to love and care for. Yes, it is exactly like the world.

Hey Gary; wishing you and Penny a Merry Christmas. It has been awesome knowing you two this year.

Merry Christmas Yolanda. I know exactly how you feel. I love seeing the light in my kids' eyes when getting a gift.


Lorelei said...

My husband and I have had to trim back on the holiday. We are laid off for 3 weeks this year, so we just get by with bare nec. We have decided to put out Christmas decorations this year. And we may watch "It's a wonderful life" for kicks and giggles.

Have a Merry Christmas, Donna and a Happy New year!

E.J. Wesley said...

Totally agree, DH. The holidays for me have just become about holding onto precious family tradition. The rest of it could probably go away and I wouldn't weep much. :)

I do donate to Toys For Tots each year. I go out shopping for my many nieces and nephews, and it's hard for me to spend so much on them (several of whom have everything a kid could ever want anyway) and not give something to kids who don't have or get much.

So if I see them set up outside a store, I'll by extra and put in their box.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas, and maybe make a few new traditions this year. :)

Nilanjana Bose said...

Hi Donna,

I love that your daughter is setting up her own traditions her way. Your traditions evolve out of the trajectory of your life and make you the person you are. Hope you had a great holiday season and wishing you a very happy new year!