Christmas Traditions

24 Dec


I arrived home from school a few days ago to see the crooked arms of the eternal Christmas tree stretching proudly in the corner of the front room next to the fireplace, happy to be out of the box and breathing. While there was always talk about getting a new tree, or some comments about how maybe a real tree would be a nice change, we never strayed from ol’ faithful. Mom claimed that she could never find a better-looking fake and brushed off any real tree suggestions, claiming that it was a fire hazard, even though we all knew she didn’t want to deal with the process and mess of a real tree. So every year I come home, I greet the only Christmas tree I’ve ever known and the oldest I’ve ever heard of. This year I give it some credit for looking a few years younger, which I think is due to the pine tree scented glade air freshener plugged in next to it. Well played, Mom.

Sometimes I wonder if the home I make for myself will be a real tree or a fake tree home. And with the job search in full swing and marriage talks happening amongst the crazier of college students, the possibility of my own home and a Christmas season in a different place isn’t so far off. It has me thinking about tradition: what it means and what tried and true traditions my family has. Some have faded naturally with age, such as Christmas card picture, Christmas jammies, yearly ornaments, and each of us putting our own ornaments on the tree together, but I remember them fondly and hope, if I ever have children, I can bring new life to these traditions.

But, there are surely traditions that have managed to stick around. We are still a household that, for the most part, speaks of Santa as if our childhood beliefs were never tainted and our innocence was never lost. Letters may have gone from being postmarked to the North Pole and placed in the mailbox to typed up in an e-mail to mom with the subject line “please forward to Santa,” but they still happen. Presents are signed from Santa, and presents can be returned to the North Pole. It may appear childish, but I believe that a lot of the spirit of Christmas lies with Santa. The best Christmas memories were formed around waiting for Santa, or waking up and seeing that Santa had come, sneaking around the tree with your siblings wondering which gift is what, peering into your stocking to see the surprise goodies. Santa is still left a few homemade cookies and a shot of whiskey (which he surely needs more than milk by the time he reaches our house), and more often than not the whiskey is gone and the cookies remain. Of course Santa doesn’t want more cookies and milk. We know him better than most families…he must be an old Irish man.

But even before we leave Santa his cookies, we return from church, eat some dinner, and take to the couch, a rare moment in which we’re all together, to watch the first showing of the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story at 8:00 PM on the dot. For the next 24 hours, through the presents, the quick cleaning, the laughs, the drinks, and the food, A Christmas Story plays in the background on TBS. Every so often Dad will stop the talking to direct everyone’s attention to a favorite scene of his, most likely when the offensive Santa kicks Ralphie down the slide, or the father picks at the Christmas turkey just before the dogs get to it. These are the traditions that I am accustomed to and the happenings that I can predict; the things that I can trust will reoccur for years to come.

And if there ever comes a time I can’t make it home for Christmas, I will curl up on the couch at 8:00 PM to watch A Christmas Story, consoled by the fact that back home, those who mean the most to me are doing the same thing. And since Santa most likely won’t be stopping in, I’ll drink his portion of whiskey, and then some.


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