I miss blogging. I’m rusty so here’s a repost as I try to jump-start myself mentally back into to writing.
Lately, (usually when I’m hopelessly lodged in traffic at the local mall) I’ve been pondering a lot over traditions of Christmas: baking, the tree, Advent wreaths, lights, Santa, gifts. Pretty much anyone that celebrates Christmas — or any holiday for that matter – follows family or cultural traditions of some sort.
Our family has derived a few traditions of our own. Christmas Eve for us usually means eating lots of food. Food that is generally submerged about 6 feet below the dietary pyramid. Our kids are allowed to open one gift (and only one) on Christmas Eve. Even if the gift sucks a little like a five pack of Hanes boxer briefs or a 16 ounce can of collard greens, too bad. There are no second chance gift openings on Christmas Eve. They’ll have to tough it out a full 12 hours ’til Christmas morning before they can even look at another present.
And on Christmas morning, our kids always spring out of bed at dawn to dig into their obese Christmas stockings. But bummer for Stella and Noah…they aren’t allowed to open any actual gifts until we are awake to join them. So of course, Ron and I take great pleasure in feigning Rip Van Winkle syndrome when they burst into our room demanding that we get up to open presents. You’d better believe that the sadistic parent in us makes sure we squeak out at least an additional 30 minutes of pretend shut eye amidst their “get up!” demands before we reluctantly crawl out of bed and down the stairs to join them around the tree.
When I was a kid we had a boatload of traditions. We’d hang stockings, and not the “fancy” stockings everyone has today. Back in the pioneer days when I grew up, we hung REAL stockings — and they were usually gold or brown cable knit knee-highs that contained a hole or two. My mom would make dozens of cookies, most containing dates or raisins (I don’t think my kids even know what a date is other than what has shown up occasionally at the door on a Saturday night for Stella). And my parents would be incredibly tricky and always “hid” our gifts in their closet — to the left, right behind my mom’s knitting basket and a stack of shoe boxes. Yah… we never found those gifts. Or tried them on. Or played with any of them before Christmas Eve.
But the one tradition of my childhood (and one we chose not to pass along to our kids) was the one my dad seemed to relish in the most.
My family opened gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. But first, we’d eat dinner and then head to church for the world’s longest worship service in history of the universe. And trust me…when I was 7 years old, I was more entranced in pondering the gifts waiting for me under the tree at home than I was about sitting in a pew singing about an angel named Herald who apparently was a hark (whatever that was).
After church, my parents spent about 7 hours standing around wishing friends a Merry Christmas, then we all loaded into the Monoco for the 14 hour drive home. When my dad finally turned onto our street and headed to our house, he’d sadistically dropped his speed to about 3.2 miles an hour. Then ever so slowly, he’d pull into the driveway, stop the car, and kill the motor.
“Everyone wait here!” he’d command to my brother, sisters, and me. “I need to go inside and see if Santa is still in there. And if he is, I’m going to get out my shotgun and shoot him!”
Then we’d start in with “No! No, Dad! Don’t do that! Don’t shoot Santa!”
Despite our pleading and whining, he’d get out of the car always muttering quietly (but just loud enough for us to hear) “Now, I wonder if I can find my shotgun….”
Needless to say, as I sat in the front seat of that car waiting while my siblings sat in back punching each other, I went into a general mode of panic. “Poor Santa…” I’d fearfully think to myself, “I hope he can run fast…but he’s so big.” As I stared at the house, I could see that lights were being turned on inside and imagined my dad rummaging through the hall closet for his shotgun. “I wonder if he’s still in there…,” I whispered to myself. But truthfully, the biggest worry of all was, “What if Dad shoots Santa before he can get my gifts under the tree?!”
I’d stare at the picture window of our house, the tree silhouetted beyond the drapes. I could see movement. Wait. Was someone struggling in there? There was a figure standing…no…crawling around the tree. I couldn’t help wondering if Santa was being gunned down by my father in our family’s living room, toy sack and all. Perhaps what I was seeing was Santa beyond those drapes, feverishly trying to scramble across the floor away from my father’s wrath.
Christmas Eve church service was always long, but that wait in the driveway a diabolical eternity. But after what seemed like hours, my dad would finally come outside and motion to us to go into the house to see the gifts Santa had left under the tree. Each year I’d ask, “Did you see Santa?” Every year my dad would respond with, “Nope. He was gone before I could shoot him.”
Yup. This is one tradition we chose not to pass down to Stella and Noah. One that has probably saved them from years of intense Yuletide therapy.
Did your parents have any weird holiday traditions? Please comment!