Creating New Traditions
One of my most vivid Christmas memories (vivid because we repeated it for the first 30 or so years of my life) is this: We wake Christmas morning and run downstairs to the tree, which is overflowing with brightly wrapped packages, bedecked in glittery bows, sparkling with festive twine and gift tags. Up until the morning of Christmas, the presents spilled out from underneath the tree in an ever-growing cacophony of dancing snowmen and jolly Santas. But when we arrive on Christmas morning, order has arisen: the packages are arranged by recipient in tidy stacks.
Each of us searches for our pile and stakes claim to the most comfortable piece of furniture available; coffee in one hand, the other outstretched and waiting for . . . our trash bag. And then the gift-fest begins.
My father, retired colonel and alphabetizer of canned food, is the master of ceremonies, and you better believe those ceremonies are timed. (Must stay on the turkey cooking schedule!) Starting with whomever had the most presents under the tree, dad has that person open enough packages to “even us up.” After we are even, dad hands out the gifts, one at a time. He never tells us we each have precisely 82.5 seconds to unwrap and ohh/ahh over each present, but I notice him checking his watch with military regularity.
The order is thus:
- Gift distributed;
- Gift opened;
- Recipient expresses admiration;
- Recipient quickly kisses or hugs gift-giver;
- Recipient disposes of wrapping paper in trash bag;1
- Recipient gets the heck out of the way lest she is knocked over by dad, who has already started handing out the next present.
It was pretty comical, and we always gave dad some (gentle) grief about his OCD Christmas morning ritual. I’m not bitter about my memories – I know my parents loved us and only wanted us to be happy.
But with every new generation traditions evolve, ideals change, and new rituals are born to be perfected and joked about thirty years hence. And so Christmas morning at our house will look different.
If you’ve been reading my posts in the past couple of weeks, you know that we try to minimize commercialism during the Christmas holiday season. We aren’t big on Santa, we attempt to make as many of our gifts as possible, and with everything we do, we try to keep a couple of goals or ideals in sight: we emphasize the spirit of giving by showing love and compassion through service and by respecting the Earth to avoid wastefulness.
The Christmas memories I’d like to build in our home will be more simple: we will limit the number of gifts under the tree, and we won’t have a schedule for opening them. If Kieran wants to open something and play with it for hours (days!) on end, I want him to have the chance to enjoy and appreciate the love that someone has put into his presents. On the other hand, if he wants to rip into everything and then take his own time to go through his gifts later, that’s fine too. Because we only have the one child, we have the luxury of being pretty flexible.2
If you celebrate Christmas, what does your house look like on Christmas morning?
Have you intentionally created new traditions for your family that are different than those you grew up with?
**By the way, I originally wrote this post for inclusion in the December Carnival of Natural Parenting, but I decided to write about celebrating motherhood instead. Check out the other Carnival posts for more ideas on family traditions.**
Photo Credit: formatted_dad
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"Creating New Traditions"
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