Weekend Assignment #245: Holiday traditions

Weekend Assignment #245: Some holiday traditions continue from generation to generation, some fall by the wayside, and some new ones arise as we strike out on our own, form new families and adapt to changes in culture and technology. How traditional are your holiday traditions, compared to decades past?

Extra Credit: What is your most unusual holiday tradition?

This year, a 24-year-old tradition is ending; I will not be spending Christmas with my son. Chris did join us for Thanksgiving, but his New Year’s plans make a cross-country trip unfeasible for Christmas, so he’ll be with his dad in Memphis then. It will be weird, but it may make Christmas morning a little less hectic. This is one of the years when my stepchildren spend Christmas Eve day and night with their dad and me and return to their mom the next morning – – although she’ll be bringing them to my mother-in-law’s house for the day, and Tall Paul and I will be there too, so in some ways it’s a technicality. However, it will mean a very early session under the tree on Christmas Day. That won’t be a problem for The Boy (age 9), but early morning and Tall Girl (age 14) are not friends any more; and to be honest, having to get one less person out of bed that morning may not be a bad thing.

Maintaining holiday traditions with these blended and reconfigured families and their negotiated schedules can get complicated – we need to be flexible. There’s not a specific day when we always put up the tree, because we want to do that with my stepkids and it depends on which weekends we have them with us – and since The Boy’s birthday is in mid-December, we try not to mix it up with Christmas stuff. We usher in our holiday season with a family viewing of A Christmas Story, but whether that happens after Thanksgiving dinner (if we spend Turkey Day with the kids) or on the weekend when we put up the tree (if we don’t) changes from one year to the next. Tall Paul and I will spend Christmas Eve with my sister’s family and my dad every year, but my husband’s kids will only be there every other year (and this year, as I mentioned, I’m not contributing a kid myself). Even the Christmas Day going-to-Grandma’s tradition is changing; in the years when Tall Paul and I have his kids on the Day instead of the Eve, we try to get Grandma to come to us instead. We don’t have a customary Christmas Day dinner – in fact, since it will be a travel day for us this year (and back the same day, since I’m working on the 26th), I have no idea what we’ll have for Christmas dinner, period.

There are some things that have been holiday constants for a long time, though, and I hope they’ll stay that way. Living in Southern California, we don’t have any winter-wonderland or white-Christmas customs, of course, and I’m really OK with that at this point in my life. We’ll play Christmas music while we set up and decorate the tree. Many of the ornaments on our tree have been collected over time from places we’ve visited during travels – this year, we’ll be adding a couple from Yellowstone. And no matter what time we get started on gift-opening – when the kids spend the Eve with their mom, we wait until they arrive on Christmas morning – we’ll have fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. (Notice I don’t say homemade rolls – the Pillsbury Doughboy handles that part. I just pop ’em in the oven.)

I can’t think of any particularly unusual traditions we have. Since Chris won’t be with us this year, we won’t be talking about observing Festivus or making donations to The Human Fund. We’ll be putting gift bows on the dog when we open the presents, but I suspect most people with pets do that kind of thing. (Gypsy’s gift to us is tolerating that.) The Christmas decorations include books on the coffee table: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, and Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, which includes “The Santaland Diaries.” OK, maybe those last two are a little off the wall…

Do you have any especially unusual or unique Christmas traditions – or do you love them just because they’re your traditions, even if they might look pretty ordinary to anyone else?

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  1. KFB – Thanks! When you have kids involved – and one of them is still a “believer” – I think you really do have to put the people first. It does keep things from getting too routine, though.

    Lenore – That’s my girl. She puts up with a lot from us (and vice versa, my husband would say) :-).

    April – I “introduced” Tall Paul to David Sedaris this year, after we say him on The Daily Show a few months back. He has now read more Sedaris than I have. I’d better get caught up!

  2. Sounds like the same logistics my patents must have fine through when I was a kid. We actually had more complications, if you can believe it. Sounds like you handle it pretty well.

    Adding A Christmas Story into the tradition Is a good idea. I might have to steal that. 🙂

  3. Mike – I triple-dog-dare you to steal it! No, really, go ahead :-).

    I think the holiday logistics would be more complicated if I had younger kids and a local ex too, but we seem to get it to work out fairly well.

  4. My head is spinning after reading your post. 😉 Perhaps in part because the holidays have become so simple for my husband and I these past few years. Especially since we rarely spend it with family anymore. I’ve come to treasure the quiet version with just the two of us.

    This year we’re running way behind. No decorations or tree as of yet. I’m honestly not sure anything will make it up. Don’t tell my mother though. She’d be very unhappy if she knew.

  5. Literary Feline – We’ll probably still be shopping till the last few days before Christmas, but the tree is up.

    Christmas does get quite tiring around here, which is why I wanted to take a long weekend in advance of it :-)!