Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Over the River and Through the Wood to Grandmother(s') House(s) We Go

So the fabulous husband and I were bickering today about the encroachment of the holiday season. I tend to smush (nice English teacher word there) together Thanksgiving and Christmas into one big month-long celebration of eating and decorating and gift-giving. I mean I remember the "Reason for the Season", but still how important is it to celebrate Christmas on December 25, when we know technically that's not even really Jesus's birthday ( I mean, at least, that's what Wikipedia told me...) ?

As a child and grandchild of divorce, this extended holiday was a necessity and, frankly, a treat. Three or four Thanksgivings, three or four Christmases, a veritable smorgasbord (yep! English teacher strikes again) of  toys and turkeys and the "gimmies". My parents worked odd shifts at both the phone company and the hospital, so it was not unusual at all to celebrate Christmas the week before or the week after with some section of the extended family. In fact I've always aligned the familial celebration of Christmas with the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah (minus the potato latkes, dreidels and menorahs)- eight crazy nights of good times.

In college I worked at a pharmacy that was obliged to be open on Christmas Day (you know for all the sick people, and the people wanting to get a jump on the after Christmas markdowns on cheap off-brand candy and Christmas lights). I usually worked Christmas Day. After all, my parents usually worked, so it wasn't that big of a deal. And the triple time pay (which meant I could bring in over $20 an hour for sitting around playing Trivial Pursuit) was truly irresistible for a college student making rent and car payments). My mom, whom I love dearly and think is the best mom ever, always said Christmas Day was "just another day." Not in a sacrilegious way, more in a pragmatic, unsentimental way. Endearing, really. And I am inclined to agree with her.

Being raised in a secular home, it's no surprise that little attention was paid to the whole Jesus's birthday aspect of Christmas ( I know some of you will be gasping or praying or shaking your head at the very heathen notion of a Christmas without Jesus, well just wait till I get to blog about Easter- you are really gonna flip your lid). Sadly, some habits, while I'm not proud to admit it, die hard and I often have to remind myself that Christmas is not just about Santa and getting all the gifts I want and having Petey the Elf out do his mischievous deeds every night.

But the question remains. Does the day of celebration really matter?

My family is not one made up of traditions. Again this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think in a way it has made me a pretty flexible person, but in other ways it has made me terribly inflexible- a complete contradiction, I know. We just did things whenever the times worked out. Of course, I was dealing with multiple family gatherings- my maternal grandmother, my fraternal grandparents, my maternal grandfather, and my stepdad's mother. On the other hand, aforementioned husband came from a family with traditions passed down from year-to-year. His was a much smaller, non-fractured family- literally both sides of the family gathered together under one to celebrate. This would have been unheard of in my family, unless we wanted someone to die ;)

They relish in family time, while in my family it was always a big pain in the butt or a point of contention. They keep the same stockings from year to year, and exchange ornaments each year. They celebrate on Christmas, preferably all day. At first I was very resistant to this. I'm not sure why. It's not like I was doing anything else! I was insistent that we were going to make our own traditions and celebrate "our" way. But as we get ready celebrate our seventh Christmas as a married couple (WHAT!?!?!?), I've come to discover, and appreciate, that our traditions are these traditions- even my own non-traditional traditions. We still run all over God's green Earth at all kinds of random times (Sunday before Christmas? Check. Christmas Eve morning breakfast? Check.), then we celebrate Christmas morning at home- just our little family with Santa's gifts and our presents to each other, and finally we cap off Christmas day at my in-laws for an afternoon of food and fellowship and "traditional" Christmas.

Sweater~ Kohl's
Skinny Jeans~ Kohl's
Boots~ Old Navy
Tank~ Old Navy
Belt~ New York and Co.

Each year we create our own traditions in the interpretations of our past. We adjust and expand. We are flexible and inflexible. We love and we are loved.  We celebrate Christmas as a family- in our own special way.


Sandra said...

We each create our own traditions. I have been blessed to have family able to celebrate together. Before Fred & I got married, Mom, Dad and I traveled all through the holidays. Tennessee, Georgia and very little time in our own home (wherever that was at the time). Christmas was, as you implied, tiring. Fred & I (after children began to arrive), too, wanted to be in our home Christmas morning, then my folks joined us at our home, then we all went to Betty & Roy's home for the rest of the day. All tiring,but special and memories were made. I tried throughout my children's lives, to remind them the "reason for the season." Not easy to remain consistent in this... True that December 25 is "just a day to celebrate" and not the real time of the year Biblical historians believe Christ was born. Yet, if we are believers, it is important to take the time to remind our children of what this is all about...let them know it is not the exact day, but a time to remember, be thankful and spread the joy of a Savior. Family traditions mesh and blend...time moves on! I am thankful for you, Curtis and Sean and look forward to spending time with you Sunday.

Misty Tumlin Kerns said...

I totally understand! We have always had a traditional Christmas in my family. It always consisted of my mother's side Christmas Eve day and my dad's side Christmas Eve evening. We always spent Christmas day at home, playing with our new goodies that Santa brought. Brandon's family always celebrated on Christmas Day by going to his mom's side. We have meshed these two traditions, and now we travel and hit 5 houses in 2 days. My Grandmother's house Christmas Eve day, my Nanny's house Christmas Eve night, then the hour drive home. Get up early Christmas morning to open our gifts, and then Brandon cooks us breakfast. Then it is off to his Mamaw's house, then to his dad's house, then to my parents house, and then home. Our newest tradition is staying in our pajamas all day on the 26th! We turn off cell phones, and are lazy all day...well, as lazy as you can be with 2 kids running around. We stress, but we are truly blessed to have all of my grandparents and his Mamaw here with us. I know that one day we will really miss these wonderful Christmas' that my children got to spend with their Great Grandparents, so the stress is well worth it.

Brianna McDonald said...

I also have a multi-stop Christmas adventure planned. I usually have a flexible scheduled part of the family and then an inflexible scheduled part of the family with traditions and such. I always spend the night Christmas Eve with my mom and wake up and open presents there. Then off to lunch at my maternal grandmother. This year, since I have a new house with room and a kid, I wanted my mom to spend the night with me so that Mackenzie could have Santa come to her house. My mom didn't want to do that, and yes, I could decide to just spend the morning with Mackenzie opening presents at my house...but it seems a little lonely and sad. So I will be making the trip to my moms, and hoping I can talk her into it next year. This will also be the first year my brother will not be joining us. He has a girlfriend he will be joining in Huntsville. While I understand things change and people have other priorities, I'm sad for this little bit of change in tradition.
My ex's family (yes I still celebrate with them) is very flexible. Since there were 4 boys, who all married, being flexible was a necessity. We'll be doing Christmas with them on the 26th. Some years I've done all three in one day which makes for a very exhausting day. I also have 2 dads and a friend to get together with and gift exchange. Haven't scheduled those yet...

Feathers & Freckles said...

Since I don't live near my folks right now, we just celebrate Christmas whenever possible to all get together. Now that none of us are children it seems less important to focus on the day we celebrate... it's really just a matter of getting together, stuffing our faces, and throwing gifts at each other. I think it's less important what day it is, and more important of the time spent together (and the gifts given, naturally).

Katie Frost said...

I say there is never a WRONG time to celebrate Jesus :) I am new to your blog and wanna say you are giving me a lot of inspiration! I love love LOVE this outfit and wow I used to avoid belts like the plague, but using it like an empire waistline is so revolutionary! Headed out to buy one right now....

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