The song “My grown-up Christmas list” hits home in different ways for different people, but I think it hits everyone in some way or another. Past regrets resurfacing, wishful thinking for missed opportunities, longing for loved ones, or desires to change the world- all, and more, dot the bulleted lists of grown-ups “from one to ninety-two” (you’ll be singing by the end of this, mark my jingling words).
As a young woman with a heart the size of Santa’s Village, I, of course, have aspirations to impact the world around me for the better, one twinkling smile at a time. Outside of those wishes, though, and inside my holiday-adoring heart, I have a list that seems, somehow, more impossibly attainable than world betterment: family traditions, skirted by an aching for a loving, joyful home.
Family traditions are a concept that rings wondrously in my ears. I don’t know why, where things died off, or when the Who’s in my family stopped being welcome with holiday cheer, all I know is that we don’t… really… have any Christmas traditions. This stems from the fact that my family doesn’t exactly operate as a “family”- we don’t sit around the dinner table, we don’t carve pumpkins, we don’t picnic, we don’t talk openly.
At school, at work, even at Wal-Mart I can spread optimism to suffering hearts, bandage the wounds of the hurt, and lend an ear to the lonely. I spread the Christmas cheer ❤︎. But at home? The joy is sapped by tired, working limbs which view love as putting food on the table and buying presents rather than embarassing bear hugs and laughs at the kitchen table. Traditions give way to the stressful reality of the lives of middle class workers trying to ensure their kids have better lives than they did.
I love that the ideal behind the song “My Christmas List” is to spread goodwill towards men, but for me, it’s a song singing sweet silver bells clearer to my heart about the warmth of a true family.
When my brother and I were itty bitty, mom could coerce my father into somewhat-willingly watching the kiddy Christmas movies with us in the living room, curled up in blankets on the couch. Nowadays though, his definition of an acceptable Christmas movie is limited to Die Hard, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and maybe Scrooged. (Though Rudolph just came on TV and he was singing along- caught ya’!)
I mentioned already how I’ve never carved a pumpkin, right? Well, you guessed it, I’ve never built a gingerbread house either (this is a sad read for you die hard Christmas-er’s, I know, please bear with me). And what’s better than a tradition you can eat afterwards??
Presents under the tree and stockings hanging from the fireplace…
We don’t do either.
Christmas morning, dad leads us down the stairs and around the hallway corner, eyes closed, to- not the tree, but the couch. The couch, where mom has layed out our presents, equally split for my brother and me and devoid of wrapping. (Please don’t mistake this for ingratitude, I’m very grateful for all my parents do for me, there’s just an element of warmth missing from the picture.) Mom so infrequently turns to classic means of wrapping that I don’t even know how to wrap a present.
Alongside the presents are our stockings, which is still sweet… but they certainly weren’t hanging from the fireplace. That’s a traditional sidepiece I hope my own kids, with the planning of my husband and me, will get to participate in.
Mini Christmas trees:
On the bus ride to school senior year, I heard one of the younger girls talking about how her and her sister had finished setting up their trees in each of their rooms. Their own… trees…? I was so puzzled by this, trying to imagine three separate six-foot trees crowding this girl’s home- that is, until she kept talking. I finally understood that both she and her sister had individualized, miniature Christmas trees standing on a dresser in their bedrooms. As she went on about her little sister’s Disney-themed tree, I began gleefully dreaming of all the possibilites: Star Wars for my boys or Beauty and the Beast for my girls, whatever their favorites are; the possibilities are endless!
Operation Christmas Child:
This selfless little tradition is common enough, sponsored by churches and businesses around the United States to provide all sorts of Christmas goodies to those less fortunate than us. I hope to get my own kids especially involved with this one- there was always something special to me when I got to pick out the presents for a little girl, usually checking off the same age as I was. Little did I know at the time that I was learning the precious art of selfless giving.
Bible reading before we open presents:
I’m not quite sure how my parents endured the “Is Santa real?” interrogations and transition, because I honestly can’t remember any traumatic experience of believing and then not. I guess they didn’t exaggerate or emphasis Santa’s role in Christmas, so we didn’t rely too heavily on him. However, they definitely didn’t emphasis Jesus Christ’s role in Christmas either. Present giving is a heartwarming experience for parents, but I hope to preface that with the reading of Jesus’ birth to my kids, to shine starry light on the true meaning of Christmas.
Lending a helping hand, weilding a wooden ladel, decorating a shelter’s Christmas tree, I don’t suppose the actual activity matters. Whatever the means, I think joining others as a family in the pursuit of volunteering around Christmas time would be a generous family tradition to start- and continue.
Attend the Christmas cantata at church:
Finding a regular event to attend around Christmas–whether it be the church’s yearly cantata, skating at the local ice rink (brace yourself… I don’t know how to skate- you’re shocked at this point, I’m sure!), Christmas caroling (I’ve actually done- wait, nope, never gone caroling) or going on a sleigh ride (you guessed it, I’ve never been on one of those either)–is a tradition we can merrily jingle all the way to.
Bake Christmas cookies:
Cooking, in any form, is a skill I have yet to master (hey, I can boil a pot of eggs successfully!). Baking is an art I have yet to even attempt. But I can’t imagine a more humorous gathering than husband, wife, and kids covered in flour, cookie dough scattered all over the island, and dogs licking up “accidental” scraps off the floor.
Cutting down a Christmas tree:
Here I sit, typing by the bright lights of our Christmas tree.
Our pre-lit, three-piece, fake Christmas tree.
We haven’t had a real tree in our house since I was probably in middle school (all you mamma’s are chiming in agreement to my mom’s, “they’re sticky and messy and don’t get me started about the sap!”). I understand the convenience and cleanliness of a fake tree, and they sure are pretty (“Get the prettiest alluminum tree you can find Charlie Brown!”)… but there is something about a real tree that calls to me.
Using one of those pop-up Christmas calendars:
I haven’t seen one of these in stores in such a long time, I don’t even know where to look for them anymore. (Any suggestions?? Target and Wal-Mart are my usual go-to’s.)
I’m sure there are many, many more traditions I haven’t hardly grazed with my figurative cookie cutters, so please let me know the silly, joyous, snowy traditions you and your family take part in- I’ll have to add them to my list!