Christmas is my favorite holiday, and it’s not because of the excitement of presents under the tree. It’s because Christmas will always be associated with the memories I have from growing up. My family traditions weren’t anything fancy, but over the years, I’ve learned that it’s the small things shared year after year that make traditions so memorable.
The best part of Christmas was decorating the tree. My parents always waited to put the tree up – normally the weekend before Christmas – so as late as the 22nd or 23rd of December. It was always a family event, after supper, with the Ed Ames’ Christmas record playing in the background (which I’ve just now found on iMusic and am listening to for the first time in twenty years as I type this message. It’s as beautiful as I remember…).
Once the tree was in place, we were allowed to bring up the Christmas box – a very large, former Kenmore appliance box, which sat under the basement steps for the rest of the year. That worn box, with its dented sides and frayed edges contained the most wonderful, magical things.
One was the five-loop set of lights, which my father bought one year, and which I’ve never seen sold again anywhere. The idea was that you place the tree in the middle of these five connected loops of light and voilá. You have lights all over the tree. Problem was that they needed to be untangled. Fortunately, my dad bought the set with five loops of lights (not the one with six or seven strands of lights!) and there were five in my family. We each grabbed a loop and proceeded to play a very elaborate Twister-like game, called “Untangle the Loops.” My father received a lot of ribbing about those lights every year, but we still kind of loved them.
Then came the ornaments. Over the years, my parents have collected beautiful glass ornaments from family and friends. They are old and wonderful, and this is where one of my new family traditions comes from. I loved these ornaments, but only one of them was mine – a glass angel bought during a trip to Georgia when I was about nine.
So the first year after Wade and I were married, we set up our very first tree in our own apartment, and I was pretty depressed. I hung up my lone angel, and then I was forced to go to Walmart and buy some pathetic looking ornaments to decorate the rest of the tree. Money was tight, so the plastic bulbs were the best we could manage. It was definitely a Charlie Brown tree and nothing like the tree I looked forward to each year.
My husband and I’ve been married twenty years now, and during this time, I’ve been collecting my own special ornaments. I buy them when we travel, at craft fairs and throughout the year. I love them all, but I didn’t want my children to go through the same experience I did.
So one of the traditions I started is that my three kids each receive one or two special ornaments at Christmas each year and not just the kiddy-looking ones. I look for unique ornaments that will remind them of the places we’ve gone and the times we’ve shared together.
My oldest is now seventeen and a senior in high school. When he gets his first apartment and spends that first Christmas away from us, I will present him with a box of his ornaments and know that he’ll have a little something to remind him of home.
Our tree will be a little less full once I’ve given away all three of those boxes, but I’ll know that each of their trees will be decorated with a bit of home, love, family and memories. In this small way, a tradition we’ve had as a family will be a part of whatever new traditions they start for their own families.
Thanks for reading, and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a holiday season filled with peace, love and family.