Christmas is one of those holidays that seems to be all about tradition. We wax nostalgic about how we celebrated as children. We watch old programs and retell old stories. We look back and think about whether we were naughty or nice. I guess it makes a kind of heart's sense, a season of looking back before the new year and the accompanying season of looking forward.
We've had some trouble establishing and keeping traditions in our family. We don't live near where either of us grew up. Neither of us can go to "grandma's house" anymore, and no one has become the new matriarch in the place of any of these women we've lost. So, though our extended families still have parties and gatherings (of one sort or another0, we generally don't go, and if we do go, it feels weird and a little off. My husband, who is Catholic, can't find mass to attend that feels right here in North Carolina where most of the Catholics are Hispanic, rather than Irish and German Catholics like he grew up with. As a half-Jewish girl with no particular religious upbringing, some of this stuff wigs me out pretty good.
But we have a few traditions: the girls have a sleepover together and do girly stuff like each other's hair and nails and stuff; we get and decorate a tree together; we drink eggnog when the tree is done; we watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special; we eat orange rolls; we play a game together; we bake cookies.
We've had extra challenges this year in that it's one of those transitional years. Our eldest is eighteen, and has just finished her first semester of college. So, she's an adult…and a kid. She's at home…except when she's not. She (and we) wants everything to be like it always has, and at the same time to change appropriately for her age. Raising children is an exercise in transition. They are in constant flux. But this change from high school to college has been huge, and tougher on me than i could ever have anticipated, emotionally.
Our youngest is eleven, and only just stopped believing in Santa last year. This year, she didn't really want to play. Though we still did stockings, there was no letter and tray of cookies for Santa with carrots for reindeer. We missed it.
We almost didn't get a Christmas tree this year because we were waiting for a day with all four Bryants at home, which turned out to be Sunday, the 23rd. Apparently, that's considered too late to get a tree because all the tree lots were closed down when we got there. Luckily, a local store still had a few and we found an oddly lopsided tree that pleased our Charlie Brown loving hearts.
Our game-playing time was crunched because she had a Christmas dinner to go to with her boyfriend's family. She missed the eggnog and Charlie Brown.
But, you know what? It was still great. There was still this moment when both girls were curled up with the new books they'd received. There was still the squabble over who got the last orange roll. They still got up early (for a tween and a teen) anxious for the gifts. We still laughed a whole lot. So, it might not have felt traditional, or nostalgic, but it was still a damn fine day.
I hope the day treated all of you well, too, giving you cause for one kind of joy or another.