Christmas is tomorrow -but you already know that. As a writer, I got to thinking about all the traditions that have been passed down to families over the ages, and all the history behind those traditions. The first storytellers – which is what we as writers are, didn’t have access to laptops, pens or paper. They told and retold their stories and their history to others, over campfires, in caves, huts, and lean-to’s. Year after year, decade after decade, until the stories were able to be recorded for prosperity and for times to come. I tend to think we still do this to this day – the proof is in the number of people who scrapbook – myself included. The recording our of our personal history is shown through practices such as this. I actually have a scrapbook for every year of my daughter’s life until she graduated from college. And each one is full of her own history, which she will be able to look back on some day and teach her children about it.
It’s the same way with Christmas traditions. Most of us still practice things we learned and did as children with our parents and grandparents. My husband’s family always played Hide the Baby Jesus figurine. All the kids were encouraged to search until someone – the ultimate winner- finally did. My friend’s moms had yearly cookie swaps. It was an occasion for the gals to get together, share cookie recipes and swap stores about their year. Many families make trips into the woods ( or a tree farm!) to choose, tag, and then cut down their Christmas tree. The telling of the Night Before Christmas on Christmas eve is always a favorite. Some families allow the kids to open just one present on Christmas eve, or their stockings, in anticipation of the day to come.
I have friends who never miss Midnight Mass. The next morning they have a huge Christmas Stratta for breakfast and invite neighbors to come over and share it.
I don’t have a Christmas childhood memory that doesn’t include two things every year in my memory: the Yule log burning on Channel 13 in NYC all of the eve and into the day of Christmas with every single holiday song ever recorded playing in a loop; and Christmas day making the schlep into Brooklyn to see my grandmother. I say schlep because my parents didn’t drive and we had to rely on public transportation. It took upwards of 4-5 hours ONE WAY every year, but we did it. That was our tradition. Christmas at grandma’s house in Brooklyn.
When I got older and was a single girl living in my own apartment my tradition became decorating the tree on Christmas eve. I’d put it up a few days beforehand, let the branches settle and then play holiday music while I trimmed my tree. I still have many of those original ornaments 35 years later.
When my daughter was born, it became our tradition of have her put the angel on the top of the tree. Her father would lift her up so she could reach the top, I would snap the yearly picture denoting the event, and then the tree was set. Oh, and we always played Hide The baby Jesus, too!
So, as we reflect on the miracle of Christmas this year, don’t forget all the Christmas days that have come before this one. Remember those things that made you happy as a child and share them with your own children. Don’t lose the simple things to the modern age. Nothing gives you as warm a feeling as sitting by a roaring fire, the tree decorated with ornamental memories, a mug of hot chocolate in one hand, a child on your lap, as you tell them a Christmas story. Why don’t you tell them Your Christmas story?
And one day, they’ll pass that on to their own children.
History and tradition. Two halves of the same coin.