Tag Archives: Christmas traditions

Christmas/Holiday Traditions

Growing up in the 60’s, times were different. We didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, or any social media, so staying in touch with people who lived far away was usually done during the holiday season with the sending of the yearly Christmas card. Nowadays, we can keep in touch with relatives and friends a dozen times zones away much easier – and for no postage costs! People still do, though, send out holiday greeting cards, a custom that was started around 1843 by a civil servant in England called Henry Cole. He and his friend John Horsley designed the very first cards and sold them for a shilling each. As the quality of printing improved and people earned more money for “extravagant” items, Christmas cards became more popular. Again, back before the cyberuniverse ruled the world, the postal service did the majority of its delivering during two holidays every year – Christmas and Mother’s day.

I’m going to be honest and tell you I haven’t sent out holiday cards in years. The people I want to keep in touch with, I do, all year round. Facebook has made it possible to connect and keep up with people much more easily than ever before. I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to sit down and send a card to someone I spoke with yesterday! IF that’s a little Scrooge-y, okay. I’ll own that.

 

Another thing that was different when I was growing up was the Christmas tree and the ornaments we decorated it with. I don’t have one memory that isn’t filled with the tree being filled with those awful and cheap glass ornaments in a variety of colors. they were horrendously made and produced — I feel — simply to shatter. Truly. If you walked near the tree a ball would fall to the floor no matter how well you’d secured it, and shatter into ten thousand shards of glass that was almost impossible to completely sweep or vacuum up. I distinctly remember walking in my living room when I was eight in July and getting my foot pierced by the sharp remnants of a fallen, broken ball. The very first decorations put on trees when they became popular in the 18th century was apples, oranges, and -God Help me!– lit candles. Hallmark began producing specialized ornaments during the 20th century to depict all manner of thing and today, most homes in America that put up a tree, have at least one Hallmark-inspired or made ornament. I’ve been honest on my Instagram account and share pictures of the 4 trees I have in my home. Almost all of my ornaments – except for the tree filled with ornaments from the countries I’ve traveled to – are Hallmark ornaments.

 

Do you put a candle in your window during the Christmas season ( or one in each window!!)?

This tradition means different things to people of different faiths. Christians liken a lit candle to the Star of Bethlehem, guiding the wise men to the manger. The lights from a Menorah symbolize the miracle of Chanukah when a single jug of oil burned for 8 solid days. Irish Catholics used to put candles in the window to denote that the house was safe for Priests to enter during the Protestant uprising when Priests were in danger of being put to death. I like candles in the window because to me they symbolize that the way home will always be lit for whoever wants to journey there. The Alabama song Candle in the Window exemplifies this thought.

There are so many traditions that people hold fast to during the holiday season. I think that’s what makes our shared humanity so wonderful. Different cultures and diverse religions bring many things to the table. WOuldn’t it be nice if we could all respect, honor, and enjoy one anothers traditions?
So ( you knew this was coming!) what are some of your favorite Holiday traditions. I’m going to pick one person who comments and send them an ecopy of my Christmas book A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. So….talk to me.

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History and Tradition

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.

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