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October 31, 2011 / sharoncopy

Starting holiday traditions

Jump ahead to when I was about 36 years old. I felt desperate that year to go back home to Michigan for Christmas. I wanted Christmas like when I was a kid. I wanted someone else to make it a special day for me. I was tired. We went. It wasn’t the same.

A year after I got married (age 25) we moved to Pennsylvania and for the first few years we came back to Michigan every Christmas. Then it got to be uncomfortable to travel during my second pregnancy and we didn’t go that year, nor any of the years after, except for the one mentioned above. It was time to establish our own traditions, and find our own ways. My father in law said, “well, we’d decide to do something one year because it seemed like a good idea, and then the next year we’d say, ‘well, that was good so let’s do it again,’ and then after that the kids expected it because it had become a tradition so then we had to do it forever after even if we didn’t really want to.”  That’s how traditions start.

In PA we attended a church that had a church service on Christmas morning. That was really hard for me at first – it wasn’t how Christmas morning was supposed to be spent! We had celebrated Christ’s birth and the reason for the season the Sunday closest to Christmas, so why did we have to go there on the holiday? They also had no choirs, no Christmas pageant, and no “excitement” going on. That was a big adjustment too. But I grew used to it and we developed our own tradition: open stockings beforehand, and open gifts afterwards. This meant for anxious children wanting to leave the fellowship time at church to get home, but it’s the way we set it up. Some families just opened everything the night before. I liked the idea of having it on Christmas, at least, and also knew they’d never settle down to bed right after opening all of their gifts! Not that some of them settled ANYWAY with all the anticipation. Our rule was that they couldn’t wake us until 7 a.m. One year I set the clocks forward so that we could actually sleep in until 8, or try, amidst the loud whisperings from down the hall. They didn’t appreciate it when they found out, but we did. When we got home, I would ask my husband to take them in a bedroom while I put out the stack of gifts – and one year we dropped them off about a mile from home and let them walk/run/trot/zoom to the house while we went ahead and built the pile. I remember that we had bought each of them new pillows and comforters/sleeping bags that year and with six children, the stack was humongous! I will never forget David’s face when he peeked around the corner from the front door.

Christmas was my job. And I did everything I could within a small budget to make it a day that everyone would enjoy. I took joy in that. But a part of me always wished that I had some surprises to look forward to as well. That part that was my Mom taking care of me lived on and sometimes I wished I could feel that way again.

Sometimes I still do.

To remember a time when the responsibilities belonged to someone else, and I only had to assist – now and again it seems like it would be so sweet to have such rest.


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