I love tradition, especially at Christmastime. Here are a few of my favorites...
Picking out a tree. Just the right one for our family. I always wanted the biggest one on the lot and would have to be reminded our living room wasn't eight stories high.
Hugging the tree. Once we found our tree, my mom would and I would stand on either side and hug the fragrant fir with smiles a mile wide while my dad took our picture.
Taking the tree home. Always in my dad's vintage green truck, our little family sitting three deep in the cab. Transporting our new tree any other way would have been a sacrilege.
Watering the tree. My mom has a certain pitcher that she always uses to water the tree. It's mustard yellow and has a long spout. I loved being big enough for the chore.
Lighting the tree. This was one of my absolute favorite parts. Once the lights are lit, we check the tree from the road. We'd hurry out the door into the brisk, chilly night, walk down our driveway and stand in the middle of our front yard and clap that Christmas had officially begun at The Mitchell's. Exclamations of It's perfect! and The best one yet! coming from us all.
Carols. My parents have always loved music and during the holidays, the tunes would nearly be constant. I have a soft place in my heart for Aaron Neville's Louisiana Christmas Day. Don't hate.
Wood burning fire. My dad would make the best fires that would run you out of the house into the cold night to get some relief. I can remember my little self sitting in front of the fire after my bath letting my hair dry, feeling all Little House in the Big Woods.
Christmas Eve. We always spend Christmas Eve going to our church's candlelight evening service and then to dinner at my nana's. She cooks the same meal for us that her mother cooked for her as a little girl on Christmas Eve. Talk about tradition. I love it so.
Christmas Eve Gift. The tale goes: the first person to say Christmas Eve Gift! on the 24th to another person is owed an early gift by the one on the receiving end of the message. So if my dad says Christmas Eve Gift! first to me, then I owe him a gift right then. We mostly leave off the gift exchange part, but find a lot of pride in being the winner. My whole family is in on this tradition: grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins. You dare not answer the phone on Christmas Eve saying hello or you'll be had. I have found one of the best ways to win is to shout the tiding from my bed. My dad is always awake before me, though, and has a sixth sense about when I'm going to shout. We usually tie.
Christmas Day. Magical. I'd be filled with such excitement the night before, I could hardly go to sleep. I'd tell myself, the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner it will be here! I love those fluttery feelings of excitement over everyone opening gifts and oohing and aahing. Seeing the plate of cookies I'd left for Santa filled with crumbs, evidence that he'd seen my note and read my words a gift in itself. The day simply lingers on and honestly, that's one of the best parts. The order was/is: gifts from Santa, unwrapped, displayed by the tree. Gifts to one another. Stockings. Brunch at my granny's. Cousins. Family. Being together and being happy. Contentment in it's truest form.
Christmas Gift. Same as Christmas Eve Gift! just on the 25th and drop the Eve.
Married Christmas. Since Justin and I got married, we started some traditions of our own. We save a cutting from our tree stump, and write on it the date and where we're living. The next year, I tie ribbon through the stump and it becomes an ornament. I can't convince him to hug the tree with me, but he will at least smile for a quick pic. Another tradition we started was celebrating Advent. Lighting a progression of candles each Sunday in December symbolizing the coming of Light into the world.
These are just a handful of some of my favorite traditions. A few others would be: making Martha Washingtons, putting up Christmas cards from scattered family and friends, meticulously wrapping gifts, watching some Christmas classics on TV, being silly with my cousin Kelly, littles playing, telling my dad to tell Santa Claus I've been a good girl, baking in the kitchen with my mama.
We feel rich this year to have some time to go home for Christmas. This is the first year in all the years I've known Justin that he has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off work (other than last year when we were in between travel assignments).
Let the traditions continue.
We are very rich, indeed.
/ / /
A note to keep it real...
I just painted a picture for you of all my favorite memories, the ones I chose to share. While they are all true, I feel like I need to issue this disclaimer: we are not a perfect family. We each have our own flaws and are selfish by nature. I am pretty sure there were a couple Christmases we left the tree lot in a huff because I was pouting about the tree not being big enough or tall enough or the one I wanted. I am certain there were years where frustrations were high and grace was low and we all got our feelings hurt.
But here's the crux of it all: at the end of the day, we are family and we love each other greatly. We forgive hurt feelings and we won't allow drama to reign. When I think of Christmases past, I don't dwell on the times we ticked one another off or the tree I didn't get. Instead, I remember all those beautiful memories above and strive to make more of those and less of the other.