When I was a young mother, low these many years ago (1973, could it have been that long ago?) my own mother faced a decision: continue on with our traditional Christmas Eve celebration where siblings exchanged gifts from names we drew from a hat on Thanksgiving; or morph our Christmas celebration to something new.
Why make a change? I’m second of nine children. As we flew the nest, we tried to blend traditions of our family of origin and our spouses family. I craved some family memories with my own little family of three. With only three of nine married and on their own, Mom already saw the conundrum: schedule clashes, cranky kids, raw nerves, hurt feelings.
“It’s more important to me that we’re together,” she said. “We can celebrate a week early.”
I didn’t like it. Period.
Christmas was NOT going to be the same without our Christmas Eve celebration.
Mom was right. It was more important that we’re together. It was not the same. It was better. So much more relaxed, and I found it was just the right way to kick off a very festive season.
Fast forward thirty years, and I’m the Mom faced with the same dilemma.
“It’s more important to me that we’re together,” I say to my four grown children with small children of their own.
“But we always celebrate Christmas Eve,” groaned Traditionalist Daughter.
I love my season of Christmas.
First, our annual Christmas candy making:
Instead of the braving the Black Friday shopping, my kids and I get together for leftover Thanksgiving Day feast and a day of chocolates. We call it Chocolate Friday. This year we added the first annual Village Christmas tree lighting. See how little the tree is?
My Book Club Christmas the second Tuesday of December:
A quiet dinner with fellow book-lovers. We gift books to a local shelter. Each of us purchases books that we enjoy and want to share. I love seeing the colorful book covers ready to be cracked open and read.
Our now traditional Crandell Christmas:
Mom and her children still get together. Four generations of We gather the weekend before Christmas. Dad is in heaven, and Frank is in Texas; both too far for more than a spiritual presence. Not every one of Mom’s great-grandchildren make it, but many do. We gift Mom, and bring a gift to share.
Jesus’s Christmas nestled in there on December 25:
Dinner with Traditionalist Daughter and Mass on Christmas Eve; a quiet morning with Loved-One with Wrestler #1 stopping by for coffee, and a quick trip to Wrestler #2 for brunch before we head back home for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I shed real tears every year, and I laugh when Clarence says “You’re not gonna like it. Mary’s a Librarian.” Nooooooo… a fate worse than death; a librarian.
Icing on the birthday cake:
The Crandell-Durkee Christmas ushers in the New Year. We start with a pajama party New Years Eve. Me, Love-One, and the grandkids stay up until midnight, while parents celebrate elsewhere. We watch the Time-Square ball drop, and celebrate as if we are still in Michigan, than again an hour later when it’s really midnight. The phone rings to exchange “Happy New Year” from revelers.
Tucked into sleeping bags, I warn the kids, “no more ruckus; no shenanigans.”
We make waffles together New Years morning, play games, and get ready for a dinner of tradition Polish Christmas foods.
By New Years Day, all the tension and anxiety of Christmas is on the wane. There are no schedule clashes, no cranky kids, no raw nerves. This year, I am promised RC races with hexbugs and helicopters. I’m hoping to master our new WiiU. Well, at least get enough skills to compete with the three-year-old.
The Wise Finale:
An epiphany concert at the Saturday after New Years Day. Talented choir members, musicians, and a wonderful children’s choir close out the celebration. This year, a flute trio of grand-mother (me), grandson, and daughter-in-law, makes its second appearance, with a grandson pianist as our accompanist.
Ahhh…. I love Christmas. I love holding on to the celebration. I love my family.
Change is inevitable. I guess it’s how we embrace it that makes the different. We can look at change as something new and exciting, or something disruptive and difficult. One thing is for certain, as long as we are living, change is coming.
What changes to tradition have you experienced this holiday season? What does your ideal holiday look like?