I have a strange perfectionist tendency that says if I do something once and have success with it, then it has to be done the next time and every single time after that until the end of time. In this case, I’m talking about traditions, more specifically, Christmas traditions. For starters, I’m a Virgo and this is simply what Virgos do, but I’m also from a family that holds onto traditions, close and tightly and next to their hearts, especially when it comes to Christmas. At age 59, I know I’m in a very small minority of people who can say that they have spent every Christmas of their life with their entire family. Every. Single. One. My parents, my siblings, my sibling’s spouses, my own kids and now their significant others, all come together for a few days that holds the same kind of magic that it did when I was a small child. We do Christmas well, and because of that I’ve always been a tiny bit afraid to make any changes to the many traditions that have made their way through the generations.
There was a point a few years ago when I realized that I was doing a whole lot of things simply because I had always done them, and while the end was accomplished, the process suffered while I trudged through tasks that I didn’t really enjoy. Baking, cutting out and icing cookies was my first tradition to hit the dust, and lo and behold, Christmas was not ruined. It almost pains me to admit it, but I do not enjoy baking and whether Christmas cookies or birthday cakes, I fail miserably at the task, probably because I simply don’t enjoy it. I will knit Christmas stockings with names and designs knitted right in and load up mantles with nature’s bounty until the cows come home, but I will leave the baking to someone else. I’m throwing in the towel and the cookie sheets and am calling myself done. And finally, I’m able to say that it’s OK.
Our family tradition of putting a hand-written poem on every one of our gifts that gives a hint as to the contents inside, has made its way through 4 generations unscathed as well as our tradition of “pie presents,” which are small presents that are placed on everyone’s plate for Christmas dinner. Both traditions remain strong, while evolving to suit the expanding and maturing crowd. The poems have become every comic in the family’s moment of fame when it’s read (which is everyone, by the way) and the pie gifts have transformed into a pre-Christmas Yankee swap, with a whole lot of trying to out do the next guy taking place. Both have survived the holiday cuts because it is something we all enjoy. Baking for me, not so much. Writing Christmas cards, which I sadly gave up a few years ago because of time constraints, has also been dropped and not picked up again… at least not yet. And still, Christmas was not ruined.
The traditions give us a growing history and are carried until they become cumbersome, then hopefully, we have the presence of mind to let them go. Poems that started out with a couple of lines that my young children would scribble onto a sheet of paper have grown into witty works of art, many that I’ve saved over the years. Give up the cookies, the cards and even the outdoor lights, if you will, but please oh please save the poems, my children. You will be the carriers to the next generation.
While some traditions are held tight, and others are let go of, what really matters and what has become the biggest tradition of all isn’t wrapped up or baked or sent in the mail, but rather is the gift of a family coming together, once again, for a few days of magic. It’s the gift that is wrapped up in memories and continually given and received with open arms and hearts and topped with a hand written poem that speaks of love and family and Christmas magic. THIS is the tradition that I have no doubt will be carried safely in the hearts to the generations to come.
Wish all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas!