Friday, December 24, 2010
As a child, when the holidays rolled around, there was only one real holiday tradition I recall. It was a covert tradition, one shared with my brother and no one else - I call it "snooping."
Every year, it was my goal to find the stashed Christmas gifts and find out just what my parents had gotten me.
Sometimes, it was a simple matter of rifling through the right dresser drawer; other times, it was more precise, unwrapping and then re-wrapping gifts with expert skill...the result of which is that I'm currently the family specialist on gift wrapping, an unintended consequence I've had to live with.
It isn't an easy thing to admit my childhood folly, but I was young and the Christmas holidays were about gifts and little else.
As I grew older, the holidays began to take on a new meaning. Suddenly, gifts were irrelevant, except for those I got to bestow on others, and family became the focus.
Last year, I noticed a genuine lack of Christmas traditions in my family. There was never anything that permanently transferred from one year to another.
There were some Christmas's when gifts were unwrapped on Christmas day, others on Christmas Eve. And Christmas dinner could be anything from ham to enchiladas.
My parents are a hardworking pair. They have given so much to see their children well settled, so I can hardly blame them for the lack of traditions, but I still wish I'd been able to take a part of their childhood memories as my own.
My mother told me that traditions just began to seem less important as the years went by, but there were plenty of traditions she remembers from her childhood.
She recollects making fudge with her mother for the holidays and taking a trip through her California hometown to view all the beautiful Christmas decorations.
My father, meanwhile, recalls being treated with tamales and buñuelos for the holidays and his family held firm that old Catholic tradition of attending midnight mass every year.
Some of these traditions trickled into my own childhood. The trips through town to view Christmas decorations and midnight mass were things I recall from my own youth, but they were sporadic and both faded away by the time I reached my teens.
Now, as an adult, I look forward to beginning my own traditions. Last year, my siblings and I started making Christmas breakfast and it was not easy.
I think eggs and hash browns were the first thing I learned to cook but making them, along with bacon and sausage, for fourteen people in my parent's kitchen was significantly harder than I imagined. Especially when one person wants scrambled eggs and another wants over-medium and I don't know where my parent's large frying pan is hidden.
It wasn't a bad experience, but it was a little stressful. And when it came to deciding whether we wanted to continue this tradition, I knew it needed to be mended (biscuits 'n gravy and scrambled eggs for all!), but well worth continuing.
I don't know why making new traditions seem so important to me now. I suppose it has something to do with making the holiday's extra special for my many nieces and nephews.
They vary in age from 19-years-old to 3-years-old, and a part of me knows that, while we currently enjoy our Christmas holidays together, one-day they'll be on their own, with their own families.
I suppose, I like the idea of them taking one of my new traditions and continuing it on with their families - that a part of those many holiday celebrations we shared will continue when they move on.
Because to me, family traditions are rare and wonderful things that should be shared and carried on for as long as a family can - and I mean real traditions, not things like my annual childhood snoop-fest...sorry Mom...