Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday Traditions - Don't Get Plucked

Most of us have expectations for the holidays - family traditions, church activities, certain foods, TV sports and a variety of other activities. For some, the holidays can be a nightmare - the Bermuda Triangle we used to call them in AA.

My holidays growing up were basically decent, and mostly comprised of good memories. My mother had some very enjoyable traditions that made Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years a time of expectation and even joy.

I admit it, as I have grown older, holidays have lost their luster.

I have an old friend from Junior High who posted a status on Facebook. It was sad because, after 50+ years of celebrating life at the old family homestead, it is no more. I remember my own feelings as my childhood home was sold, and no longer the possession of my parents. There is something barely describable that is lost - the nostalgia, the memories - well, if they were good ones. That was home.

I am sure most of you don't care about my darn holidays, you have your own to worry about. However; his post made me think about why the holidays have grown a little dull.

As a kid, the magic of special treats, seasonal decorations, presents, visiting friends and neighbors - it was all very welcome. We even put on a Thanksgiving Concert (see above) at about 6 AM one year - my folks tried very hard to be excited at such an early hour. They worked hard to make Thanksgiving - all the holidays for that matter - a special time.

Thanksgiving started off with the Macy's day parade on the years we had a TV - and weren't preforming. Mom and Dad made cranberry-walnut-apple stuffing, and seasoned a 25 pound turkey; making sure there was something left over for sandwiches to get us through the long weekend. "In at seven, out at two thirty," my mother would say; baster in hand.

The table was set with candles, while Mom set about whipping candied sweet potatoes, mashing spuds, boiling peas, simmering creamed onions, making gravy, and putting ripe olives, celery, and carrot sticks in china hor devour plates. She made the pies in advance: one apple, one cherry, one pumpkin and one minced meat - ready for desert. My brother made real whipped cream, I polished the silverware, my sister set the table; everyone else seemed to have a place in the preparations.

At 3 o'clock Dad carved up the turkey with a "cheesy" 70's electric knife as we sat down. Hell, we even said grace on that day, and then pushed the creamed onions in the direction of someone that would actually eat them. The house was filled with an unusual warmth back in those days - the holiday spirit.

Each holiday had its own traditions in the Johndrow house. Christmas featured hot chocolate and fruit cake while we opened stocking gifts in front of the fireplace - probably at 5 am - each one of us taking turns. Then a special breakfast before going onto the big presents under the tree. It lasted hours - and I didn't ask Santa for any clothes - and still can't figure out why there were so many! I even wrote him a letter telling him don't bother.

New Years was a big deal too. We had all kinds of finger foods, cheese and crackers, dips, miniature rye and pumpernickel bread, a cheese-ball, chocolates - and my favorite, shrimp. We often spent time with the neighbors - drinking, playing Twister and then walking home in the snow.

For a kid, that is how it was. My mother put a lot of effort into "tradition." Even as a young adult, she kept her traditions until she moved to the Midwest in the late 80's. They consisted of yearly rituals from the one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments to the "gelt," gold foil wrapped coins in the stockings with walnuts and oranges.

Since the time we lived on Old Turnpike Road, both Mom and Dad have passed away. But it was them that showed me what tradition was made of, doing the same thing over and over each year so that we could look forward to something special. As a Christian, I have also enjoyed going to services for each holiday during the Bermuda Triangle -

- but something is missing. And this year I seem to have put my finger on it - it's tradition. The past 10 years or so, my kids have grown up and want to be other places, we've alternated holidays with the in-laws, but not had our own traditions With a little one, jobs, commuting and all the rest - we are lucky to cook a turkey, get a tree up, and we haven't once stayed up to ring in the New Year.

This past few years we've had an open house the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve at the in-laws, and Christmas morning will now be here at home. We haven't been as ambitious about decorating as my Mom, and there are no handcrafted felt stockings; edges cut with pinking shears, adorned with reindeer, snowmen and sequins on them, bet we have something to look forward too. Lots to be grateful for, and now we say grace every night.

1 comment:

photogr said...

David:

Holiday traditions ( Christmas and Thanksgiving)have always been a special part in my family too. Since my wife's and my parents have passed away we spend it with our two daughters ( now grown) who both are deeply intrenched with traditions passed on from us.

As we pass on, I do hope they will continue the Holiday's tradition with their children.

The last 3 years, We gather a list of people in our area who are less fortunate and buy Christmas gifts for those and their children.

Being times are getting rough, many more are in need and we are praying for God to help us cover the added demands The family has volunteered to cut back on the extravagance of our gifts in order to help others.

The greatest gift of all is when we give a little of our selves to others.

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