This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Traditions

I love traditions. 

Photo By Naito8 

I'm not super sentimental about material things, but holidays traditions are a different story.  Which can be good and bad.  The upside is that I love the holidays and want to make them special for my own family.  The downside is that as a result of my love for holiday traditions, when things are not "just so", I can get all out of whack and my enjoyment levels plummet.   

The other day as I was sitting and folding laundry, considering where we might put the Christmas tree, my mind wandered to how much I loved Christmas when I was a kid.  I know, most people feel that way.  It wasn't just all of the presents, though presents are fun.  It was the way my Grandmother's house smelled, the guarantee of my favorite cookies, the laughter that filled the room for the whole night, moments of real connections with family members interspersed throughout the entire visit; it was the love.  Sure, the anticipation of Christmas Eve gifts following dinner, dessert and cleaning the kitchen wasn't too bad either.

I'm not sure if my Grandmother planned it out this way to delay the gratification of gift opening as long as possible, but on Christmas Even not only do we have to look at all of the sumptuous presents before and during dinner, people have to finish eating, snack on some dessert and then, are you ready for this?  I don't think you're ready for this.  The kids have to clean the kitchen, infants and toddlers excused.  In order to get to the present portion of the evening, the kitchen has to be cleaned by less than skilled hands at an achingly slow pace.  I remember eagerly waiting by my uncle and aunt's chairs, staring at their bowls, wondering if they were quite through, praying that they wouldn't ask for another helping.  Now, as an adult, I partake in the slow eating and the smirky smiles as I loudly contemplate the possibility of another bowl of soup. 

Christmas Eve at the Warren's home is likely different than yours.  Aside from tormenting the kids with slow dinners and piles of dishes, we do not eat ham or turkey or roast.  We eat soup and these delightfully artery-clogging, toasted cheesy english muffin thing-a-majigs.  You have the option of clam chowder or minestrone, that's it.  We have tasty eggnog... with or without a pick me up and persimmon cookies and pecan puffs, both of which are incredibly addictive and are not portioned out like it was World War II.

Back to the poor kiddies.  Ok, so once the table is clear, dishes washed, dried and put away, everyone gathers in the living room.  Imagine a beautifully decorated Christmas tree woven with red ribbon and sprinkled with snow, set just over a train set and surrounded by a sea of gifts, leaving little room for people to sit or stand, for that matter.  You would think that after all of that, we would dig right into present opening.  Nope. 

My grandmother has collected a nativity scene, made up of hand carved olive wood figurines purchased in Israel over the years.  Each person is assigned a figure, from baby Jesus to the shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and even the sheep and other animals (camel included).  As the kids sit anxiously, again, surrounded by a sea of gifts with their names on them, we read aloud a pieced together version of the birth of Christ.  Now, this, however torturous for the kids, I think is the best part.  As the story is told, people bring up their figurines and place them in the Nativity Creche.  It's interactive, complete and poignant. 

Though, we acknowledge the importance of family at Christmas and participate in the tradition of gift giving, we absolutely do not forget to focus on who brought us together.  Jesus.

It saddens me that I will not be able to be there this year, but know that the evening will transpire just as described above.  Next year, when we are able to go, I look forward to being able to participate in this family tradition once again. 

Though I LOVE Christmas Eve at my Grandmother's, I look forward to creating our own family traditions and weaving in elements from the traditions I grew up with.  This year we decided to have Advent dinners with friends.  We weren't able to swing the four Sunday nights leading up to Christmas, but we just had our first of three Thursday nights.  We enjoyed our time with friends and took some time out to focus on the person who brought us together.  Jesus.  I can't wait for next week.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?  Do you love them or are you a person that likes to change it up? 

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