Last night I asked my friend, Joanne, to help me select a writing prompt from a list of 365 I discovered on a website.
My text: Hey, pick a number between 1 and 365.
My screen lit up with her prompt reply: 13.
Me: Of course. That number follows me everywhere. Besides, I’ve already done that prompt.
Me: That one requires a dictionary. I don’t have one, so pick a letter.
Joanne chose C and then suggested I write about Christmas–it starts with C and it’s topical since it’s almost Christmas. The writing prompt is to pick a letter, then pick a word, and write what that word means to you.
What does Christmas mean to me? Wow, talk about a loaded question. I should write what it used to mean to me as a child because that won’t be as much of a downer as this post is going to be but I can barely conjure that person up anymore–she’s gone.
Christmas means almost nothing good to me at this stage of my life. It means stress. It means disappointment. It means depression. It means anxiety. It means endlessly trying to find a parking space. It means body aches and pains. It means too many pounds gained from wine, rich foods, and nonstop baking.
But even with all those negative words above, I know it also means tradition to me, and that’s a good thing.
In my family, we have created several traditions–some are unique to us and some I passed down from my small East Coast family.
The first tradition that I absolutely love is my need to put up excessive colored lights in the yard. In the past, I’ve put up so many lights that it made the whole house go dark and I had to remove a few strands. I had a canopy of lights that people had to go under to get to my front door. It was amazing. If I weren’t so afraid of heights and breaking roof tiles, I’d put more Christmas decorations/lights on my roof. Now that my yard has been redone, I don’t have as much room to work but I still light up the night sky. My neighbors have followed my lead and the whole cul-de-sac is lit!
The second tradition is I make everyone go to pick out the Christmas tree even though it is the most frustrating experience ever. Everyone always hates everyone else’s tree. I always surrender to whomever has the loudest voice and is the most persistent. I know that with the sheer volume of decorations I put on the tree, the shape almost doesn’t matter. Nick is in charge of making sure the bottom gets cut so that it’s straight, and if it’s not straight, he slices pieces of cardboard and puts them underneath until that tree can pass a level test with flying colors.
The third tradition is practically obscuring the tree with presents. When I first start buying Christmas gifts for everyone, I usually don’t have any idea what to get. Then the panic sets in and I start pulling stuff into my cart (virtual and/or real)–items never asked for nor needed. I never know how much I’ve bought until Christmas Eve when I finally give in and wrap stuff. I haven’t yet learned to wrap before Christmas Eve–or rather, I hate wrapping presents so I wait until it’s too late to do anything but wrap. And then that’s where I always discover that I’ve bought far more for one child than another. Fortunately, two of the girls have birthdays in January so some of those excessive gifts can go toward making a nice birthday, thereby reducing my January stress and the month that marks the end of ‘birthday season.’
The fourth tradition is making everyone drive around either on my birthday or on Christmas Eve to a specific area of Olivenhain in Encinitas to look at all the lights. There are houses that go all out and they’re on all within three blocks of each other. Some even have their lights coordinated with music. It is quite the spectacle. We drive slowly through the neighborhood and ooh and aah with 50 other cars doing the same thing.
I used to load everyone up in the minivan and drive through the lights at the Del Mar Racetrack but for some reason, they don’t have the holiday lights display anymore. I’m not sure why it’s not there; it was very popular. One year I had to wait for over an hour to enter but it wasn’t any big deal–we listened to Christmas music and drank hot cocoa. Of course then I had to listen to everyone complain because how badly they needed to find a bathroom!
Another tradition that we do every year is bake sugar cookies and decorate them. Now that the girls are older, and they’re all artists, it’s not quantity of cookies that we’re interested in, it’s the quality. Some of the cookies are absolutely stunning even if they are just snowmen and stars. When the girls were little, our color palatte in frosting was simply white, red, blue, yellow, and green. The girls stun me with their color sophistication. Gone are the single shades and in their place we welcome mauve, peridot, chartreuse, tangerine, smoke, and salmon.
In previous years, we spent Christmas morning telling the girls that they couldn’t open presents before everyone got up but they could get into their stockings. That one tradition bought Nick and me another half hour of sleep, especially if I put sufficient candy in them. This past year, however, we were up and the girls slept until 11 a.m.!
Our final tradition is one that I complete by myself. I don’t know how it became a tradition of mine but it probably has to do with the New Year approaching. At some point in the middle of Christmas day, before having to get up off the couch and cook the traditional dinner, I watch some documentary related to food. In years past, I’ve watched Vegucated, Food Inc., Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and That Sugar Film. I don’t know which documentary I will watch this year but maybe I’ll make it Dr. Greger’s year in review address. He’s always a hoot.
What traditions do you follow? Do you follow them every year? What are the ones you dread? Which one make you smile? Share some of your traditions below in the comments section.