It's Christmas Eve, 2010. Just about an hour ago I woke up, picked up my phone, and checked a couple new emails. One from my mom has me ...

Christmas Traditions

Friday, December 24, 2010 ,

It's Christmas Eve, 2010.
Just about an hour ago I woke up, picked up my phone, and checked a couple new emails. One from my mom has me thinking about Christmas traditions, and how much they mean to me...

"Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is on." was all the email said.

I know exactly what that is,
of course. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been on the radio for decades, every Christmas Eve, broadcast live from Cambridge, England. And my family has tuned into it for almost as many Christmas Eves as it's been on.

Not like we sit around the radio with perked up ears, don't get me wrong, but it was always a part of my Christmas growing up. Always there, in the background.

Something about holidays solicits families to create and carry on traditions. And you know, I really like this about holidays. Many of my best memories in life come from the traditions we celebrate.

For the most part. There was one other Christmas Eve tradition that wasn't my favorite. Growing up, for whatever reason, my mother always made borscht for Christmas Eve dinner. Borscht is a Russian soup made from beets, and thus it's dark red like blood with a little purplish hue. I love you mom, and I'm sure your borscht was wonderful as far as borscht goes, my sister and dad never had any complaints. It does not appeal to my palate, I'm sorry to say. I am admittedly a picky eater. It's just that, to me, beets taste like dirt and minerals. So, yum, dirt soup. Every Christmas Eve. I typically went to bed on Christmas Eve with an empty stomach.

And we're not Russian. Just sayin'.

Other Christmastime traditions include listening to my parents amazing Christmas music collection for weeks each year. Justin recently called me a "music snob", and he's probably right. But I just can't tolerate that pop music Christmas crap they have on the radios. My parent's collection includes The Christmas Revels, Mediaeval Baebes, and, true to our Lutheran heritage, a little Garrison Keillor. Those are just a few of my favorite artists out of their vast collection of Christmas CDs. These days, it's not Christmastime unless I hear me a little bit o' the Revels. The best part is that this music isn't about gifts & Santa & getting things - the Revels sing songs from the old world. Songs about Christ and history. Can you see why I find it superior? Yes, Virginia, I am a snob.

When Bea & I were kids, as soon as the tree went up we'd start checking our little personal ornaments that opened when you squeezed them. A little elf was known to frequent our house and leave Hershey Kisses in our ornaments each day. This year, my mom picked up a few box ornaments for her grandchildren. Now the elf can come back for them.

When I moved out of my parent's home as an adult, I missed the cookie baking & decorating we'd do each year, so I proposed a baking party. This year was our (5th?) year of doing the annual "Women of the Clan Bake & Take", as my mom has dubbed it. My poor mother usually ends up hosting and thus is left with the mess, but it is a good time, nonetheless. These days, the grandchildren are involved, and that brings new joy to have little ones experiencing this tradition.

One year - after my parents got sick of waking up at 5am with overly excited children, opening gifts, and then making it to a church service a few hours later all dressed up - we decided to start attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It was a much more peaceful & relaxed way to attend a church service for Christmas, and now to this day I still look forward to that service after dark. Tonight in church as we sing songs like "Silent Night" I will hold Eisley close and thank God for our baby savior born centuries ago and who still is a light in the world.

Then there's the big fat guy, too. St. Nicholas, who brings toys & candy for the children. Now that we have children of our own experiencing this, a few family differences have been brought up. In my family, Santa always left our gifts unwrapped, in a well placed pile under the tree; displayed so that when we ran out on Christmas morning it was joy overload - our eyes taking it all in at once. In my husband's family, he remembers Santa delivered wrapped gifts. {He also learned something new this year, "Stockings are from Santa???" That's what happens when you're the youngest of four kids.} While I can see the benefits to both, I don't think Santa is up to wrapping Eisley's gift this year, so we'll probably continue in the tradition of sensory overload.

Which leads me to deeper understanding of my mother. I was always a little frustrated with her when I was a kid, that she would insist that we wake her up before going to see what was left under the tree for us. As a kid, I didn't get it. As a mom, I totally do. As the matriarch of the family, you spend weeks baking, composing Christmas cards, shopping, wrapping, cooking, decorating - etc. One thing that makes up for all the hard work is seeing your children's eyes light up on Christmas morning, seeing what Santa left for them. Kids, you owe your mom.

Finally, one tradition might have been started last year, when we made a little music video set to Bob Dylan's "Must Be Santa". Plans for shooting a quick video tomorrow at my parent's house is in the works... we'll see if it comes to fruition.

This is Eisley's first year of comprehending {at least a little bit} the joys of the Christmas season. And so for the first time in years, Christmas is as exciting to me as it was when I was a child. She doesn't understand the significance of the "baby Jesus" in her nativity set yet, but she can point him out when asked to. She doesn't know why suddenly this month she sees candy canes all over, but she knows they're tasty. She's not quite sure why we decided to put a big tree in the living room, but she has fun "rearranging" the ornaments.

She doesn't know what all these details {the music, the church service, the baking of cookies} are quite about yet, but someday she will know these tradition's significance. That she experiences them, each year, with the people who love her most.

"What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory and in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it." ~ Thomas Carlyle

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  1. I am just happy and blessed to have a family to share traditions with. What joy Mom and I have had at Christmas was all made possible by you and Britt, (Well the Christmas Snob Music helps too!)
    Here's to many more Christmas's for you and your young family! Wassail!- Dad

  2. I love your traditions! Those are awesome!!


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