Braving the Crowds
Sporadically throughout my childhood, my dad worked as a traveling consultant. This required him to be gone during the week and home only on weekends. There were random little holidays he missed, but he always made it home for the big ones. Some years, he wouldn’t get home in time to go Christmas shopping. So every year, on Christmas Eve, he would take my sister and me to brave the procrastinating crowds. I can imagine that it would have been easier for him to go on his own to choose my mom’s gift, or even pick it up somewhere he was traveling. But instead he created the extra burden of dealing with two small girls and all the special requests and demands they entail, and crafted a tradition. He made the day extra-special.
When we were older and he was no longer traveling, we kept up the tradition. Getting two teenagers out of bed early in the morning on Christmas Eve couldn’t have been enjoyable. Yet he always found a way of perking us up, whether it was with breakfast and coffee or, one unforgettable year, opening the sun roof on the car to cause a cascade of snow to shower us and make us laugh. Though he didn’t really need our ‘help’ to pick out a gift at any point, he always listened to our ideas and found some small way of incorporating them. This first year without him, Christmas Eve will be harder than Christmas day, even though I’m not physically there to not go shopping with him. I’m still going to try to make it into at least one store, just to keep the tradition alive.
Santa Left a Mess
One year, the childhood version of myself (let’s be honest; I’m not that different now!) went running into the living room to discover—SHOCK! Santa left a mess! The milk and cookies were gone, but he left behind sooty boot-prints from the chimney to the tree to the cookies. Bonus! He left a note, in a penmanship I later discovered to be remarkably like my mom’s (quality, Mom, quality) apologizing for the mess. I have no idea what gifts I received for Christmas that year, but I do remember the pure joy of knowing that Santa had been in my living room, and was considerate enough to leave a note.
Fast forward to a future Christmas when some meanie-face tried to convince my third grade self that Santa wasn’t real. A heated debate ensued, with me promising to bring my note from Santa in the following day to prove him wrong. When my mom discovered me turning my already disaster-area room upside down to find said note, she broke the news. I have yet to forgive her for lying to me and telling me Santa wasn’t real, as Santa is clearly very, very real. But I’m sure she meant well. 😉
The Case of the Not-Hungry Reindeer
One year, my school decided it would be a good idea to give us all little bags of hay and tell us to put them out for Santa’s reindeer, as Santa gets fed all night while the reindeer do all the real work. After much convincing, I did not climb up onto the roof to spread the hay where it would be most convenient for the poor, hungry reindeer. Instead, we tried tossing it up to the roof and spread the rest in the front yard. The lack of snow in Oklahoma that year made the next morning slightly less disappointing, as it was difficult to tell what was simply dead grass and what was uneaten reindeer snack.
My parents and sister did their best to convince me a significant portion was, in fact, gone and must have been eaten by reindeer. Eventually someone just said, “Well, maybe they just weren’t hungry. They must have stopped at the other kids’ houses first, so they’d already had their fill of hay.”
Do you notice a trend? My family likes to lie to me at Christmas. The things you realize as an adult…
It’s Snowing– Inside!
Every year, my mom, sister and I bake approximately a million cookies to decorate together.The first step is always spending some portion of time searching for the recipe. I always hate making the dough, because it has sour cream in it (ew) and has to chill (my family may be liars, but I am simply impatient). However, once my sister and I were older, the dough making became more interesting. Mostly because we started a tradition of making it snow– inside the house.
At some point in our cookie making history, someone (there’s truly no discerning who began this war) threw flour at someone else. Someone else proclaimed that it was snowing inside. A huge flour fight ensued, with everyone from the bakers to the dog to even innocent bystanders attempting to get one bite out of a piece of leftover pizza in the fridge (ahem, that would be one-bite-man, AKA my dad) would get caught in the crossfire of flour warfare, and get pelted with the soft white substance. By the end, the kitchen and those of us ‘baking’ would be covered in a thin white film of flour. The flour fight occurs each year, despite threats from my dad or stern looks from my mom (yet, I recall, she often starts it. Or at least participates.Or fails to stop it. Possibly all of the above). Regardless of infringement, the flour fight must occur.
This year, while my super pregnant self is thousands of miles away in Alaska, my mom and sister will be baking cookies at my Grams’ house. I’ve given one of them secret instructions to begin the flour fight. But which one… (insert ominous music of your choice here).
After the flour fight concludes, we use cookie cutters that have mysteriously multiplied over the years. We then bake batch after batch, becoming weary with the process of putting cookies in, taking them out, accidentally slightly burning the last batch while we craft the icing, etc. Then the second most fun part begins (the flour fight is clearly the first most fun): decorating them. The earlier cookies are intricate and detailed, with each cookie becoming sloppier and plainer until we get to the point where we’d rather…well, do anything except finish decorating those dang cookies.
Of course, part of the tradition is also eating about a dozen cookies each while we decorate them. And about half a pound of cookie dough each while we roll and cut the cookies out before baking them. No, we don’t eat them between baking and icing. We eat raw cookies or overly sugared up cookies. One nice cookie and several sloppy ones typically get left for Santa.
The Christmas Eve Present Debate
Each year, my sister and I debate our parents and, now that we’re married, our husbands to let us open just one present each on Christmas Eve. We win.
There are an assortment of photos of my sister and I growing up, sitting in front of the Christmas tree with our pets surrounding us. The year is more easily distinguished by the fads of the time than our ages. I’d post photos of this to prove it, but if I put a picture of my sister with her crimped, permed early 90’s hair, purple leggings and hot pink sleep shirt on the internet, I’d be dead before morning. (If I mysteriously die in the next 24 hours…look to her. Just kidding! I love you, sister…). It’s harder to distinguish by just me, because my hair was always long and dark and I was pretty much always wearing a Lion King shirt.
Reflecting on what makes Christmas special to my family helped restore a bit of the magic during this season. My husband and I are slowly establishing our own Christmas traditions, and I’m already planning for what we’ll do with our son when his childhood Christmases come around. The memories from each year are worth so much more than I can put into words, especially now that our family is one smaller this year. Thankfully, next year we’ll be bigger by one.
What are some of your fun Christmas traditions and memories? Feel free to share in the comments below.
May your days be merry and bright; Merry Christmas!