Christmas traditions, yesterday and today


Tree at parents’ house, 2011

It’s around 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and for the first time in my entire life I am not celebrating with my family. I’m not at my parents’ house, where right now my brothers and their families, my sister and her boyfriend, my parents and their dachshund, Max, are hanging out. I don’t know what they’re doing. Probably the cousins are running around, playing games or watching TV or doing crafts before the 4 p.m. mass, while the adults sit in the family room, where a fire blazes in the wood stove, chatting with each other about this or that. There might be snacks already, but it might be to early for Mom’s pizza rustica and my sister-in-law Trish’s sausage pastry rolls and whatever else anyone prepared. I know there’s probably not spinach dip, because I am the one who usually makes that, and I’m not there.

For the first time in 11 years — their entire childhood — my kids are not going to sing carols or exchange homemade cookies with their cousins. My kids won’t get tucked in together in the upstairs room, wishing for sleep to come as fastasthis so Christmas morning will come as soon as possible.

When Ray and I decided to not export our Christmas this year — for the first time in forever — I knew things would be a little strange. Frankly, it was a huge relief to not to shop online and ship all the gifts out of state, to not spend Christmas Eve feverishly wrapping everything, to not have to pack and drive three hours and live out of a suitcase for a few days. I was really excited to start some new traditions in our house for a change. For the kids to creep down our own stairs on Christmas morning and peer around the corner to see what Santa may have been up to while they slept.


And we are. Joanna and I just mixed up a batch of sugar cookie dough and are waiting for it to chill before we cut and bake. Although I don’t have a piano, and for the first time ever won’t be accompanying the carols, I did strum my guitar the other day and feel reasonably sure I can provide a little background for our singing later.

It’s a little strange. Change always is, I guess. New traditions don’t just spring up, fully formed and familiar-feeling. They come from years of tending and feeding, and the strongest ones are the ones that stay. This year, right now, I’m feeling peaceful and right about staying home for Christmas.

But I miss my family — the noise, the stress, the chaos, the annoyance, the laughter, the song — I miss all of that. I sure do.



4 thoughts on “Christmas traditions, yesterday and today

  1. It is always difficult to decide how to divide up the holidays. If you don’t have kids it doesn’t matter as much but when you do you want to stay home with them. We always had to rush away first thing Christmas morning to drive an hour away to our grandparents house. I never liked that. When I had kids we picked another day, before or after. It is still all rush, rush and I don’t like that part. Maybe it would be better if I were more organzied. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. As a parent of 4 I too didn’t like packing up my kids and driveing to share Christmas with my in laws, family and friends where they were living at the time. But looking back I’m glad I did. All those memories keep me warm on cold winter nights. But alas, time brought change- the kids grew up and got married or had significant others in their lives. Travelling became not fun any more. So we started our tradition of staying home and having our family come to us. Fun times were had by all.

    Now it’s time for my children to make their own traditions. My brothers and sisters in laws have been doing their own tradition for years.. They are missed but always in our thought and hearts as we sing our carols.

    So Jen, of course you were missed last night. You’ll be missed today as well. But we will see you soon and the cousins will create lots of nosie, mess and laughter.But we all will be together again durning the Christmas Holidays.

    Merry Christmas

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