I don’t know about you, but we have a lot of traditions that have become a part of our holiday celebrations over the years. Some have been passed down from my grandparents to my parents, to me to my children and, now, to my grandchildren.
There are certain dishes we make in certain ways. The turkey dressing (some call it ‘stuffing;’ we call it ‘dressing’ and always have. Stuffing is something you put in homemade pillows.) is always made the same way to my g-grandmother’s recipe.
We have, on occasion had other kinds as well because, as we’ve gathered in-laws we’ve also gathered their traditions. But there is a limit. My daughter found it when her soon-to-be spouse’s mother advised that they get Stove Top. “I can’t marry him,”she told me. “I can’t eat Stove Top for the rest of my life!” No disrespect to Stove Top. It can be quite tasty. it’s just that, in our family, it’s not something to base a marriage on.
Other traditions last for a number of years and then circumstances cause a change. When my kids were small we made cut-out orange-flavored sugar cookies, and the kids decorated them with a lavish hand, and then we hung them on the Christmas tree. Every single year. Until we got a dog.
Now we’ve decided that the tradition of having dogs is more important than hanging the cookies on the tree. And we have more cookies on the plate that we can eat before they get stale. Also the decorations, for a number of years, were less lavish and therefore more edible. With the advent of grandchildren, though, the lavish is back. But the dogs are still here – and I foresee them staying a while.
For years and years our block had a Christmas caroling party. We have a one-block-long street which is nice. Pretty much any living room on the street will hold all the carolers. So we moved up and down the street and caroled and ended up in someone’s living room celebrating together. This lasted for easily seventy five years (and no, I wasn’t here for all of them!). But then somehow we got roped into a “neighborhood” Christmas party one year by the historical society, and it was too big and no one from our block ended up going – but the carols never resumed, either.
Had its time come to move on? I don’t know. But I rather miss it – and these days I don’t know the names of some of my neighbors.
As a means of resolving at least part of that problem, five years ago, I accidentally began a new tradition. My friend Nancy who is an honorary member of our block because she lives a few streets away, but her dog thinks he lives here, had students from China who wanted to bake Christmas cookies.
So she and I invited the Chinese students over to make spritz cookies. And because we thought that a couple of my neighbors would enjoy meeting the Chinese students and and vice-versa, we invited those neighbors.
It was a great success. So much so that both the neighbors and the Chinese students wanted to do it again the following year. We added a couple more neighbors – those who missed the caroling, too – and a couple of different Chinese students. And we baked cookies. Lots of cookies. Everyone took home plenty of cookies.
We’ve been doing it now for five years. The number of neighbors has grown dramatically. The Chinese students have changed; some went back to China; some are in graduate school elsewhere. But we still get Christmas cards from some of them – and reminiscences of our years baking cookies. I envision that somewhere in China there are spritz cookies being made even as I write this!
We’re doing it again next week. It’s one of my favorite ‘traditions’ now. And judging from the eagerness of those invited, I think it’s a good time for everyone. When we began, it was supposed to be a one-off. But then, traditions aren’t always the ones you plan. They are the ones that mean something special.
What traditions do you have that mean a lot to you? Please share!
Anne has discovered that her book Breaking the Greek’s Rules, which is in fact a Christmas book about Alexandros Antonides and Daisy Connolly, has turned up in an anthology called Mistletoe Surprises, along with books by Helen Brooks and Sara Orwig. If you can find it (she had a hard time doing so!), you might enjoy it.