While unpacking Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, I received calls from my grown children. This year they “stopped by” for left-overs. It occurred to me how some of our family’s traditions had changed while some had lasted through the years.
Since moving into our first home in North Boulder, my husband Danny and I have worked together to hang Christmas lights. I love turning them on beforehand so it seems like I am drawing with the dazzling strands. This year we have added many LED lights. I love them because about 40,000 of them can be linked end-to-end! Danny always tackles the house (after the year I nearly fell off the roof), and I work on the garlands, trees, and bushes. You can tell that we decorate our own home since we only go as high as our tallest ladder. You won’t find a cherry picker or professional service at our address. Like a little kid, I anticipate turning them on for the first time after the sun sets, gasping in delight at the display. Weeks later, I will check the newspaper to see if our house gets listed in the top 20 Light Displays of Boulder County. We have made the list nearly every year.
This is the first year in a long time that we won’t be entertaining since other friends have volunteered. That won’t stop me from unpacking all of the plastic containers piled high to the ceiling full of Christmas decorations and decking the halls for my own family.
Barbara Streisand and Harry Connick Jr. will sing in the background while I roll out dough for my friend’s cookie exchange. Traditional recipes will be pulled out of the file and cakes will be baked along with gooey sticky cinnamon rolls -I will still be sneaking slivers of them well into the first week of January.
Illustrating our family Christmas card every year is a tradition I cling to. Many have captured the events or interests of our family. Some were insanely time-consuming like the year I made pop-up cards. After drawing and printing the outside and inside of the card, it had to be individually cut and pasted. This year’s creation has yet to be determined…
Years ago, we owned a wholesale toy and school supply business. I had it made. Danny would come home like Santa with a garbage bag filled with little toys for our children and the argument would begin. “In my house Santa always left all the presents unwrapped under the tree. That’s how we knew they were from him,” I pleaded.
“Our presents were always wrapped,” Danny replied.
Somehow I caved in on that one. He did all the “shopping” after all. We would sit for hours wrapping all the little gifts while our children dreamt of sugar plums
The next morning they would rise with the sun and we would hear the door open to our bedroom. Kelly and Courtney, dressed in their footy pajamas, would pad across the bedroom floor and tap us on our shoulders. Kelly would say, “Mama, wake up! It’s Christmas!”
“Do you think Santa came last night?” I would ask.
With eyes as big as saucers they would both answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
Then we would do the unthinkable. We would take showers, get dressed, go downstairs and make coffee. We would make our children wait on the steps until all the adults were up. Then with the enormous video camera all ready to go, Danny would finally shout, “Santa came!” The kids would bound into the family room and begin ripping open their presents, tossing all that carefully wrapped paper over their shoulders.
Now that our children have grown, the tradition has evolved. They no longer have to wait on the stairs, but everyone has to be dressed and ready before the first stocking is dumped out onto the hardwood floor. Our compact digital cameras still have to be in video mode. Gone are the days when we packed up our kids and spent Christmas break in the mountains. I still find myself adjusting to my empty nest when they return to their own apartments since they are both now in college.
My parents used to drive from Wisconsin in a van packed with gifts with only a sliver of space for the rear view mirror. As they got older, I insisted they fly and the packages preceded them in the mail. For the first time, my father won’t be healthy enough to make the trip. Last year, after they arrived in Colorado, we drove him to the hospital where he stayed for a week after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Instead of a joyful vacation, we traveled back and forth to the Denver VA Hospital while praying he would stabilize. He was released on Christmas Eve and was our Christmas miracle.
Our family will travel back to Wisconsin after the holidays to celebrate at our parent’s homes for the first time in nearly twenty years. My brother Joe is excited to have everyone back to celebrate in original McCartan fashion. After all, before Danny and I started dating, the Lindaus and McCartans had been known to celebrate Christmas together!
Until then, the timers will pop when the sun goes down and the house will take on a festive glow. I’ll light up the inside of my house just like the outside. My husband and I will move ahead with our plans and our children will join us when they can. The holidays are always in transition just as in life. Some traditions will be added, adapted or discarded, while others will survive for years to come.
What are some of your holiday traditions?
Are any of your traditions in transition?