Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas Traditions

Recently I was asked if we (my husband and I) had any Christmas traditions.  The question caught me off guard a bit and I struggled to come up with an answer.

My memories of Christmas traditions are a bit foggy and fragmented.  It feels like my life has been split into three different chapters so far; living in Texas, living in Illinois, and living in Michigan.  Both moves brought on big changes.  And yes, even traditions can change.

A rare snowfall at our home in Texas.

The tiniest snowman you ever did see.

When I think of my family's holiday traditions, my Texas memories come to mind first, because that is where I spent my childhood and I think it's the time in your life when Christmas feels the most magical.  Yes, Christmas is not about presents, but about the gift God gave us.  Nostalgia seems to reign supreme though when I think of past Christmases.  Thinking of my childhood Christmases in Texas brings to mind:

Baking so many different kinds of cookies with my mom.  Sugar cookies, candy cane cookies, meringue kisses, etc.
Going to church on Christmas Eve and participating in the church Christmas program.
Setting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.
Dancing around the Christmas tree whenever "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" played on the radio.  I was the only one who did this.  I was a goofy child.
My parents wouldn't put out any presents until after we had gone to bed on Christmas Eve, making Christmas morning a big surprise to see the wrapped gifts waiting for us.
Decorating the stair banister with garlands and big red bows.
Putting out the nativity set.
Putting up our stockings at the fireplace.
Whatever little snow managed to fall, we would rush outside to play in it and attempt to make forts and snowmen.
Receiving a box of baked goods from my Grandma Rooney every year that she would ship to us all the way from Kansas.  Oatmeal Frosties, Rum Balls, Date Nut Roll, and sometimes the coveted "Goodies", a chocolatey marshmallow concoction that was entirely too sweet but oh so good.

These memories bring a smile to my face and nearly tears to my eyes.  The Christmas of my childhood was cozy, warm, full of family and treats, and eternally hoping for snow.

One of the first snowfalls at our new home in Illinois.

Moving to Illinois brought changes to our Christmas traditions.  My memories of Christmas in Illinois are foggier and harder to distinguish.  We still baked cookies, put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving (though sometimes I had to be the driving force behind it to get everyone to decorate), and went to church on Christmas Eve.  But we were getting older, and some of us weren't happy about the move and the changes, which sucked a bit of the fun out of the traditions we used to enjoy.  Things just felt different.  My sister went off to college the year after we moved and started dating the man who would become her husband.  This would bring on more changes, learning to share holidays and knowing there would be years when we wouldn't be all together.  Growing up can be tough.  Very rarely do things stay exactly the same and we need to learn to be flexible and enjoy new traditions.

Our family's Christmas tree in Illinois.  Check out my mad photography skills!

Noah and I have been married for about four and half years.  It feels like such a short amount of time, not really sufficient enough to say that we have any Christmas traditions.  But actually, we do.

We put up and decorate our little Christmas tree.
My husband's father is half Hispanic, so we participate in the family's annual tamale-making party.
We attend church on Christmas Eve.
After spending time at our own home Christmas morning we go to Noah's parent's house for quality family Christmas time.

It is a short list so far.  Keep in mind though, we enjoy traditions not because they are numerous, but because we do them with the people we love.  Now that we have Adeline and another little one on the way, I look forward to the "magical" feeling of Christmas as they grow up.  I can't wait for them to be able to help decorate the Christmas tree, bake cookies, sing with us in church, and learn the joy of giving gifts.  

Our first Christmas tree together.

Cramming tamales into the pot to be steamed.

There are a few more specific things I want to add to our little list of traditions:

Baking my Grandma Rooney's Date Nut Rolls.
Baking Spritz.  They are Noah's favorite cookie and we say every year we're going to to make them but it still hasn't happened.
Having fresh cinnamon rolls with breakfast on Christmas morning.

Can you tell baking is one of my love languages?

Technically Adeline's first Christmas, though she was still in the womb at this point.

At least while our kids are young, we're planning to spend holidays at home.  Traveling with little ones is stressful, and trying to travel in Michigan late in the year can be a gamble with the weather.  I look forward to eventually spending Christmas at my parent's house again, but until then I hope to re-create the cozy, loving Christmases of my childhood for our own munchkins.

Traditions are wonderful and coping with change can be hard, but there's no reason we can't use change as an opportunity to create new traditions.  I love my in-law's tamale tradition, I love that we all attend church together, and having copious amounts of cookies around is never a bad thing.  I've really enjoyed our quiet Christmas mornings at home and I can't wait to see how Adeline experiences Christmas this year now that she's a little older.  

Adeline at Christmas, 2017.

So here's to Christmas traditions, new and old, and the people with whom we share them.  May they help us slow down this time of year and bring us closer together as we remember and celebrate the greatest gift of all, God's son Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

My side of the family together for Christmas in 2014.

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