A few years ago, I went to our local ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker. What a wonderful way to capture the Norman Rockwell –type nostalgia of the holiday season. We can walk downtown. Get a cup of hot cocoa. There is even an ice skating rink. Can’t you just hear John Lennon’s “So this is Christmas” playing in the back of your mind? Maybe if it was followed by my father saying “pull my finger.”
As hard as we (especially mothers and women) try to make our holiday gatherings look like the front of a Hallmark card, it never seems to work out that way. I learned a long time ago that I enjoy the hilarity of my family’s celebrations. It is definitely more National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation than Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
Allow me to explain. When I was 3 and my brother was 6, our parents woke us up and held us as we peered down into our living room as Santa, yes SANTA, was setting down our Cabbage Patch Dolls. (Circa 1983) So for years to come, my brother and I would get into major arguments with friends about the real existence of Santa. Of COURSE it was not our dad dressed up. Dad was with us!
How adorable, right? Well, a decade or so later we were discussing the great Santa visit of our early childhood. Upon which my mother remarked, “If only I had a picture of that guy knocking back that 6 pack in our den.” My teenage brain faltered momentarily enough for my mother to explain how my parents had paid a local alcoholic with a 6 pack of beer (who for reasons still not clear to me, owned a Santa suit) to dress up and set out our presents. This is a happy memory for 2 reasons. One being that I can still remember watching Santa as my father held me out my bedroom door. And second, knowing that Santa was lit up like a Christmas tree.
In the past few years, I have seen a hugely popular item crop up within the households of my FWC (that’s Friends With Children). The magical Elf. He has many names and forms, but essentially he comes to life at night creating mischief and sometimes helps parents regulate children’s behavior during the rambunctious holiday season. What a great idea!
My mother beat you all to it. For you religious history buffs, you know that January 6th is a subtle holiday known as Epiphany. This is the day celebrated as the actual day the 3 Wisemen found baby Jesus. I can remember my peers making fun of me for knowing this at such a young age. Why you ask? Was I really good at paying attention in Sunday school? Heck no. My mother’s oldest manger scene was historically accurate. The small porcelain baby Jesus did not show up until Christmas morning. And the 3 Wisemen traveled around the house, into dresser drawers, inside the refrigerator, etc. all season, until they appropriately arrived at their destination on January 6th. At least once a season they would show up in my elementary school lunchbox prompting me to explain to my 10 year old colleagues why 3 Wisemen were monitoring my PB&J.
I tell these stories only to say that it is okay for traditions to change. As my family has grown, spouses and babies have arrived, we have had to change the day and time we open presents. However, we still look forward to the Wisemen surprising us when we reach for the cold-cuts in the fridge. It is okay for us to keep sacred what is sacred. It is not okay for anyone to force their traditions and beliefs on anyone else… even if they are hilarious.