Christmas Traditions

I am really big on traditions.  I hold them near and dear to my heart and consider it my personal duty to protect them.  Now that I have a child, I want to establish some Christmas traditions for him.  I can’t predict whether or not he’ll care for them as I do, but I want to make sure they are there for his memories of Christmas.

Before I was married, I only had to worry about one family: mine.  I liked that.  You see, I really like my family.  They (we) are all weird in our own very wonderful ways.  I feel warm and comfortable when I’m around them.

We sort of cheat and have all of our big celebrations on Christmas Eve.  At lunch, my mom’s side of the family comes together for a Thanksgiving meal, part 2, but replace turkey with ham.  SInce we built our new house, this celebration has been here.  I like that.  I like playing hostess and making memories right here under my roof.  There are about 20 of them.  They’re all pretty country.  All the women wear (except me–I’m not joining THIS club) their overly bedazzled and tacky Christmas sweaters and my grandfather and uncles sit around waiting to be served making various inappropriate comments.  Sure, it’s kind of annoying, but it says Christmas to me and I roll with it.  Since I was old enough to read, I’ve read the Christmas story to everyone.  I still do it every year.  Then, we open gifts, visit for a while and everyone goes home late in the afternoon.  

But, the fun’s not over yet.  My younger brother (Jason) is a chef and my older brother (Chad) might as well be.  After a rest, they descend upon the kitchen at my parents house and make a dinner that is NOTHING like Thanksgiving.  It’s never the same, but it is always amazing.  We eat off of good china and we toast the holiday with good wine.  After dinner, there’s no rush.  Jason makes homemade egg nog with a kick.  We drink that while Chad plays Christmas songs on his guitar.  We sing (and most of us aren’t singers) until we’ve gone through both of our songbooks and the requests for favorites have ended.  Chad always sings the last song “Santa Claus is Back in Town” by Elvis.  He rocks it out, sings it loud and we all cheer!  Then, we give each other gifts.  We go around the room opening one at a time and extending appropriate thanks and hugs to the gift-giver.  We usually finish up sometime around 11.  Then, we stay up and try on clothes, try out gifts, play Cranium and then go to sleep early Christmas morning.  To me, that is my Christmas.

I don’t need more, but with marriage comes new family, new responsibilities and a process of assimilation where traditions are concerned. I don’t feel warm and comfortable around Jeff’s family.  Around them, I am the in-law, the outsider.  And, now there’s Carter.  Last year he was just 4 months old and didn’t really get it, but it was his first Christmas so everyone made a big deal.  Mike and Ruth came to my family’s Christmas Eve dinner so that they could see Carter get some gifts for the first time, and I was ok with that being that it was a momentous occasion.  But, like I said, I’m really protective over my Christmas traditions.  Sunday Ruth brought up Christmas Eve.  She was sort of assuming that they’d come over and do Christmas Eve with my family again.  I’m not at all a confrontational person and I have a tough time getting anything out of my mouth that might hurt someone’s feelings, but I dug deep and told her that I’d like to establish a separate Christmas tradition with them starting this year.  I could tell by her face that she didn’t like that, but her words at least said otherwise.  Normally, we go to my aunt’s house on Christmas Day for brunch (consisting of various sausage-filled, bacon wrapped, cheese coated items), which I also really love doing.  But, I offered to give it up to establish something with them.  This will be the first year that we have brunch at Nana and PaPa’s.  Then, we have Christmas early evening with the Presley’s and the Tate’s in Anderson.  It will be fine and I’m going to try my best to make it special to me and special for Carter.  I know my attitude with ultimately affect his attitude, so it’s important that I make the effort and get outside the “me, me, me, my family” box.

Also, there’s the issue of Santa.  Santa always came to my house when I was young.  I don’t remember the age when I discovered the ugly truth about the jolly ol man in red, but I don’t remember it being a big deal.  I still got presents from Mom and Dad, so I played along for my little brother.  Now I have to decide if I want to create the fantasy for Carter.  I personally think that it is harmless.  I think that there’s nothing wrong with letting “the spirit of Christmas/Santa/giving” play out in a fun scenario on Christmas morning through Mom and Dad.  I just don’t want Carter to ever feel like I’ve lied to him or for him to feel hurt that something he held dear to heart was never real.  Does anyone have any Santa advise or strong feelings on the matter one way or the other?


5 responses to “Christmas Traditions

  • Lauren

    look! one i haven’t commented on! we don’t do santa b/c i felt that Gid told us not to. i know how extreme it sounds. we let them watch movies about santa and read stories, but we tell them he’s pretend like tinkerbell or dora. here’s the way i see it: if we want them to believe us that Jesus is real when they can’t see him or hear him, we can’t lie about someone else (santa, easter bunny) who they also can’t see or hear, and expect them to believe us. when i found out santa wasn’t real, i was pissed at my parents and pissed that they had allowed me to be gullible and look foolish in front of my classmates. i don’t want my kids being the spoilers for all the other children, but to me, a lie is a lie. Jesus IS real, santa is imagination. period. and i hope one day that they will at least respect our decision to be truthful with them. they can retreat into their imaginations anytime they want but i won’t tell them something is real when it isn’t. so far i’ve told Quinn that all good gifts are from God, and santa is a story about a very nice man who lived a long time ago who wanted to give presents to poor children to show them how much God loves them. to me, that’s a much more valuable lesson than a big cookie-eating guy going around in a sleigh delivering gifts to good children and somehow always forgetting about poor children who don’t have parents to buy them things. i think i’ll wrie about this on my blog toooo 🙂

    • mindofmandi

      Wow…that really has me thinking. Now I’m thinking that I could go ahead and talk about him as a character and tell him that it’s something we play on Christmas. I really have never settled my mind on telling him something is true and asking him to believe in something that I clearly know is not real. I think it’s fun to “play Santa”, but why shouldn’t he know that we are just playing? I think Carter could get into that just as much as the big lie. And, I love the fact that you tell your children that all good gifts are from God. Because certainly, if God were not blessing Jeff in his career, there would be no gifts. You’re so smart!

  • Beth

    Your family traditions sound so fun, Mandi. I can understand why you want to guard them! 🙂 As for Santa, I have a hard time with that too…never knew what to do in the classroom and so I just never really emphasize it but with kids who do believe I’ll play along. My Mom and Dad always gave a present from Santa but I know it wasn’t a huge deal in my house either way. I never remeber feeling lied to or anything. If you do decide to go with the Santa thing, check out this book on my blog because it sounds like it could be so much fun. and then check this website for how one family uses it: It sounds like serious family fun! 🙂

    • mindofmandi

      I didn’t know you had a blog! I’m so excited that I’ve found another person in blog world to keep up with. I’ll be reading for sure.

      I really love the idea of the Elf on the Shelf book. I’m going to get that for Carter next year.

  • Sarah

    Hi, me again… I’m apparently in a commenting kinda mood today.

    About Santa: I have no words of wisdom, just my own experience. My parents never allowed me to believe in Santa (no surprise there, considering my religious background) and I felt CHEATED – all caps. Bobby and I have discussed it, and have decided that we’re going to do the full-scale Santa thing with our kids. I know that there’s always a chance that it could go sour, and our kids will feel like we lied to them… but of all my friends and cousins who believed, none of them would have it any other way.

    But anyway, that’s just us. 🙂 I’m sure that you and Jeff will go what’s best for Carter.

    I completely agree that instilling traditions into our children’s lives is wonderful and so important – I love the description of your family’s Christmas Eve tradition!

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