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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment: That Holiday Spirit

Every family has its quirky holiday traditions (Jehovah's Witnesses excluded by dint of vigorously avoiding all holiday fun). To me, it's never quite Christmas without the Andy Williams belting out that catchy song about Santa (He'll be coming down the chimney down...). What traditions mark your holidays, whichever they are? What odd things evoke festiveness for you?


Anonymous ben said...

My parents have a fake tree from before they started having lights built in. For some reason it's always my job to put the lights on (the secret is to go in and out the branches, not just around the surface, don't tell) and the putting on of the lights should always have John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together playing in the background.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous erin said...

Well, my family doesn't put up a tree at the holidays. We put up about half a dozen trees...and then we leave them up ALL YEAR. (Yes, that's very weird, but my family's not anywhere close to normal about these things.)

It's not Christmas in my house until my mom's tried at least three times to get us all to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" (and we refuse every time).

But my favorite tradition: my siblings and I still all get a new pair of matching pajamas every year. We put on our new pjs, then snuggle in together on the couch (it's gotten way harder to do this now that we're grown, but we all cram ourselves onto the couch anyway)...and then my mom reads us "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (the greatest and funniest holiday book ever written).

10:35 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I don't see my family at Hanukkah very much anymore, as it's not a very important holiday, but I have many memories of the Hanukkahs of my youth.

Every year on the first night, we would eat potato latkes, light the candles, and then get our presents. Then we would gather around the fireplace while my dad told us all about the War on Christmas, and how we all needed to play our part. He would explain how we were trying to achieve a secular-progressive society by diminishing Christmas and all vestiges of Christian power. Then we would hit the malls, accosting strangers with nonreligious good wishes like "Season's Greetings!", and then laughing as they sputtered in that way that only people who are part of an 85% majority in this country can sputter, when they want to pretend they're under attack while they fight in Jesus's name over the last Tickle Me Elmo.

Dad always reminded us to tell our friends about our mission, and how we should pretend it came from a genuine respect for the separation of church and state, and a reluctance to fuse any religion's sacred traditions with crass commercialism, and a genuine desire to be thought of as full Americans even though we weren't Christian ourselves. We always used to laugh about that, since it wasn't any of those things really, but more like how we were just taking our orders from the ACLU and the World Bank.

But now that Bill O'Reilly and everyone else at Fox News have figured us out and alerted American's Christians to how they're an oppressed minority in this country, we can't really operate this way anymore, and that's kind of sad. Like I said, I don't see my family much at Hanukkah time, since it's kind of a fake day anyway, and more like a ruse to sabotage the theological underpinnings of this great land. But it would still be nice to eat my mom's potato latkes again, even if we don't get our Fight Christmas: Say Yes to "Winter Break!" t-shirts anymore.

11:28 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

This question interests me because G. and I will get hitched over the summer. We've already spent the holidays together, with my family or his, but what will the holidays look like when we're hosting them someday? If we have kidlets of our own?

It's a great anthropological study, spending a holiday with one's in-laws. Their celebrations are staid compared to ours, just a few adults chatting. It's nice, in that you can get in-depth with conversation. There's more drinking, especially of champagne, and less food. For some reason, they eat nonpareils at the holidays. The dark chocolate ones with white sprinkes; colored sprinkles are apparently unacceptable.

My family's celebrations are teeming with people, food, and cross-conversation. Sweets--especially cookies--are far more prominent than alcohol. (Same effect, more calories. Really.) The Andy Williams Christmas album and the Rat Pack Christmas are played repeatedly. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is viewed at least once. And we eat lasagna on Christmas, though we're not Italian. One year, we kids got up the nerve to request our favorite dish--lasagna--instead of Even More Turkey at Christmas. To our surprise, our mom eagerly accepted. Now we understand that the wonderfully cheesy, oozing lasagna is much easier to prepare than the famous coma-inducing poultry. Who could've guessed.

Like Erin, we all receive new pajamas (though not necessarily matching!) to wear for Christmas morning gift-opening. Each person's presents are wrapped in a different paper, for easy finding. Boardgames are usually played at some point.

When we were kids, we had a "Baby Jesus Cake"--always a spice cake with vanilla frosting--after Mass on Christmas Eve. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. It was nice.

My mom's side of the family still gathers for noisy Christmas Eve festivities. It hasn't been the same since my grandparents grew too old to host it, however. Now we all go to an uncle's too-large house. The first time at my uncle's house, everyone had the flu and wouldn't hug. Last year, everyone had the flu again, and so the party--which we'd planned to attend--was moved to a day we couldn't go. This year, we'll be with G's family on the Eve.

What do G. and I do for our own, special holiday? We're both very fond of light eggnog with rum and a dusting of nutmeg. He insists on getting a live tree every year (I'm accustomed to artificial and live seems somehow cruel), but then he refuses to help decorate it. (This year, he promised to help. He'd better...It's questionable, however, that we'll be able to put up a tree this season, what with the 3 couches in our living room occupying all the space.) I imagine that when we have a large enough home to host the holiday, we'll incorporate both the nonpareils and the boardgames.

7:32 PM  

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