2009-12-13, 8:54 a.m.
The traditions I used to do during the holidays are pretty much dead now. Which is pretty sad. Between moving out (and thus not being able to take care of everyone else's holiday stuff until right before Christmas) and Dad getting sick (which pretty much wiped out everyone's ability to do anything), and the relatives not feeling so much obligated towards us any more now that he's dead... yeah, it's all awkward. But I thought I'd reflect on the things that used to be. What the hell.
I've already gone on about advent calendars and tacky music collection and going to Deacon Dave's over the years (or this year), but here's some other things:
Tree decorating: We had real trees at first growing up. I'd attempt to get myself lost in the tree forests at the tree places. I also got really sad when they threw out the tree in January, so I'd insist on cutting off a branch and putting it in an envelope with "Christmas Tree 198-" on it to memorialize it.
My parents took forever and a fucking day to get the real tree up and the lights on, and it would pretty much boil down to fighting all weekend (Dad was so the guy from "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" griping about the lights), while I'd be nagging them to be done already so I could put the ornaments on. (I took that chore over early on.)
They got me my first mini-tree, which is around 3 feet or so, and gave me some old little ornaments, and told me to go decorate that. So I would, and then I'd take them off and redecorate all over again until they finally finished up. They're little wooden angels and soldiers and I've got them all to this day.
Eventually my parents got a large fake tree that came with the lights mostly put on already, which got rid of the fighting and the feeling sad about the tree departure (yay), but also the smell and the shopping (boo). But speaking as the official tree decorator, I was really pleased to find out that I could actually hang the large ornaments without them severely wilting the tree branches. So that was nice. And you got to reunite with the tree over and over again!
My favorite ornament is a little plushy bird in a nest. It's so cute. I wonder where the hell it is now (sigh).
As you know, I've continued to collect small trees since (I have my own 4-footer, 2 3-footers, and ten 2-footers or so, though I don't bother to get the 4-footer out much any more). The amusing thing is that Mom has kind of taken this up too over the years. She has several 4-footers, one that came with pre-lighting, color-changing lights, and one that's a bigger version of my pink tacky tree.
Train under the tree: That was Dad's job (after tree erection and lights and swearing). He set up the track and I decorated underneath. We had a Snow Village collection and I'd sprinkle out the snow and set up the figurines. (He made me scrape the snow out of the carpet in January, which was a LOT less fun.)
Room decorating: That was Mom's responsibility to deck out the front room for Christmas. She decorated in random places like the bathroom as well, but we always had one themed room, and we'd go in and sit on the couch and watch the lights on the tree in the dark.
(Sadly, that whole "tree room" thing went to hell after Dad insisted on setting up a permanent train table in that room, which meant we had to put the tree in the room with the TV and it just wasn't so cool any more.)
Book reading: I have a copy of The Santa Claus Book and I'd read that every year, as well as the old ancient books that got passed down. I truly love this one for the excellent explanations of the author's investigations of the North Pole, though. I am sad that it's out of print.
Christmas Eve, as per German tradition, was unwrapping the presents night. I got about half of mine that night, and my parents got theirs then. We sometimes went to the late church services with the candle lighting afterwards, sometimes not (or we'd have to go to my aunt and uncle's for some reason). Christmas Day was the Santa presents day, and stockings. Once the cat came out of that particular bag I started doing reciprocal stockings for my parents, but that never seemed to go over well because they are not nearly into nifty small items as I am. There'd be "sit around and watch parade" time, and "sit around and watch the game time", and eventually we'd go over to the PITA relatives' house. I'd bring a toy or two to play with, which they'd make fun of. Oh, the year I got the ukulele...I heard about my "punk rock band" for the next ten years.
Okay, there's the occasional thing I don't miss losing to time and circumstances :)
I haven't really figured out what "new traditions" to make to replace the old ones. The ones at my house you already know, but it's kind of hard to keep that stuff up at Mom's when I'm not there much before holiday break starts.
The idea I had this year was to go back to San Francisco for Christmas. We went there for Thanksgiving in 2007 and it was marvelous. No relative baggage, no drama, plenty of distraction. So I suggested this to Mom for Christmas (even if even less stuff is probably open to DO) and she was all for it. Maybe that'll be a nice replacement tradition for just the two of us to do.