For the past few weeks I have been celebrating the holidays in New York City. I hung the stockings by the “fire,” baked batches of cookies, and finally visited the tree at Rockefeller plaza. I feel like I decked the halls like a true New Yorker.
But as much as I enjoy the glitz and glam of an NYC Christmas, there is nothing better than being home for the holidays. You can create a new house across the country, make friends that become family or marry into a new clan, but there is nothing like spending this time with ma’ and pa’.
I know not everyone shares this sentiment. Not everyone comes from a close-knit family or has a long list of traditions like I do and, to be honest, I feel bad for those people. I may complain about the chaos at times, but it’s these relatives and rituals that molded me.
Today I took part in my favorite family tradition: decorating the tree. Since I moved away, we’ve made a few modifications to this activity. After all, I don’t expect my family to wait till three days before Christmas to hang their ornaments. So mom and sis place ornaments after dad strings the lights, and when I come home I fill in the gaps.
Within this tradition, my family has several smaller traditions. First, and possibly my favorite, is the wooden tree ritual. At the end of each Christmas, my dad saws off the trunk of our tree and turns it into an ornament for the next year. He started this when he and my mom got married, and have continued it ever since. Each uniquely designed tree includes the year and a milestone for our family. Some have huge significance (1989 – Leah’s First Christmas), which others aren’t as important (1992 – Sarah Loves Pink). For this year tree, from 2011, my dad noted an event that was important to me: my graduation from Syracuse University. Even though I walked away with the diploma, it was truly a family effort to get me through those four years.
The other tradition is the yearly ornament from mom and dad. Every Christmas, my parents give my sister and I an ornament. They put a lot of thought into this, making sure to pick something significant (and different). This tradition began when we were born (1986 and 1989 for my sister and I, respectively), so we have acquired quite a few pieces. It’s gotten to the point where our ornaments and the trees are the only things hanging off the evergreen branches. I wonder will happen if my sister and I have out own families some day, and take these trinkets with us.
This year, my mom and dad gave us the perfect ornaments: a sugar cookie heart dipped into a tea-cup. Not only is it adorable, but there is so much meaning behind it. For starters, my mom, sister and I always had our daily tea time. When we came home from school, we’d sip on tea and enjoy a snack before starting our homework. If one of us has been out on errands, we call on the way home and ask someone to put the kettle on. Since I turned 21, my mom and I have also had a special “tea” time which involves a glass of wine before dinner, but we still honor the non-alcoholic tradition.
In addition to the tea aspect, my sister and I are both very into baking. My sister sees it as a way to use her free time, I see it as a way to distress, and we both use it to earn people’s love. My mom and dad never fail at ornament selection, but this may have been their best one yet.
I can’t wait for the next few days, which will be filled with family, friends, and tons of traditions. I hope your holidays are just as happy as mine.
What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? Share it below!