Ritual and Tradition

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas- a complicated history with a great and horrible time. Christmas, it seems, brings out the very best and the very worst in people. In a recent post I rambled on and on about the evils of Christmas. I wrote about how I hate the “capitalism on crack” aspect of it all, the greediness, how those who need are those who go without, and us- the ones who have everything under the sun, receive more shit to store in the basement once the shiny-newness-feel- great -about -all -of -my- stuff sentiment wears off. Don’t get me wrong- I still feel this way- Matt and I stopped into a mall on the weekend (trust me- it will be the ONLY mall that I go into for a LONG time) and it was chaotic hell. 

But- there is so much I love about Christmas too. I was thinking about this while drinking coffee this morning here at work and I think I figured out why I love it so much. Obviously- it’s about people- family, relationships and love. But perhaps what makes Christmas so special with our loved ones is the rituals and traditions that we have.  
There is something incredibly comforting about knowing how the holidays work. I know that Christmas morning- my brother will obnoxiously enter into my room and tell me to get my ass out of bed- and I’ll marvel at how frigging early it is, and how every year- despite how LAZY Evan is- he’ll make it out of bed before me- bright eyed and bushy tailed. My mom will make coffee and then we’ll sit around in our living room and open our stockings- one. wrapped. item. at. a time.
Since I was little- my mom wrapped all of our stocking gifts individually- which made opening them so exciting. Like my brother’s freakish early morning rising on Christmas day- his patience and genuine joy in GIVING his gifts to us has always surprised me. For as long as I can remember Evan and I have always filled a stocking for our mom- when we were really young, our Grandma helped us buy things, but for the past 10 years probably, Evan and I have done it ourselves. I think because our parents are divorced and because my mom always made a stocking for Ev and I, we thought that we should make one for her- and now, looking back at our younger selves I feel a deep sense of pride- like I can look back on Ev and I as small kids buying our mom probably completely random stuff for her stocking and how appreciative she was of us- and how much we loved doing it for her. I can’t speak for everyone from single parent families, but I know for my brother and I- our mom literally was and still is everything to us- anyone who knows her can attest to her strength, competence and compassion. So making a stocking for her has always been something that we find great joy in- it’s a tradition and part of why I love Christmas. 
Like I mentioned before too- Christmas is so meaningful because I can physically see how much my mom and my brother love to give gifts. I think we all can understand this feeling- when you have tenderly searched for the perfect gift for someone that you love- and there is so much suspense and excitement as they open it- because you want them to love the gift that you’ve chosen for them. You want them to feel loved. I’m always shocked at how emotional I can be at Christmas- last year, because I know my mom would be selling the house this year, I copied the pencil marks on one of our doorways that documented our growth all those years in our house. I put it in a frame and of course, my mom cried when we gave it to her- and then I got teary eyed– because it meant something- to her and to me. I love that part of Christmas- the joy of giving and receiving- especially gifts that have lasting meaning and significance- gifts that weren’t purchased on a whim in some hellish mall, but rather gifts that include a bit of heart, a lot of love or time–gifts where the person has literally given you a piece of themselves. I love that.
 I love the silly traditions that don’t have an obscene amount of meaning, but are just things that you do every year and love. For us, we usually watch a movie on Christmas eve– the past couple of years it’s been Love Actually (Mom’s request) and a favourite of mine. We always skip dinner and eat a random assortment of finger foods and mozzarella sticks and mini spring rolls. I have no idea why we do this- but I love it. Then on Christmas morning- we eat an artery clogging breakfast of eggs benedict. Delicious. 
Decorating the Christmas tree is another tradition that I love. The last couple of Christmases I have been fortunate enough to be with Matt’s family when they decorate their tree. I love to hear all of the stories of the ornaments, where they came from, or how Matt’s mom sewed her own ornaments the first few years of their marriage because they didn’t have any decorations. That history is so rich and the stories that are shared during the decorating of the Christmas tree are so meaningful and full of lives lived and memories kept. I felt so lucky to be a part of that- to add my own ornament to their beautiful tree. 
Finally- (hello, welcome to story time with Cait…) at my Dad and Sam’s house Evan and I have always had stockings. When we were really little they bought us these stockings that have bear heads on them-like the size of a normal teddy bear’s head. It’s weird now writing about it- I mean bear head stockings- weird, but yes, we have almost always had these. When Sam bought them for us- she also got us glitter glue and fabric markers to write our names on them. I think Ev was really small and needed help so Sam just wrote his name in sparkle glue. But ME- being the INCREDIBLY artistic and creative person I am – decided that rather than writing my name on the spot where it should go- would do a “design” on Teddy’s giant head. So, I “drew” (read: scribbled) a Christmas tree on his big white head. It’s hideous. I proceeded to attempt to write my name, but can now see that its illegible. My stocking looks ridiculous- but now, countless years later, I love seeing that stupid bear- and I love hearing the story that mine looks idiotic because I refused help and considered myself the child prodigy of Picaso. I was so wrong- but my 25 year old self loves the unabashedness ( is that a word?)  of my six year old self. 
See- I’m not scrooge- I don’t hate Christmas. I just hate all of the pressure, the spending, the running around. How much better is it to just BE with the people you love rather than battle the masses the mall to find some stupid gift that will end up in a landfill some day. The rituals, the traditions, and specifically the time spent with family and friends are the only things that will last. 
I hope that you have many traditions and rituals to look forward to with your family this Christmas. 
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3 thoughts on “Ritual and Tradition

  1. My brothers and I use to race to see who could get up earliest on Christmas Morning and open their stocking first. We often would get up at 3 or 4am and then watch bad TV untill our parents woke up at a more reasonable hour. The one year I won was the last year we played the game.

  2. ha ha…that’s a great story. i’m the youngest, and was always up first. i would be sent from bedroom to bedroom, always told by sleeping family members to get so-and-so up first, and then they would get up. christmas morning was also the only morning i ever saw my parents in house coats — ha ha…my mom has an emerald green beauty!
    -tal

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