What do you do for Christmas? Do you have any traditions that you love? Is there anything, now that you’re an adult, that you’ve done since you were a kid during the holiday season? Of course I mean other than the obvious Santa or Menorah things…
Am I the only one who can honestly answer, ‘Not a dang thing?’
I’ve obviously been thinking about Christmas a lot recently- you know if you’re a follower- and when you couple that with an impending resolution to write at least two times a week in the New Year (you’re welcome Readers), you’re just going to get caught up in a lot more of my ramblings.
If you’ve read anything here, or know me, or follow me on social media, or if you’ve ever heard my name before, you’re likely aware that I have up and moved my family from Northern Nevada (originally a California girl) to Middle Tennessee. This Christmas, marks our first Christmas on our farm, away from family. So because I want to ‘make it special’ for my kids (what does that even mean?) I’ve been reflecting on traditions that I have from my childhood and traditions I want to create with my kids.
Okay, here’s the truth: Ever since I’ve been married, I’ve been attempting to create traditions on- or around- Christmas and Christmas Eve. Every single year. I’m sure my husband has just had it up to here with me and my ‘traditions’ but you know what, childhood is so special and so fleeting… I just want to capture it. I just want to find a way to create something, and then repeat it, so that we can bring it back when it’s gone. I know one day- many, many, many years from now- my babies will be grown, and my prayer is that the traditions and memories that we’ve created as a family in their childhood, bring them home every year.
Yes, in the end, it’s a completely selfish desire and it’s not for the kids at all.
So here is what we’ve got from my childhood…
From the time I was very young, until I was starting middle school, Christmas was dialed in my family. We had it locked down. Christmas Eve was with my dad’s family- although the location changed, the lively crowd never did- and Christmas day was with my mom’s family. Christmas morning, I woke up at home (something I’m pretty unwilling to budge on now that I’m a mom, thus the across-the-country-from-family this year) and we explored the reward of our good behavior that year. Then we got dressed and ready and headed over to Grandma’s house- my mom’s mom. There, we met up with my Uncle David and his family and we did round two of presents (I guess it would be round three, if you include Christmas Eve with my dad’s crew) and we ate dinner as a family.
Simple. Straight forward. Never changing. I believe that’s the stuff of traditions.
Well, then my mom and dad got divorced and things got complicated. I can’t recall what happened those first few years, but the gist of it is: although there were two or three Christmas’ after that, where my sister and I saw my dad’s side of the family, they were few and far between.
BUT, we still always did Christmas day the same way- wake up at home, go to Grandma’s, eat dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin.
Eventually, my Grandpa and Grandma both passed away. My Grandpa when I was 13 or 14 and my Grandma when I was 18. So although we woke up at home, Santa wasn’t coming anymore (or at least not in the same way as he came before I was 7), and we weren’t headed over to my Grandma’s house anymore.
But my mom hijacked the tradition, and happily, we had my aunt and uncle over for Christmas day and dinner for many years after that. As a matter of fact, it remained this way until I became a mother myself.
Well, for the most part, and in some form I guess I should say…
My first Christmas as a married woman, was actually spent in much the same way my first Christmas as a farmer’s wife will be spent… away.
Away from family, away from tradition, away from anything known or familiar.
At that point, I was 25 and I had never spent a Christmas day away from my mom, sister, aunt, uncle or cousin. It was the last thing we could count on- the last tradition that was still the same from the time I was a child- and I broke it.
Thomas was in tech school in the military and he and I lived in San Angelo, Texas (yes, you’ll have to look it up), in a 450 square foot apartment. It was a glamorous life in those days, my friends. And because I was in such unrest at having abandoned the very last thing I had to hold onto from my childhood Christmas memories, I was desperate to FORCE a tradition into our marriage that we would start in Texas and carry every single Christmas from then on.
This might be a good time to let y’all in on the fact that I have OCD. Things just can’t be things, I need to control said things. This was one of those ‘things.’
I came up with a number of ‘things’ that we needed to do on Christmas that year, but the only thing I can remember now is that I insisted on us having hot chocolate first thing in the morning, while we opened presents. I’ll be honest, at some point, almost every single Christmas since, I remember this would-be tradition and attempt to force it in. It never lands.
That cold Christmas in Texas, Thomas and I- who had just lost his family Golden Retriever only a few days before Christmas that year- decided to go see Marley and Me at the theatre. Although I had hoped that we would become one of those families who go to the movies on Christmas, I have to say that this movie and our recent loss added up to a big fat failed tradition.
Skip ahead to the following year, and things were back to normal- Christmas at the Harris house! But things were never really quite the same after that year we broke tradition… it was the whole get-married-and-have-a-new-family thing that really threw a wrench in the spokes!
I remember the first year we were married. We woke up at my mom’s and did Christmas morning there. Then we went over to the Cunningham’s and had Christmas breakfast and stockings. Then we headed back to my mom’s to help start dinner and do Christmas with my aunt and uncle. Then we popped back over to the Cunningham’s for presents with Tom’s sisters. Then we drove back to my mom’s to do Christmas dinner. Then it was one more trip back to the Cunningham’s for Christmas dessert. And of course, then we went home to my mom’s to a) go to bed and b) swear on our future children’s Christmas happiness that we would NEVER do that again.
After that, Thomas spent six years in the civilian fire service, once he left active duty, and of those six years, I can remember maybe ONE Christmas where he wasn’t working. So there goes any chance at a ‘traditional’ Christmas tradition. It became such that we did Christmas with Thomas and his family when he was home (either before or after actual Christmas) and I was free to spend actual Christmas day with my family and my kids. Yes, there were a few years, even after we moved to Nevada and had kids, that we found ourselves away from OUR home on Christmas morning.
When I was pregnant with Gage, we moved into an enormous house in Genoa, Nevada. That’s the house I recently moved from, and that’s the house I miss. My business had grown to a point where Thomas was free to leave his career in the fire service to be home with us, and so we decided that we were going to hijack Christmas for ourselves. It was time that we started to write the story of Christmas for our kids and our new family.
When I was young, I couldn’t help but notice that my aunt and uncle (and I know my aunt will read this, so hear me out Aunt Dee!) always seemed to put their family first, before our greater, larger family. Often times, when I was a kid, I would see them make a decision that would sometimes be disappointing or compromise the unity of the larger family as a whole. If I’m being honest, I thought it was selfish. I didn’t understand how the simple, small family unit could ever outweigh the joy of bringing the larger group together.
But oh, do I understand now. You were never selfish in the way I viewed it, Aunt Dee, you were admirable. And now I totally get it.
Man, that’s the amazing thing about perspective… it’s ever changing, when you allow yourself the glory of seeing things from another side. There is ALWAYS another angle, and things will absolutely look different when you gain a new perspective.
All that to say, two years ago, with a brand spankin’ new baby, I shattered any resemblance of my childhood tradition and I decided that I would host Christmas at my house in Nevada. My kids were going to wake up in their bed on Christmas morning, dang it, even if it meant that I had likely spent one of the last Christmas’ with my aunt, uncle and cousin. You see, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t hang onto the past AND make room for the future…
So in 2015 and 2016, I had the great pleasure of hosting and housing my mom and sister, as well as my in laws. Christmas Eve was spent at our home church- which was very important for us as a family, and something we wanted to do with our kids- and then we gathered at my in laws house (who had, at that point, become Nevadians) for a meal together. Christmas morning was at my house. Christmas day was at my house, with the exception of a jaunt over to the in laws for traditional stockings (something they’ve managed to hang onto over the years). And Christmas dinner was at my house.
Glory, be to God, it’s the way I would have written it if I could have written it. OH, and there was snow. Both years, our Christmas’ were white.
And that brings us to 2017…
…I guess that’s the tradition…
It kind of just occurred to me as I’m write this… we’re home. And the house that exists in my head- the one we’ll build in the next year or so on this farm- will be the home where my children will remember being every single Christmas. It’s the home I hope they will bring their kids to in an effort to hang onto the magic of tradition from their childhood.
But I guess I’ll understand if they decide to hijack Christmas for themselves too.
What I’m realizing as I’m walking through all of this with you is this: I feel peace this year. Although I’m sad at the things I WON’T be doing, and I’m going to miss my family terribly, I’m so blessed because of the things I get to do, and the family that I get to be with- my very own. Everyone is busy rushing around and getting everything together to be here and there any everywhere over the next few days and I’m really looking forward to wearing leggings, not showering and going with the flow on Christmas day.
And just as I wrote that last sentence, I do believe our newest family tradition has been born…
Thanks for coming along with me on this saunter down memory lane. Doesn’t Christmas just warrant such reminiscences and reflection? I look forward to seeing how the next two days unfold. And you better believe I’ll be back here soon, letting you all in on all the thoughts, lessons and of course, perspectives that I gain from our first Christmas… home.