Saturday, December 24, 2011


I had a sixth grade teacher who once asked our class why we had traditions.  At 11 years of age, I think many of us asked her what she even meant by traditions.  She was talking about holidays, rituals and customs, of course.  Mrs. Dickerson posed that question long ago and here I am, 36 years later, still contemplating it.    


I suppose in December it's not surprising to think about Christmas – in terms of holiday traditions that is.  For most of us, there's a routine we typically follow this time of year:  cards are written, we make (and eat) lots of tasty treats, homes get decorated.  We write our lists – and check them twice – ensuring we don't miss a single thing. 


I've mentioned before that I'm an organized, list making person and – if I may digress for a moment – as many know, I've long employed the use of Post-It notes to aid me in my organizational strategy (see 5-23-10 Craig Wilson).  I rely on those little yellow squares to keep my mind calm and clutter free.  With everything that Christmas entails aside, these past few weeks have been busy ones for me and, as such, I had Post-It notes coming out my ears.  I had mini lists organizing what I needed for: my Dad's birthday party, my sister-in-law's birthday party, my impending house guests, my Thanksgiving contributions, and last, but certainly not least, the snack bag for our upcoming trip to Disney.  I'm already a single woman with two cats; did I really need to be that lady, too?  You know, the one with Post-It notes tacked all over the place?  What would be next, hoarding?  No, I'm not a hoarder.  I'm too neat and tidy to be in jeopardy of that, but the lists… (insert eye roll, add Oy vey).  To gain control over a burgeoning compulsive behavior problem, I pulled them all off the front of my fridge and stacked them in their chronological order of importance and placed them discreetly along side my grocery list.  Okay, disorder averted, back to traditions.


I mail Christmas cards out right after Thanksgiving.  In many of the cards I receive back, "Yours was the first one I got this year," is written in as a P.S. For these folks, that kicks off their holidays – "Oh, her card is here, 'tis the season!" 


I make peanut brittle each year for a few people who tell me Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it – and, naturally, that's why I do it.  I'd rather be a contributing part of their experience than one who diminishes it somehow by not having the crunchy confection for them. 


And, of course, the biggie – I decorate my house the very same day I put away the autumn decorations.  No better example for the passing of time than to box up what's past and prep for what's coming.  I set up the village and put all the knick-knacks in their designated places. 


When my family comes over, it's always my nephew who marvels at all the decorations.  "I turned the lights on in the village," he says with glee.  "They were waiting for you," I say in reply.  Already knowing the answer, he lightheartedly asks, "Are there Nestle Crunch jingle bells in the snowman jar?"  Amused, I just respond with a simple, "Yes."  After all, that's why they're there – I know he's going to ask.  "Oh, I love this guy," he says as he tumbles the small Santa shaker that's enthralled him for years.  Taking it all in, I smile and say, "I know you do." 


His joy has become part of my tradition and even when he's older, when he may no longer light the town, or want a chocolate jingle bell (although this isn't likely) or shake the little Santa snow globe, I'll remember his childhood enthusiasm and cherish the memories attached to those things. 


Griffin's nearing the age I was when Mrs. Dickerson posed that question: Why do we have traditions?  The answer is too deep for a child to really understand.  We have them because they anchor us to who we are, our past and what's important to us.  It's why nostalgia tugs at our heart strings – traditions are the ties that bind.


Merry Christmas,

~ M.