By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
Cultural traditions abound during the holidays. We honor those. But most families probably also have traditions of their own, which make sense only within the context of the family.
For instance, for Christmas Eve dinner, Chef Boyardee Ravioli. That tradition began in our family when we had four people dining. The four eventually became nine. The tradition lasted until long after I got married and moved away, and I honor it myself to this very Christmas.
When my sister and I were pre-teens with a baby brother, our second baby brother was born just before Christmas. He and Mom came home from the hospital on December 23. So much to do to get ready for Christmas day! And two babies to tend to. On the morning of December 24, Mom told the newborn, “Not a peep out of you. I have lots to do.” And the little angel never fussed all day.
Still, there was no time for Mom to cook. My sister and I didn’t know how. Dad bought a couple of cans of Chef Boyardee Ravioli. Voila. Christmas Eve dinner. And the start of a family tradition.
In my house, an artificial Christmas tree is another tradition. It doesn’t make much sense. Real trees are abundant, beautiful, perfect, affordable and, best of all, they smell wonderful.
But the first Christmas after Dick and I got married, we bought and decorated a real tree. Then both of us caught a horrible cold, the kind where your head feels like a bowling ball. We were too sick to water the tree. On the first day that I was able to drag myself out of bed and actually care about anything, the tree was dry. Dead needles congregating on the gold carpet offended my gradually-returning sense of tidiness.
Not wishing to clog the vacuum cleaner with all those needles – and not feeling strong enough to struggle with the vacuum cleaner anyway – I crawled around on the carpet, trying to sweep the needles into a dustpan with its companion brush. The dry needles with a dry brush in the dry house on the dry carpet had other ideas. The brush swooshing needles along the carpet gave them a static charge. I swept them into the dustpan, only to watch them jump out and re-attach themselves to the carpet. Being a person of at least moderate sense, I climbed back into bed vowing “Artificial tree from now on.” And so it is. Tradition.
Cats. For years, a friend and I exchanged Christmas gifts all about cats, because one year, my friend had gifted me with an actual cat. In fact, two cats. As that Christmas approached, our household lacked a cat. My friend was volunteer foster mother for an animal shelter, caring for a mother cat, who had been a pregnant stray, and her six kittens. A week before Christmas I adopted Mama Cat and one of her daughters, Peanut. My friend kept one of Peanut’s brothers. My friend’s brother adopted one of Peanut’s sisters. So we all became family, related not by blood or marriage, but by cat. At Christmastime, she and I gave each other cat books, cat decorations, cat calendars, and other cat gifts, enclosing treats for the cats themselves.
Here’s how it happens. You do something one Christmas. The following Christmas, somebody says, “Remember what we did last year? Let’s do it again.” The next year, Christmas doesn’t seem like Christmas without it. It is now, officially, Tradition.
Even if it makes no sense to anybody else.