When I was a kid we had some traditions that were more circumstantial than planned. We celebrated Christmas in a different house every year. Every house was our home at the time, at least we rented it. Sometimes we would wait until Christmas Eve and go find a leftover tree in an abandoned lot and decorate it that night. I kind of enjoyed that. It wasn’t the prettiest tree but it was a challenge to find and trim. Occasionally, we had generous Christmases because a local church decided to donate toys to us. I really didn't like that. The toys and clothes were great, but if my Dad were more responsible, it wouldn't have been necessary.
Most of the time we had really generous Christmases! My mom made sure of that! I’m not sure how she did it. Single parent homes can have a tough time at Christmas. I’m sure my grandmother, friends, and other relatives helped sometimes. But with six children to buy for, it was a challenge for her. I think the reason we celebrated in a different house (or apartment) every year is that she opted for Christmas presents instead of paying rent.
I learned the joy of Christmas from my Mom! But the really nice Christmases were those when my Dad was there too, that is, if he wasn't drinking. Here’s the thing some of us don’t understand about kids (and we would understand them better if we would just remember how it was when we were kids). They want both of their parents to be around and want to love and be loved by both.
I looked for things for which to give my dad credit. But I overlooked things for which I should have given my mom credit. My dad passed away a few years ago and while I give him a hard time when I write about fatherhood, I always looked for the good things in him when I was a young boy. My mom didn't get that free pass. She didn't really need it. Thankfully, she is still alive and as loving as ever. She is a hero of mine!
Now my own family has our traditions. We meet with my mom, and other members of our extended clan at our farmhouse on Christmas Eve. We eat heartily, laugh, and play games. One of my favorite things is to go to the dollar store prior to our get-together, buy a bunch of inexpensive toys, and play Christmas Bingo with all the kids! They love to play and get a kick out of the cheap toys they win. Even my 20 year old nephew likes to play (and he usually gives his winnings to the younger kids).
That night we all go back to our homes and have smaller gatherings with other traditions. For about 10 years now, our neighbors’ daughter and son bring us mimosas on Christmas morning. Their tradition has become our tradition too. We’ll miss it when they stop. And when the grandchildren come over after opening their presents at home, my wife Kathy and I are in family heaven! Since Kathy makes everyone open one present at a time, it can take a while. But that too has become a tradition.
I like our traditions better now than when I was a kid. It has nothing to do with being in the same house for 24 years now, or more presents, or a nicer Christmas tree. It’s because all the moms and all the dads being with all of our children having fun and enjoying the holidays together. We are very fortunate!! Merry Christmas to everyone!