Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas traditions

To me, Christmas is mainly a solstice celebration. Traditions of lights, music, family, and gifts bring warmth and light to the darkest time of the year. I’m not all that Christian, but my interpretation of Christmas does take one piece from Christianity: I think about Jesus’ teachings of treating all with love, so for me it’s a time to reach out to other people – to visit relatives, to give gifts, to send cards, to help the needy.

My family’s Christmas traditions have evolved over the years as our needs have changed. As of recent years, here’s how we celebrate Christmas: During the evening on Christmas Eve, we may sing Christmas carols and/or go to church. However, it’s not necessary to do anything. Christmas Day is the main day that we celebrate.

On Christmas morning, some of us go for a walk while others are still asleep. I think going for a walk is a good way to celebrate just about any holiday. Being outside in nature helps you appreciate the important things in life.

After everyone is awake and has had breakfast, and the walkers are back from their walk, we open our stockings. I guess some people have specific big, red, decorated Christmas stockings which one would not use for any other purpose. We use big socks that my mother wears as a layer between her regular socks and her boots. We used to have scraps of cloth with each person’s name on them which we pinned to each stocking. In later years, we used scraps of paper which we put in the top of the stocking or near the stocking. This year, my mother just remembered which is which by how the socks look, e.g. which is a bit more stretched at the top, which has her initials written on the toe with a permanent marker, etc.

What takes up the most room in the stockings is the fruit. We each get three or so apples or oranges. These are just taken from the kitchen and returned to the kitchen afterwards. Except some we keep in the living room and eat as we continue opening the stockings and presents.
Also in the stockings there may be some small item such as a pen, a small notebook, or some small, silly toy.

The other item in the stocking is a piece of paper with a list of scrambled words in it. Unscrambling our words is a way we spend time together at home that day and on subsequent days. When we make scrambled words for each other, we pick out words that are appropriate for that person. For example, my mother loves nature, snow, and Christmas, so for her I scramble words like “snowflake” and “spruce.”

After the stockings, we do the presents. One person hands out the presents. Only one present at a time can be opened, and everyone has to be present in the room when it is being opened. Sometimes we have to have a pause when someone runs out to get a snack from the kitchen or something.

We re-use our wrapping paper, ribbons, and labels. We have some wrapping paper that we have been using for over a decade, though we do eventually throw it out when it gets too worn out. We have a box for each in the center of the room. As soon as we unwrap something, we put the wrapping paper, ribbon, and label each in the appropriate box. That way, as soon as we are done unwrapping, the supplies are already ready for next year and we don’t have to clean them up. The key to being able to re-use wrapping paper is using ribbon to hold packages together, rather than the tape, which is what other people use. When you use tape, the wrapping paper tends to get more torn up as you unwrap it. However, when we get gifts wrapped by people who use tape, we do try to re-use the wrapping paper. And in giving gifts to other people, we may use tape when wrapping them, because why use a ribbon on someone who isn’t going to re-use it?

Most of us don’t like too much materialism or shopping, especially at malls. Some gifts are ordered online. One of us is old-fashioned enough to order by mailing in a paper order form. CD’s are a popular gift. In fact, my brother recently exclaimed, “I can’t wait until Christmas so we can open our presents and listen to them!” Homemade gifts are also good, such as a hand-knitted dishcloth or a compilation of family history information.

We do exchange lists of what we want for Christmas, but people also give gifts they think of that weren’t on the list.

After we finish opening the presents, we have a meal, usually cooked by my stepfather. We used to have spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad. This year, three out of five of us don’t eat wheat, so we probably won’t be having spaghetti. In fact it’s hard to think of anything we can all eat. However, one of the planned menu items is butternut squash. We had acorn squash on the 24th and buttercup squash on the 23rd. Butternut squash is my mother’s favorite, so she was saving it to have on Christmas.

After the meal is over, then we have the rest of the day to stay in together, working on our scrambled words and listening to our Christmas presents.

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