Merry Christmas everyone!
This has always been one of my favorite holidays, so on this Christmas Eve Day I thought I’d reflect on some holiday memories from my childhood, and some new traditions that Mr. Trekker and I are implementing into our own, little family.
Trekker Family Traditions
Family Christmas traditions are funny, and growing up, my family was no exception. Time for a bit of a confession…I never really believed in Santa (shocking, I know 😮). Some people think that’s sad, but I was always richly blessed during this time of the year, so I never felt like I missed out on much. Below are some of the reasons why I went without this holiday tradition:
1) We didn’t have a fireplace growing up, so even as a child, my overly logical, skeptical mind was like, “ummm…how would that work?”
2) My mom always put presents under the tree when she was done wrapping them. I’m not sure how this got started, but to me, a tree looks naked if there are no presents under it (and yes, I still do this too.) Also, I always helped her shop for, and wrap, presents for my cousins, so I kinda figured that if she was “Santa” for them…it’s pretty obvious who Santa was for me! 😉 Also, also, inevitably, I always ended up finding one of my presents before the big day and it was ALWAYS on accident (truly!) One year, my mom sent me to her closet to get something for her, completely forgetting one of my unwrapped presents was hidden in there! 😂
3) I grew up in a very religious family, especially on my dad’s side, so that aspect of the holiday was always stressed more than Santa or the gifts (Grandpa and Uncle were pastors after all 😉). I think this was good though, as it always helped me to keep the commercialism of the holiday in perspective.
One tradition we had for a few years, when the kids were young, is to have a birthday cake for Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. We even got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Him (and there was cake so…😁!) If Little Trekkers ever end up invading our home, that’s one tradition I definitely want to keep. I think it’s such a cool, fun way to help keep the true meaning of Christmas front-and-center for kids!
4) Most of my Christmas memories from my childhood are from the BIG gatherings we used to have at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. The WHOLE family (we’re talking like 20 people) would gather there, with mounds of presents stacked everywhere. After dinner, we always dressed in our best (I usually got a pretty, new dress each year, several times my mom even made them!) and we went to the Christmas Eve church service, which has always been my favorite of the whole year. The church would be decked out in beautiful lights and decorations, and it would always end with a moving version of “Silent Night”, lit only by candlelight. Then, the lights would be brought back up, and while we basked in the acrid, sulphuric smoke that wafted from the tips of the blown-out candles (I LOVE that smell), we’d be sent off to a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World!”
Then we’d return to Grandma’s house for…PRESENTS!
The story my grandfather told me for starting the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve was that my mom and her three siblings used to wake my grandparents up REALLY early on Christmas morning to open presents (of course). The “old folks” didn’t like it, so…they started opening presents Christmas Eve instead, so they could sleep in Christmas morning! 🤣 (To be fair, my mom disputes this story. 😂 ) I always thought I was lucky, all the other kids had to wait a whole other sleep to get their presents, HA! 😉
Changing Holiday Traditions
As an adult, the holidays always seem a little weird, especially when you move far away and only return occasionally. They say you “can’t go back again” and in many ways this is true. The experience is never quite the same as the rose-colored memories you have from childhood.
I have SO MANY amazing memories associated with this holiday. I find these days though, my feelings are somewhat bittersweet. I still LOVE all the shiny lights, carols, the beauty and peace of a candlelit church service, and time spent with family…but Christmas doesn’t quite feel the same as I remember as a kid. For the last 10 years or so, things have been changing, as all of us “kids” have been moving out (and away) and getting busy with our own lives.
You watch once vibrant grandparents age, slow, and eventually, one year, become only a memory…so all the memories made with them start to dim, as well.
It just never quite feels the same as the days when Grandma would crawl around on the floor with us kids, with silly string in her hair. One year the tree fell over on her as she rooted around for that last Christmas present (true story, there is video evidence of this somewhere!) 😁
Relatives or childhood friends you were once almost inseparable from, you may now find you have little to discuss with outside the updates you’re already aware of from social media. While some family members are lost, new ones are added (both through marriage and birth). While these are, certainly, blessings, the additional people–and their responsibilities to their own families–create complexities of their own.
Traditions change. What used to be a gathering at grandma’s house, of what seemed like 100 people (when you were 5), is now a smaller group sitting around another table, or even gathering at a restaurant where you can pay a stranger to cook for you and clean up afterwards! 😉 It’s almost impossible to get everybody together at the same time anymore. We all live all over the country and we’re all busy with our own families (and families-in-law). Even on the rare occasions we DO all get together, there are so many other distractions (many of us have young kids of our own now).
It just isn’t the same as when we used to stay up till 3 am on Christmas Eve, my cousins and I, playing with our new toys together, while the adults played cards in the other room…
Your concept of family may change too. It’s no longer just about blood-relations (especially as various in-laws or step-family members are added). Not everyone was blessed with a close-knit, loving family. Others may have no close family left, or those that remain may live too far away to visit with every holiday. For many, friends make a wonderful, adoptive family.
There is always a sense of loss, of family members, and “the old ways”. One of the only real guarantees we have in life is that things WILL change. This can be a good thing, though. We can store up wonderful memories of bygone days, continue some old traditions from times past while seeking to embrace new practices that will carry with them wonderful memories of their own.
Mr. Trekker and I have started to develop our own traditions. Christmas Eve I make homemade lasagna, then we open presents with my parents (gotta keep that tradition!) before heading off to our own late evening, candlelit, church service. We also like to watch a “big” Christmas movie that night, like “It’s a Wonderful Life”. 😁 Then, before bed, we read “The Night Before Christmas”. (When I was a kid we often read the Christmas story out of the Book of Luke, from the Bible, but now we kinda figure we’ve just heard it at church, so… 😉) Then…for the big finale…we have a little slumber party in the living room with the dog, under the glowing lights of the Christmas tree! Who needs kids to have fun?! 😂
This year is going to look different, thanks to COVID. There won’t be any beautiful, brightly lit church service, 😕 but we will get to spend the first Christmas in the Black Hills with my parents, so that will be a nice change.
When Christmas morning comes, we start it off with homemade zucchini bread. Then, it’s finally present time with Mr. Trekker’s side of the family (we’ve been “Zooming” Christmas morning with relatives who live in far-off places for years, long before COVID made it cool! 😝) Then it’s time for the big, Christmas dinner! Finally, we end the evening on the couch watching “A Christmas Story” (the one with Ralfie…”you’ll shoot your eye out!”)
Change is inevitable, but I will CHERISH those Christmas memories from when I was a kid for the rest of my life. But I am also excited to make new memories, in the new situations we find ourselves, and with the new friends and family who may be joining us in the years to come.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Enjoy your traditions with your own friends and families (be they blood-relation or otherwise and whether they are in-person or virtual) this holiday. Merry Christmas to you all (and as Tiny Tim would say, “God Bless us, everyone!” 😉)
Tell me about your family’s Christmas traditions in the comments!
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