As the holiday season drew near this year, thoughts of creating lasting holiday traditions started swirling around in my mind. I envisioned beginning a ritual around the tree. In my vision, we'd head out to a local tree farm on the day after Thanksgiving to cut our own tree with Christmas carols playing on the radio on the drive there and back. That night, we'd decide amongst the piles and piles of ornaments we've accumulated over the years on this year's "theme" for the tree, and get them all organized and ready to go. We'd decorate it the following day, Saturday, singing along to more carols, sipping hot cocoa (well, you're a bit young for that yet, obviously), maybe a silly holiday movie on in the background. When the last ornament had been hung, Daddy would hoist you up to place the star all cattywampus atop the tree.
It didn't happen that way, and I couldn't help but be a little bit disappointed. Your daddy had to work the whole weekend after Thanksgiving, so we didn't get our tree until the week after that. It was so bitterly cold that Daddy ended up going by himself and getting a pre-cut tree from the vendor in a nearby parking lot. Daddy put the lights on while I was grocery shopping, and I have to admit, my heart broke a little when I saw that he'd already put the star on top, too. When we decided to go with black and silver for trimming the tree, we quickly put the ornaments on while you played nearby. There was no cocoa, no singing, no stopping to appreciate the moment at all, really.
You were, of course, oblivious. You're still too young to understand the concept of holidays, the spirit of Christmas, or why on earth we brought a tree into the house. You won't remember this holiday season or the fact that we didn't start a tree-trimming-tradition this year. There was really no reason for me to feel bad that my vision of a holiday ritual would have to wait for another year...or would it?
After we finished decorating the tree, I was a little sad that none of your ornaments were on it, since they didn't fit with the black and silver theme, and I'm "like that" when it comes to that sort of thing. So, Daddy went and got a branch that he'd cut off the bottom of the tree, and I put in a vase in your room, and decorated it with your ornaments (except the one you got for your birthday from your Great Aunt Roxanne, which is still mixed in with a jumble of gift bags and cards from your birthday party!). Voila. Your very own "tree"! How's that for starting a new tradition?
Like I said before, you won't remember our tree this year, or how it came to be decorated. When it comes to creating lasting holiday memories, elaborate rituals are not required. It's the little, simple things that you're likely to remember. When you get old enough to help more in the kitchen, maybe you'll remember us baking cookies together while Daddy sneaks spoonfuls of dough. Maybe you'll remember choosing and cutting down our own tree as family, which we WILL do...maybe next year? And you'll remember that you always got to have your very own "tree" to decorate however you liked. You'll remember that you got to have a variety of celebrations; celebrating the Winter Solstice at home, and celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with grandparents galore.
When I think back to my childhood, I don't remember what theme the tree had, or on what day we decorated it. I remember my mom's peanut butter kiss cookies. (Hey mom, if you're reading this, remind me to get that recipe from you!) I remember waking up each morning with your Aunt Janelle and racing to the kitchen to open up the little doors on our advent calendars to eat that day's piece of chocolate. I remember the scratchy fiberglass "snow" from the Nativity Scene that your Grandma Bev put out every year. I remember running around the tree farm looking at all the trees; trees that were painted blue, trees that were left their natural color, even trees that sparkled! I remember wrestling around in the snow with Aunt Janelle while your Grandpa Rudy set to work cutting down the tree we chose.
As I grow nostalgic, pondering these holiday memories, I realize that the most important and significant traditions are those that just sort of happen. You can't plan them, and you certainly can't force them into existence. The look of joy on your face every morning when I lift you out of your crib and you catch a glimpse of your own little tree and reach for one of the shiny little balls on it tells me that when it comes to creating happy holiday memories, we're doing just fine.
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