This year, we had to wait until Saturday to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family. My 6-year old Emily was beside herself because of this major holiday transgression. She insisted to me that, “people will come to our house and see that we don’t have turkey and think we’re not a Thanksgiving family.” When I suggested that we just won’t answer the door on Thanksgiving, Emily gave the sigh that only 6-year old girls can give, accompanied with her newly acquired eye roll, and stomped off.
A few days later, we drove home from our belated Thanksgiving weekend and our neighborhood was lit up with Christmas lights. Emily gave an enthusiastic, “It’s beautiful!”
Then we turned into our dark driveway.
Emily took one look at our undecorated house, gave The Sigh and said, “This is ridiculous.” Once again her parents had failed to meet her expectations.
I pointed out that there were some other houses not yet lit up. I pointed out that we’d just, that very second, returned home from a trip. I pointed out that it wasn’t even December. She replied, “Give me a break. It’s Christmas!”
Emily is a tradition-keeper. She makes it her personal responsibility to make sure her parents don’t miss a beat during the holidays. And unfortunately, according to Emily, I’m slow. Our home isn’t decorated the moment the turkey’s cleared from the Thanksgiving table; it becomes festive sometime the next week. I think Emily wonders how she ended up in this family when she was surely better suited for a family of elves in the North Pole.
I understand her angst because I was the keeper of traditions in my family. Every family has their own way of doing the holidays and, in my family, I made sure everyone was reminded of our way. Because, if we followed our traditions: the Christmas Eve service then one gift on Christmas Eve, Santa gifts first on Christmas morning, followed by stockings and pastries, and culminating with present opening – then the magic would work. Because that’s what tradition keepers crave – the magic. And sometimes they have to work to make sure the magic happens despite slow parents.
In addition to keeping the old traditions, Emily loves to start new ones. In this regard, Emily has combined forces with another powerful, family tradition-maker and keeper: her great-grandmother. My grandmother is personally responsible for most of our new traditions. The packages from her start coming in late November and are filled with new ways to keep the advent (an advent cabin!), Gingerbread houses, and new Christmas books. I’m convinced that my grandmother and Emily must be secretly communicating and plotting all year long. (And if there was ever a force to be reckoned with, it’s the combination of Emily and her great-grandmother.) Emily’s parents may be her biggest hurdle to overcome but her great-grandmother is her biggest ally.
Last year we took the kids to Bass Pro to take pictures with Santa Claus. They had the best Santa. The kids were pretty sure he was the real deal. I won’t describe the experience with words because the picture says it all:
In my mind, while the picture is priceless, the experience was one I had NOT planned on repeating. However, Keith and I recently had the following conversation:
Keith: When are we taking the kids to Santa at Bass Pro?
Me: What? We’re going back there?
Keith: Yeah, it’s a tradition now.
Somebody pass the eggnog.
Does your family have a tradition-keeper? Any unique traditions?