My post about December traditions sparked some story-telling among some friends. Some of the traditions were too good not to share, so I asked that they write them up for me. Enjoy and share yours too!
Forget the lovey-dovey Christmas memories. My favorite tradition involves trickery. My older brother and I were often at odds with each other, but Christmastime seemed to be the one time of year when we would join forces for a good cause….finding our Christmas presents. That’s my favorite memory: sneaking around the house each year to find our Christmas presents or unwrapping the ones under the tree and taping them back together! It may have been a terrible thing to do, but it’s something my brother and I can look back on years to come and laugh about.
My favorite Christmas tradition is baking Jesus a birthday cake. It’s the only “magical” thing about Christmas that I have as a child.
My sister is 5 years older, and I guess as her duty as an older sister she broke the news about Santa to me very early. I am pretty sure around 3 years old she said, “E, there is no Santa Claus.* Mom and Dad buy all our gifts. They hide them in this closet.” Then she proceeded to crack the door to the closet under the stairs and sure enough there were bags of wrapped presents. So I didn’t argue-what was I to do? She was my older sister. So wise. I just sort of nodded and we continued playing paper dolls.
Anyways, every Christmas Eve we gather around in the kitchen, my sister, my mom and me. The favorite part was who was going to be in charge of the theme to decorate the cake. Was my sister’s idea going to win or my own? I think mom went back and forth each year for fairness, but it always felt like such an honor if your idea was chosen! Sometimes it was a big, bright star, other times it was a green and red cross, the word “Jesus”. Or, if we were in a very festive mood, we put crosses and candy canes all over the top. Sometimes Jesus got a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, other times he got chocolate or yellow cake or even funfetti!
As we got older and busier, I remember the tradition often fading into the background until we would realize we hadn’t baked the cake yet! Then one sister would stay up late with mom and finish baking or icing into the night, while we were instructed to run through the living room with our eyes closed b/c Dad was putting out the gifts already.*
Then the best part came when on Christmas morning after all the gifts had been unwrapped we would go into the kitchen and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Dad has told the same joke for the past 30 years. “I guess the Holy Spirit will blow out the candles!” and then we roll our eyes, laugh, and blow out the candles as a family and raise a glass of Welch’s sparkling grape juice and remember why we are gathered around the table to celebrate!
Even last year as my mom was in the hospital I baked cupcakes and kept the tradition alive. Cupcakes seemed easier to take to the hospital to share with my mom that morning. So there we were gathered around her hospital bed eating cupcakes and drinking the sparkling grape juice out of Dixie cups that I had smuggled into her room!
*For the record I, Amy, do not subscribe to the aforementioned fabrication of the unbeliever! I was told long ago that if you stop believing, he stops coming (wink). For a great version of the real story of Santa, see this book.)
My family is very funny about traditions. My sisters and I have things we do every Christmas that have become traditions, but every year our parents don’t remember that from the year before, so they think it is the first time we have done it that way. But if tradition is defined by something you do every year, we have several of those.
My sisters are 4 and 8 years younger than me. Every year on Christmas Eve, they would make a palette on the floor of my bedroom and we would all sleep there, waking up way too early and opening presents. Several years, I would wake up, open presents, then go back to sleep. This continued through high school, and my first Christmas back from college, it was a very sweet moment when we all shared a bedroom for one last time waiting for Christmas morning.
The other tradition I’ll talk about is rather amusing. Every year our family cooks these gourmet Christmas meals that most people rave about. My sisters and I are somewhat picky eaters, and given the options we would choose the traditional ham or turkey. So, the first Christmas that I was able to drive, my sisters and I snuck out of the house to eat food that sounded a little more appetizing. Well, as you might guess, not many restaurants are open on Christmas Day. So, that Christmas of 1996 we found ourselves celebrating over a Mexican feast. Almost every year since, we have stolen away to the Mexican restaurant to have our small sibling Christmas lunch. Some of the family may be on to us, but they play ignorant as we move food around on our plates. Not many people associate fajitas and salsa with the birth of Christ, but for my sisters and me it is a very special time. Feliz Navidad.