Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Our (Changing) Family Traditions

on December 21, 2010

Amanda and I (Samantha) are sharing this post today. We figured this only makes sense since we grew up with the same traditions. Also, there will not be a post on Friday because of Christmas Eve.


The longest running tradition in our family started at my very first Christmas in 1978.  A couple of weeks before Christmas, Mom realized that she wanted to get me a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. Those of you who follow Hallmark ornaments know about the hundreds of different ornaments that they come out with every year. However, back in the late 70s, this wasn’t the case. There were only a few ornament that mom could choose from. They were four inch balls with a plastic picture wrapped around it.  While by today’s standards, it was a little lame, I still love it because it was my first one.

The next year, Mom got another ornament for me, and this tradition continued. When Amanda came along, Mom started buying her ornaments as well. At some point in the early 1980s, Hallmark switched over to figurine style ornaments, and then it all went crazy.  Mom was great at picking out ornaments that reflected what was going on in our lives at that time.  I have a small mouse which is using his hat as a parachute. It was called “Hang In There.” This was especially poignant since I was really struggling academically that fall. Hallmark also has series, which are great and horrible at the same time. In 1991, I received an adorable puppy hanging on a candy cane. It was the first in a series of dogs in various Christmas situations.  Fast forward to last week – I just received number 20 in the series. And it’s not done yet. I love them all, but seriously? I feel obligated to get them so I can have them all.

Anyway, this tradition ended this year with Amanda’s 30th Christmas (Amanda’s interjection: holy crap! My 30th Christmas?!?!?). Our tree over the years has been full of very personal ornaments that bring back great memories. I’ll miss the ornaments, but unless we wanted to invest in a 10 foot tree, I think it’s a good time to end this great tradition.

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

Image by djwudi via Flickr

Another tradition that started at some point in the early 1980s was the choice of music to which we would the decorate the Christmas tree.  Somewhere a long the line, my parents bought the cassette tape of John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together. Before long, that was the only music we could listen to while decorating the tree.  It even got to the point that Amanda and I would not allow anyone to listen to it until we had decorated the tree.  To this day, if I’m listening to the radio and one of those songs come on, I’ll change the station if we haven’t decorated the tree yet (Amanda: Me too!).


The last Christmas tradition our family observed occurred on Christmas Eve. Every year, we were able to open one present on Christmas Eve, and every year it was a pair of pajamas. As we progressed in age, we went from footie pajamas to satin pajamas. It was great as we were growing up because we always grew out of our pajamas from the previous year. Alas, both Samantha and I stopped growing far sooner than we had hoped (Samantha Interjection: Seriously!), and after that, the pajamas started piling up. We decided to end that tradition a couple of years ago.

Christmas continues to morph for me. A few years before we got married, my husband and I bought a place and moved in together. Our first Christmas together was interesting as we tried to blend our traditions. Fortunately, most of my traditions came from tree decorating to Christmas Eve while his were focused on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Darren comes from a fairly traditional Italian family. He’s the third generation off the boat, and the Italian traditions remain strong in his family. I was a bit taken aback our first Christmas Eve together where we went out for a huge Italian meal. First there was the antipasti, then the main course, and then coffee and dessert back at his parents’ house.  Keep in mind, dessert isn’t just a pie and some cookies. Most years, there’s at least one dessert per person. Growing up, Christmas Eve dinners were usually light, quick and easy. Sometimes we’d make pizza, other times it might be breakfast. The rest of the evening was spent watching Christmas movies.

In the last few years, Darren and I have hosted Christmas Eve dinner at our place. In the Italian tradition, no meat is to be eaten on Christmas Eve. Instead, we celebrate the Feast of the 7 Fishes. I don’t think we’ve quite hit 7 separate fish yet, but we usually average about 5. Back when Darren’s dad was growing up, after midnight, out would come the sausages, chicken, veal and other meats that had been prohibited earlier in the day. For better or for worse, we haven’t gotten to that level yet. I enjoy hosting dinner for my husband’s family. I feel it’s our contribution toward keeping their traditions alive.

I’m sure over the years we’ll continue to navigate blending our traditions, and coming up with new ones once we decide to have kids. At some point, I’ll have to start retiring some of my ornaments from my childhood to make room on the tree for the new ones my kids will get on tree-decorating-day.  I’m sure they’ll like all the good food on Christmas Eve and then getting into their new jammies and crawling into bed to wait for Santa Claus. I just hope they prefer the carols of the Muppets over something from their time, because it’s just not Christmas without the Muppets (Samantha Interjection: Amen!).

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: