Long standing traditions are one of the most comforting aspects of the holidays. Children especially, cherish those recurring once a year events – the cookie making, the tree trimming, gatherings with cousins rarely seen. As a child, I looked forward to the big holiday party at my Aunt Mary’s house, where all my cousins and I would gather on Christmas eve in giddy excitement, wondering what presents we would be opening in the morning.
But my favorite Christmas tradition was mine alone, both in its invention and execution. I grew up in the 60’s, and for a number of years we had one of those shiny aluminum Christmas trees -it’s branches like sticks of silver tinsel. I have no idea where the concept of such a futuristic looking tree came from, but trust me, they were extremely popular. Instead of stringing lights on them, you aimed a motorized color wheel at them, which cast a different colored glow on the tree as it rotated.
Anyway, my own special tradition was to lie on the floor each evening, the only light that crazy color wheel, and read my special Christmas book- “Jo’s Boys,” by Louisa May Alcott.
It says a lot about me, I think, that the memory of reading a book all by myself has become my central memory of childhood Christmas.
We don’t really have holiday traditions in our family anymore – at least not right now. I tell myself that’s alright – after all, there are only the four of us adults in the “immediate family.” Holiday traditions are really for children, right?
It occurs to me that this lack of traditional celebration, the absence of some sacred ritual (and I don’t mean that in a religious sense necessarily) is one of the reasons I have trouble with Christmas.
This morning, I’m sitting in a hotel room, preparing to set off on the second leg of our journey. We often travel at Christmas now, and perhaps this has become a tradition of its own. A pilgrimage of sorts, which is appropriate, given that this holiday commemorates a journey made by a couple in Bethlehem so long ago.
But I sort of miss the aluminum tree and the color wheel, and “Jo’s Boy’s.”
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