Today is Friday, December 17 and no matter how in denial you’ve been up until now, it’s time to face the fact that we are in full-blown holiday mode. I still have cards to write and mail, gifts to buy, and a naked, but beautiful tree that could use some decorations, and I am slowly acknowledging that Christmas is going to happen with or without me.
J and I have been married for almost seven years now and yet we haven’t really established any holiday traditions. When his mother was alive, we often hosted Christmas dinner at our house, but since she passed away two years ago his family has become fractured and they don’t spend the holidays together so much. My family is half way around the world, so we go there about every third year, and in between we kind of ping around like lost pinballs, with no set program for the holidays. If we had kids, I know it would be different.
Growing up, our family Christmas was the same every year. We’d usually go out Christmas Eve to a party at the local social club. There’d be dancing, my parents could have a drink, and it was a 10-15 minute walk home. We often walked home after midnight, so I would look for Father Christmas (Santa) in the sky. I’d hang out my pillowcase (not stocking) at the end of my bed and somehow Father Christmas would always manage to fill it without waking me up.
Being the youngest of three, I’d be the first up on Christmas morning, and usually get sent back to bed at least twice for getting up too early. My parents would bring up tea and cookies and we’d all pile into their bed to open the gifts. No matter what else we got, we always got pajamas, a sweater, and chocolate.
We’d often go out for a walk on Christmas morning while the turkey was cooking, especially if it was one of those crisp, sunny days, and sometimes we’d go over to my Grandma’s for a short visit, but we’d always get on the phone to all the relatives to wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them for our gifts.
It was usually just the five of us for Christmas dinner. I don’t remember having relatives join us. We’d have the traditional Christmas dinner – turkey, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc., followed by sherry trifle and/or Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. We’d pull Christmas crackers, tell the jokes, and wear the paper hats all through dinner. Then we’d do the dishes and be all done in time for the Queen’s speech at 3:00. After that, there’d be a family movie (this was pre-video, and when the UK still only had three TV channels), something big like The Wizard of Oz, or new, such as Superman.
In the evening we’d play a game – cards or whichever board game was hot that year – and snack on cheese and crackers and all the goodies we only ever got at Christmas. My parents would have a beer or two and make me a shandy (a mix of beer and 7Up) and we’d watch our favorite Christmas specials until it was bedtime. So, for me, Christmas was always a quiet family time spent at home.
Why am I droning on about this? Because if I had children, I would pass these traditions on to them. I’d want to create the kind of Christmas memories for them that I have from my childhood. As it’s just the two of us, we have the freedom to spend Christmas however we choose, but without traditions of our own, it doesn’t feel as special.
So, I’m looking for some new traditions to start that fit our life now. I’d love it if you’d share some of yours – old family ones, and new ones that you’ve adopted as an adult. How do you make the holidays special and family-orientated when your family is just one or two?