I love Christmastime. I love the music; I love the lights; I love choosing presents; I love the warm furry feeling deep down inside; I love the traditions. I love it all. And now that our daughter is almost two years old, I love the idea of creating new traditions for her to grow up with; starting with the Christmas turd. My husband grew up in a house with very consistent traditions. They included the same menu, the same people, practically the same discussions, and definitely the same arguments year after year. This was particularly apparent when he was away on a study-abroad program one year and called home to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Without missing a beat, he said he was able to replay the entire day's events, despite the 4,000 mile separation., down to the post-dessert discussion of how the presents should be opened, oldest to youngest, or youngest to oldest. For being so far away, he said it was nice to know exactly what he was missing.
Conversely, in my house growing up, our traditions were a little more loosey-goosey. Some years we'd be with family, others we'd have friends over, some we'd just spend at home. Sometimes we'd go to church, sometimes we wouldn't, sometimes we'd have turkey, sometimes we wouldn't. The one consistent point was that my mother would be madly wrapping gifts until the wee-Santa-hours. Then inevitably after opening all our gifts Christmas morning, she'd pause and say, "Wait a minute!" and dash off, only to return with a gift she'd forgotten to wrap and had stashed in a "safe" spot back in June. It always made for an extra touch of excitement and wonder.
Friends of ours have an annual Christmas ornament contest among wide-spread family members. The goal is to find, or make, an ornament that best summarizes their past year. They can highlight a specific event (a move, a birth, a marriage, a surgery, etc.), or get creative and summarize their whole year. Then on Thanksgiving, or the day after, all of the ornaments are shared (some via photos or Skype), and a pre-selected committee gets to decide which is that year's winner. My friend said, "We always try to play up the sentimental aspects of whatever the ornament represents--if you can make a judge cry, you'll probably win." (Good to know.) Regardless of the named winner, however, everyone gets to have a nice collection over the years to reminisce over.
Since getting married, our primary holiday tradition has been collecting ornaments from all the places we've been. Even from places such as Oman, where Christmas ornaments are not readily plentiful, we have a lovely silver Omani dagger keychain that works perfectly. So every year when we get out the tree and start unwrapping the ornaments one by one, we get to remember our gondolier from Venice, or our Santa on a lion from Tanzania, or our White House ornament from Washington, DC, or even our humuhumunukunukuapua'a fish from Maui.
And over the years, to add to our collection, my mother has been slowly passing on ornaments from my childhood. She started with my favorite, baby Jesus in a walnut shell. And every few years she passes on a few more; the bristly hedgehog, the yarn Santa, the paper ballerina pig, and most importantly, the Christmas turd.
Now, I didn't grow up calling it this. It earned this title when my husband unwrapped it one year and exclaimed rather harshly, "Why do we have a Christmas turd?" Prior to that, I had always thought of it as a dried seed pod (of the lotus variety) that my mother and I had coated with glue and large glitter pieces one year when I was about six. Over the decades since, it never occurred to me that it might be seen as anything but sparkly and homemade; until now.
But that's the fun thing about traditions. They're highly personal. One person's cranberry jelly with the crenelated can markings, is another person's snow ghost pie; or staying up for midnight Mass, is another person's "Harry Potter" marathon. So, whether your traditions revolve around the guests around the table, or the meal on the table, or whether you unwrap gifts according to age or rank, they're what make Christmas special to you.
And in our house, our traditions may not be completely consistent, and I may be more inclined to be doing the midnight wrapping frenzy, but at least we'll always have the Christmas turd (and the accompanying "Oh, Christmas Turd" song my husband sings for weeks). And not only will I happily pass the ornament on to my daughter, but maybe we'll even make some fresh Christmas turds of our own (of the lotus variety, of course). Traditions must be passed on, after all.