. February 12, 2013.

Tradition! The dictionary clearly defines “tradition” as “a long established action or behavior in a group that often has been handed down from generation to generation.” I get it. Really. I know where many of my family’s yearly customs originated, but why we continue to practice some of the rituals, I remain clueless. For example, I personally would like to know who made the decision generations ago that we would be a “wind up and pelt the tree with tinsel” kind of family. Unfortunately, I discovered this was not a universal tree trimming practice while at the home of my high school boyfriend. I never realized the human mouth was capable of such massive contortion until I looked at Mrs. Lynne’s face as I started my wind-up. By the way, blowing out the Hanukkah candles while helping clean up the table after dinner brought about the same reaction at Mrs. Kalisher’s house! Mrs. Lynne’s individual strands of tinsel in neat little rows that perfectly complemented her ornaments was a tad off from the spray painted pine cones and construction paper reindeer ornaments (that looked more like dogs with height issues) my gang proudly displayed on our tree at home.

Changing it up

Actually, we have been flexible through the years and there have been a few traditions that we let go of for safety reasons. For example the tooth fairy in our family would come through a window that had been cracked open, sprinkle “fairy dust” (colored glitter for you non-believers) from her point of entry to your pillow, leave coins and be on her way. Things went well for decades in the fairy department until MY children ended up with a severely near-sighted pixie. Like her “pixie predecessors,” she too attempted to leave a trail of glitter from the window, and without her glasses, made a line on the carpeting toward the bed that looked as if she had spilled the “fairy dust” toward her sleeping child. She was a bit glitter happy while leaving her mark around the “nature girl” who loved to sleep in the buff. A barely dressed child and a sight challenged “fairy” are as dangerous next to each other as a sky-diving school and an alligator farm. In the morning, I heard my panicked child scream “Mom! The tooth fairy glittered my ‘nina’!” Needless to say, I don’t think the “glitter fairy” will be visiting future generations.

What about Santa?

One thing I thought this generation was ready to toss as they grew older was receiving a letter from Santa. Every year, after “Santa” singlehandedly mastered such feats as putting together a Playmobil pirate ship that required an engineering degree, Santa would write a personalized letter to each one of the children. The “children” at the mention that Santa might retire these little notes were quite upset and exclaimed, “Santa has to leave us a note!” To which I replied, “You do realize that SANTA may not keep this up until you’re 40?”

“Tradition” was the reason we were forced to don our obnoxious heavy holiday sweaters, gather around the fire with a steaming hot beverage, and “roast” during a rare heat wave in December. Tradition also explains the annual “Let’s see what animal Brad is going to make out of his wax candle during stints of boredom during the candlelight Christmas Eve service.” Better yet, what animal is Brad going to “be” or what stupid human trick will he perform after church when we are all gathered around the table taking turns demonstrating our rare talents? It’s always tough to beat Lauren’s “I can put my whole fist in my mouth” demo (I’m so proud of my child), or her “sheep” that sounds better than the original. Of course, Reeves’ “chicken” impersonation (quite a sight when performed by a 6’7” former college basketball star) and his demonstration on how to call a cow toward you are also pretty impressive. I often wonder if other families sit around on Christmas Eve in a similar fashion. By the way, even though I was informed that Kim’s “camel” imitation topped my loon call, I beg to differ!

One tradition that continues to be “Exhibit A” in regards to why some families should not attempt group photos is the annual holiday photo card. In one of our holiday photos, I look like the poster girl for a Midol ad, my brother looks like he is about to deck more than the halls, Dad looks like he took a peek at Santa’s “naughty” list, and my Mom looks as if the photographer must be wearing nothing more than mistletoe and doesn’t know where to look. This photo also doubled as the shot for our church directory. One look at it and you can easily see why we regularly ended up on the prayer list. The next generation of holiday photos did not see much improvement. Two years ago, a neophyte male photographer quickly realized that placing well endowed teens stomach down on the cold marble exterior floor in front of the Museum was not a brilliant move. I wish I would have rethought last year’s photo. I guess the shot of me and the girls dressed in wrapping paper with the message “Unwrap the Blessings of the Holidays” written in pretty calligraphy could have been misconstrued.

Pieces of the puzzle

One final tradition that continues is the “Family Present” that Kris Kringle leaves us annually. Last year, he left us a puzzle. Puzzles are a big pastime up north at our Canadian cabin. The note he left us read, “Just like the pieces of a puzzle, we are all different shapes and sizes with varying images yet fit together perfectly. Even if we separate, we can once again come together to form something beautiful.” So true; sometimes I view my family as amazing individuals who are even more incredible when we unite. There are other moments when I feel my family is more like my Gram’s homemade peanut brittle; sweet with a few nuts, thrown in. Either way, I know the love we share will be handed down for generations to come. Happy Holidays!