Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Traditions

I know, I say this every year, so bear with me.... I LOVE the Holidays!  What’s not to love?  First, people are genuinely kinder and for a few weeks at least we get fun mail in the form of Christmas cards.  Who doesn’t enjoy seeing the lights twinkling everywhere, enchanting and mesmerizing. I think the best part of all, is the food.  It’s like being transported back to ancient Rome, voluptuous banquet tables laden with food.... minus the vomitoriums. If you build it(the buffet table), I will come. Give me your luscious leftovers, tins of homemade goodies, and party trays.   I got an email newsletter from Dr. Oz today entitled, Making Wise and Healthy Holiday Food Choices. This time of year, lets save the wisdom for baby Jesus’ three visitors from the East.  Healthy and Holiday are not even on the same food pyramid. I mean, seriously, I’m going to choose celery sticks and grape tomatoes over baby quiches and buckeyes?  For one month I don’t want to think about the caloric content of that delectable puff pastry I just popped into my mouth, or the homemade caramels my brother-in-law spends hours lovingly making and wrapping. Besides, it’s tradition to enjoy those once a year treats. It’s also tradition to gain 7 pounds; a conservative number. I always start out January 1st with a pork and sauerkraut commitment to salads and hitting the gym seven days a week for the next few months.  You can’t mess with tradition.  
Thanksgiving morning, brings a decades long tradition of tuning into the Macy’s Day Parade.  I usually listen to most of it, background noise, while I prepare food for the feast.  When Santa arrives in all his red and white glory, everything in my world grinds to halt and I sit, watching, mesmerized, eyes glistening, as the jolly old elf pulls up in his sleigh, happily waving at me and all the other good little boys and girls. I think the tears arise from seeing the faces of the little ones, innocent wonder and awe reflected in their eyes. Perhaps for that brief moment, I too can believe in magic and dreams come true again.  My tears too, are just tradition. 

Another tradition is Black Friday shopping with my daughter. We’ve been doing it for a number of years now.  She started it.  Post Thanksgiving dinner, we review the mountain of ads, identifying the best bargains, come up with a strategic attack and argue over the time we’ll don our armour (the lighter the better)and leave for battle.  She always wants to leave early, really early.   I whine no matter what time she picks.  The whining is tradition too. She arrives at my house 3- 4 am, irritatingly peppy in a caffeine altered state, and by 5 am, I’m maniacally grinning ear to ear too,  elbowing my way through the crowds.  Arms overflowing, hangers dangling from my fingertips and some monster Barbie toy tucked between my legs.  Off and running, I trot, waddling like a sack racer through lines that stretch clear back to the loading dock of the store.  Shopping carts on Black Friday are non-existent.  The up side of waiting in line for two hours to check out, is folks get tired, change their minds, or their arm muscles simply give out and they drop that one item you came to the store to obtain. I’ve recovered more than one treasure waiting in line!  That one gets tucked into the only available space on my body, under my chin.  By the end of the day, my thigh muscles have become so toned, I could crack the walnuts for the Christmas cookies we’ll be baking the next week with 'em!  
Cookie burning is a tradition too. I’m not a baker.  My family roll their eyes behind my back whispering, “She can mix, she can cut-out, she can decorate, but, whatever you do, don’t let her bake ‘em!”   No matter how much I beg for them to give me one more chance, they bring out the black mail pictures, an ugly reminder of the ghost of Christmas cookies past.  What a horrific sight captured forever;  twisted masses of candy cane cookie dough, burnt, hardly recognizable, soldered onto the cookie sheet.  Downright frightening. I am, however, allowed to cook.  That I do well.  But, when it comes time for the Christmas dinner rolls to be baked, my son-in-law stands guard over the crescent dough.  If I can distract him long enough to pop them in the oven, I inevitably  burn them, year after year. He scrapes the scorched bottoms off and glares at me through dinner.  Burnt rolls. It’s just part of Christmas dinner tradition.
Every family has their special traditions:  Quirky, kind, loving, sentimental, solemn or silly.  Traditions help us to feel secure, connect us, and provide a scrapbook of memories for future generations.  Traditions are an important part of our holiday celebrations.  They are like a road map we follow carefully so we don’t lose important bits of our past. They teach our children about where they came from and where they're going.   Someday in the not too distant future, my granddaughters will be making fun of their mom, who every year, on Black Friday, will whine about getting up so early to catch the latest bargains.  It’s just tradition, and she’s learned it well!