Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Family's Christmas Traditions

Christmas Music

The minute I heard one of our family's fave Christmas songs for the first time this season I had to call my mom and play it for her over the phone. I'm sure she had visions of her three daughters spinning near the decorated tree to "Jingle Bells" (on speed) by Barbra Streisand. We’d dance, spin, and laugh until the colored lights on the tree were a blur and we’d tumble to the ground.
Another popular Christmas album by a Jewish artist that we played every year when I was growing up was by Neil Diamond. My brother-in-law Jordan’s loathing for Neil Diamond has kept us from playing that particular artist’s songs, at least while he’s there.
Since married, Kevin and I have adopted Chicago’s Christmas album as one of our favorites. Our other two must-haves each year are Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Amy Grant’s classics.
My mom is very fond of Christmas music, so when we were younger and all still living at home, we’d sometimes hide her tapes or CDs, so we wouldn’t have to listen to them more than a month before or after Christmas.

The Family Tree

When Mary and I were little, we would all go out as a family to pick out our live Christmas tree. Someone would be assigned to watch the back of the car on the way home to make sure the tree didn’t fall out. We have always used little colored lights, home-made ornaments from our elementary school days, sewn ornaments my mom had made, ornaments from souvenirs, travels, and to mark special days, as well as store-bought ornaments. My dad used to love it when people refused to believe that we had a live tree. They insisted it looked far too perfect to be real.
This year my mom, Kevin, and I were the only ones who went to the lot to pick out our family tree. We all gathered to decorate the tree once Jordan had brought it in and they’d gotten our little colored lights on it. The tree’s a bit shorter than in years past, but we still had trouble putting the angel on top with the branch so close to the ceiling. Of course Christmas carols were playing in the background. We all got to watch “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” together.

Making Christmas Cookies

When we lived in Rowlett, Texas, we often spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my uncle Rich, Aunt Linda, and cousins: Tim, Tom, John, and Amy. It was Uncle Rich and Aunt Linda who introduced us to the tradition of baking and decorating Christmas cookies. We have kept up this ritual each year since. One year Mary and I were having so much fun decorating cookies that we ran out of normal decorations and started using random candy we found around the house, such as Breathsavers.
In more recent years, our cookie decorating has gotten a bit more creative, artistic, intricate, and unusual. I’m fairly certain my sister Mary and her husband Jordan win for taking the longest to decorate a single cookie. My dad wanted to eat a cookie, but he wasn’t sure which one to take since all of them were decorated with so much detail.
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