Thursday, December 10, 2009

Traditions



And if you hear Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof while you read this, that's okay. I do.

Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watch Fiddler on the Roof. You can add Love Actually to that list too, even if I just watched it with my Mom this summer and again running on TV around Thanksgiving. A Charlie Brown Christmas CD goes in the player, along with Joan Baez's beautiful Noel CD. The Messiah, assorted Christmas carols and such all come out to fill the house with the sounds of the season. Tradition.

Certain books come out too. Every year I treat myself to a book that catches my fancy and speaks to me of the wonder or whimsy of the season. Often children's books with pictures or stories so beautiful in simplicity it makes you want to laugh and cry. This
is only a small sampling of the books gathered over the years and this years pick is Don Quixote retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Tradition.


Then there is the tree at Christmas and for me, one of the most enchanted of rituals.
When I was very small and Santa was on top of my ten best people list, we would all go to my Grandparents in PA for the holidays. Company would come in and out Christmas eve for treats, singing, cheer and reading until about 9:00 o'clock when I would be sent to bed. After I was tucked in, the tree came from where ever it was hidden, large and fresh and parents and grandparents set about trimming it. Lights, glass beads, ornaments so beautiful and delicate that one would think they would break if you stared at them too hard. Tinsel, garlands and the most beautiful tree skirt. It all was put together by the hands of elves and then the presents laid around in what seemed to be ever increasing circles as Santa unloaded a good portion of his sled.

At some point, my Grandfather, (who only drank at Christmas) would go outside and climb a pre-prepared ladder, fueled no doubt by Rock & Rye, and stomp on the top of the often snowy two story roof, a muffled Ho ho ho could be heard by sharp little ears waiting for reindeer. I'm sure I heard those tiny hooves though....

The morning was magical. There before me,where only a wing chair had been the night before, was tree and gifts, shimmering with expectation and stunning in all it's richness. The smells of cookies, and cakes and turkeys wafted in with their promise of delights for later in the day. The evening always found me on my Grandfather's ample lap, clutching the favored portable toy, wrapped in a blanket, lulled to sleep against his chest as he talked about things of no concern to me. The family has always trimmed the tree on Christmas Eve and it remains so today. Tradition

There is one other thing we always do at Christmas,and this is never compromised. Between tree trimmings, Christmas Day dinner prep, friends dropping by or scooting to them, midnight mass to hear my mother sing, and the almost expected run to the grocery for yet more cream or butter, we gather and read. Or in my case, at the start of this, was to be read to. From the beginning of my time, my father has ushered whoever was around on Christmas eve, (before mass and after dinner preps), in front of the fireplace with book in hand to read us A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.


Every year I was transported to Wales, to eat candy cigarettes, to imagine he-hippos, fur trappers, polar cats and men with spats of snow. The line "Would you like anything to read?" would become code in my family and always bring a smile. To this day, on Christmas Eve, I too read to whoever might be here, sometimes just Gene and I and the animals.
A dog almost always in my lap, the cat by the fireplace, the tree glittering and the spirit of all those no longer whinnying with us filling the room as we take our annual passage to a Wales not of this time and space. Tradition.

8 comments:

  1. Those are some beautiful Christmas traditions and memories. We had some special books at Christmas growing up. I still have one of them, but there are two that somehow disappeared.

    The candy cigarettes made me laugh. It's funny how much times have changed!! (I needed pipe cleaners for a project and found that they're now labeled "fuzzy sticks"....no references to smoking!)

    Sue

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  2. Sounds like such magical memories, thank you for sharing them with us.

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  3. Don't you just wish you could go back in time and be young again! Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

    Merry Christmas!

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  4. My growing up Christmas memories are different than the ones that we have made now, and they are all powerful. One that has stayed with me is playing the 1812 Overture (in addition to the Messiah).

    We just got a new priest. I told him I'm a fair-weather Catholic. I don't come when it snows or on Easter or Christmas, It's too insanely crowded - I don't feel holy in those circumstances. I wish it were part of my Christmas, but it's not.

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  5. Sharon,
    When I was younger my Grandmother was the driving force to attend a true Catholic Mass. My mother actually belonged to two churches of different denominations but only as a singer and honestly, I think the last time I attended a mass for it's purpose alone was when I was still young enough for my grandmother to drag there, about 10.

    Sue, if you can replace the other two. New editions don't matter, it's just nice to have the stories available.
    I wonder if they even make those candy cigarettes anymore? What project did you need pipe cleaners for? Did I miss a post along the line?

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  6. Bewautiful - it's comforting to have memories like that isn't it? Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Thank you for sharing your memories! I need to sing certain Chrismtmas songs, bake certain cookies, and listen to Händel's Messiah, and I like to go to mass on Christmas eve.

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  8. What wonderful traditions. I love traditions. They really make the holidays special.

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