Traditions are funny things. Some are wonderful and should be kept. Others not so much and some get tweaked as we change and grow. I got to thinking about what Christmas traditions I have kept from my childhood and the new ones that I have introduced once I had a family of my own.
Living in Australia means we celebrate Christmas in summer and its usually stinking hot. My mother, never the most enthusiastic cook or hostess, always served cold Christmas lunch…chicken and salad. It was special because back in the 70’s we didn’t get to eat chicken very often at all. The one concession to ‘hot’ food that my mother made was a plum pudding. As soon as my sister married, Mum happily handed over lunch to her. Her husband’s family had always cooked a hot dinner so suddenly we were having turkey. When that marriage failed, I took it on and we introduced seafood to the hot turkey and the plum pudding. Last year I tried to tweak the menu and was howled down by everyone so for now, that is a tradition.
When I lived in Wisconsin, I visited Chicago at Christmas time. I was like a child in a magical kingdom as I gazed up at the skyscrapers, the lights, the glorious decorations, the golden trumpets outside Marshall Fields and there and then I decided that no matter where we lived, we were going to spend a weekend in a big city on a weekend before Christmas. Back in Australia, we take our boys to Melbourne. We visit Santa, we line up to see the animated Christmas windows at Myer…the Marshall Fields of Melbourne and we walk through all the Victorian arcades and ooh and ahh at the beautiful decorations.
The boys are now 17 and 13 and a bit big for Santa but they love their ‘big city’ weekend. This year we are going to Sydney.
When I was an exchange student I lived in Canada. I brought home the Gingerbread House tradition! On Christmas Eve, after the carol service, we gather everyone who is around and on a sugar-high, we decorate the GBH, made from the sensational recipe I got from ‘Good Housekeeping.’
Other traditions I have are turning up the Christmas music full blast when I bake, asking everyone in the house to stir the Christmas cake, wrapping up presents while watching, “While You Were Sleeping”, “The Holiday” and “Love Actually“.
In Boomerang Bride, Matilda had experienced an itinerant childhood in Australia. Suddenly, she was in small-town Wisconsin where winter gave sense to all the Christmas traditions and she hankered to experience it all —From threading popcorn on a string to drinking eggnog by an open fire. Every single Christmas tradition that Marc found claustrophobic.
Marc watched Matilda threading popcorn. “So we’ve cut you down your tree. What’s next on your childhood Christmas fantasy list?”
“What did you do as a kid?”
He searched his memories. “Dad had an old sleigh that he’d harness up if the weather was fine and on Christmas Eve we’d take the sugar cookies and gingerbread men Mom had made us bake and decorate, and give them to the neighbors.”
Her eyes lit up. “That sounds wonderful.”
“It was usually freezing cold.”
She poked him in the ribs. “Yeah but you loved it anyway.”
He captured her fingers with his hand and didn’t argue. He’d always enjoyed putting the snowbell harness on the horses and riding next to his father.
She pulled away and draped her popcorn garland over the tree before lying down beside him, her belly resting on the floor and her eyes gazing at the orange-red-and-blue flames.
“I like to imagine this old house was filled with family traditions like baking and Friday-night quiz night.”
He caught the dreamy look in her eyes, the one that always made his gut clench. “Life isn’t all happy families, Matilda.”
Good traditions anchor us in a positive way. They give us security, they give meaning and hope to our lives, but hanging onto them beyond their use by date isn’t helpful. In a few years, when my boys have left home, I think we will be faced with retweaking the traditions again but one thing that will never change is the plum pudding and the cake. I think there would be a riot if we messed with that!
What traditions in your family do you love?
Fiona Lowe is an award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a weekend wife, mother of two ‘ginger’ teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch. A current RT Book Reviwers’ Choice Award nominee, you can find her at her website, facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.