Destri has asked us all to think about traditions – family ones, old and new. What did we love or hate about those as a child and what are we doing to continue or create for our own families now.
The Oxford English dictionary has ‘tradition’ as: noun. 1. The passing on of customs or beliefs from generation to generation. 2. A long-established custom or belief passed on in this way. 3. A method or style established by an artist, writer, or movement, and followed by others.
By this definition traditions evolve from generation to generation, each of us adding a twist, a love, a passion. From writing cards to sending e-cards, from the family gathering around the Christmas table to Skype-ing from around the world. From reading your favourite Christmas stories or listening to them on the radio to writing or designing your own. Writing to Father Christmas, St Nicholas or Santa … well may be that doesn’t change!
For me Christmas was time spent with my family. We’d go to midnight service and take one small present – delivered early by Father Christmas, and open it after the prayers.
It’s been just my mum and I for more years than I care to remember. Our run up to Christmas day would be spent making petit fours – post little homemade after dinner sweets. Always in there were Brandy nuts, rum truffles, dark chocolate dipped brazil nuts and ginger and marzipan shaped fruits: strawberries, oranges, bananas and apples. For the big day we would lunch at my auntie and Uncles or as their children (my cousins) have grown, at their houses. We’d start by pulling Christmas crackers, telling the gut groaning jokes, donning silly paper crown hats and finding the party cracker prize that usually flies out of the cracker and into the first course starter. We’d pick them out and dive into the usual spread, turkey, roast potatoes and parsnips –crunchy and yummy, and Christmas pudding with LOTS of brandy butter. That is butter with icing sugar (confectioners sugar) and er, brandy – the more the better! In fact here’s a tale I will share with you as long as you promise not to tell another soul…. When I was in my first school, about 5 years old, parents were invited to come and share the Christmas meal. Now I was a picky eater and as the dinner lady was about to serve my Christmas pudding with custard of all things – apparently I looked up and asked – politely of course – for some brandy butter!! My mum standing behind me must have wanted the ground to open up!
Christmas lunch would be followed by a walk then back to whose ever house we were at to open presents – everyone in the room being delivered one present by Father Christmas’s dedicated helper, all open, say our thanks, oo’s and ah’s and do it all over again until the bottom of the tree was bare. My eldest cousin, godfather now to my eldest son, would disappear with all the wrapping paper and wrap his presents for us – usually in some kind of mysterious way. One year I remember opening an empty box. It took me ages to find my gift that he had crafted into the false side wall of the box!! After presents were finished we’d play charades, famous people, my granny would ALWAYS be the queen and my Uncle someone obscure – he was jack frost one year, then any new board games would be broken out and played… then the cold buffet of yep, you’ve guessed it cold turkey, ham, salad, home made chutneys, mashed potatoes and mince pies with more brandy butter…. Mmmmmm I have many happy memories of Christmas in England.
I don’t think the tradition has changed that much for my family. They all live within about 30 minutes drive of each other. We, however are a little further a field and have to skype in our PJ’s to catch them at lunch time! My cousin has 3 children of her own and her older brother about to get married – life will continue to be filled with food, party games and brandy butter.
For us, making our own traditions…I’m not particularly religious – hum, you may think this is Christmas, but there is a tradition that has evolved, my boys will grow up knowing the reason of ‘Christmas’ and then they can make up their own minds as to how and what they wish to believe. One thing that is still going strong – petit fours, with the addition from my husband’s side of the family of mini meringues with mini chocolate drops, caramel cracker candy, and mud puddle. That is oats, peanut butter, butter and chocolate all melted and rolled into balls…. That is if I can get it that far. Most often my husband discovers it at the ‘puddle’ stage of cooling and hence for us the ‘puddle’ name has stuck rather than that of mud balls….. We range from turkey to roasted pork to beef. I did beef Wellington one year, mmm that was good. The Christmas pud has been replaced with a white chocolate version and my mince pies have a far yummier version than the traditional suet based pies. Served warm with mulled wine and of course brandy butter they are Christmas.
We will have a real Christmas tree – just like I have always had. I love that smell of pine, and of the cinnamon sticks I use to decorated it, and of the orange pomanders that will sit with cloves on my mantle. I will watch my boys eyes widen and sparkle at the Christmas lights –letting their imagination run wild of reindeer galloping across the sky at the speed of light delivering presents. As they grow older we will sit and write our letter to Father Christmas together and leave a small sherry, a carrot and mince pie on Christmas Eve to say thank you.
For me Christmas is about family, about love, about kindness and about thinking of others. It is about remembering those that have touched our lives no matter how briefly and brought us their own precious gift of friendship. I mix the old with the new, I send Christmas cards written by hand because I like to write and take the time to say – I am thinking of you. I spend time on Skype with my family, I listen to the old Bing Crosby Christmas songs and carols and love Stuart Mclean’s Christmas concert on CBC find him at www.cbc.ca/vinylcafe.
So to all, Christmas, Samhain or Yule, Eid ul Adha, Diwali or Hanukkah, Advent or St Stephen’s Day, Kwanzaa or Hogmanay. What ever you are celebrating, in which ever way – following old traditions or creating new ones, may they be filled with love, happiness, peace and health, smiles, laughter and many wonderful memories.