What a week. I’ve had a sore throat/the sniffles/mild headache coming and going since Monday. Gargling salt water and littering the floor around my desk with kleenex is not fun. And WordPress suspended my blog on Wednesday for some reason and I got an email Thursday saying someone had tried to log in to one of my credit card accounts, so my online access had been locked.
Needless to say, I’m kinda relieved I made it to Friday. And now I want to share my 5 favorite Christmas traditions.
1 | Making cookies
Hands down one of the best parts about Christmas. Every year, once we were on Christmas break, Mom would spend the morning making a ginormous batch of dough, then my brothers and I — with Christmas movies playing in the background — would attack it with cookie cutters shaped like Santa, trees, reindeers, stars, candy canes, gingerbread men, angels, and probably more I’m forgetting. They’d get lined up on trays which would pop in and out of the oven, over and over. Then we’d take a break while the cookies cooled/Mom mixed up the sugar frosting, and we’d come back to decorate them. It got messy. It was a blast. Then Mom would keep a small plate out for us to munch on and hide the rest so they’d actually last through Christmas Day.
2 | Finding the right Christmas tree
I have no memory of this, but we went to a Christmas tree farm where we actually cut down the tree once, when I was barely walking. Most years, though, we’d all load up the car and drive around the tri-city area from tree lot to tree lot. There use to be one less than a half mile from our house, which was our first stop, and we’d almost always find a great tree there. But my mom never let us be happy with that first one and insist we go to about four or five other lots — and we’d usually end up back at that first lot, hoping the first tree was still there. When I was in high school, we’d tease her about this, but she never wavered. It’s all part of the experience…
3 | Crippsmas Place
This is a neighborhood in my hometown with locally-famous lights displays. It started in the 60s, when one man started putting up lights and decorations and accepting donations to the Leukemia Lymphona Society from people who came by to admire them. It grew and spread throughout the entire neighborhood, and recently they formed an official non-profit. Their decorations are less about Griswold-style lights and more about uplighting huge wooden cutouts of cartoon/comic book/movie characters (everything from classic Disney and Looney Tunes characters to Batman and Spiderman to angry birds to Charlie Brown to characters I no longer recognize because I’m not hip to what the kids are watching these days). When I was really little, we could go and walk through the streets (neighbors would be out selling candy canes and accepting donations), but over time, its popularity grew and we’d just sloooowly drive down each street (buying candy canes and offering donations from the car). It’s really incredible and an amazing testament to the local community that’s been doing this for nearly 50 years.
4 | The Watching of Christmas Vacation
This happens throughout December. First, right after Thanksgiving (as close to completing the dinner as possible, really) and then…basically every other chance we get. My entire family can recite it line by line. It’s such a thing that when Hangover came out, and my cousin — who was, what, 11 or 12 at that point — really really wanted to watch it, but his parents didn’t think it “appropriate,” and I said “Well, he’s seen Christmas Vacation…it’s not that much worse…” (obviously, it is. But that argument almost convinced them.)
5 | The Christmas pageants
So I don’t actually remember the last time I went to Christmas Eve Mass at the church I grew up going to, but I can still recite at least half of lines from the Christmas pageant, as performed by the little kids (I was Mary one year, and the angel Gabriel another. Pretty much the epitome of my acting career).
Innkeeper: What do you want?
Joseph: Please sir, my wife is very tired and we need a place to stay.
Innkeeper: We have no room for you. Go away.
Mary: Ohhh… (sighs)
It’s really cute when “acted” out by seven-year-olds who are passing around a bulky microphone.
Favorite Christmas traditions? GO.