Monday, December 20, 2010

Making Christmas Traditions

Christmas is all about traditions for me. I have no problem with tweaking traditions and trying new ways of realizing traditions, but I really need to go through the familiar motions in order to feel like I'm experiencing the season correctly. There's something about tracing my own footsteps through the visions of Christmases Past that makes the season feel special. I firmly feel that anticipation may be the best part! Living in a different state from my family meant that the weeks before Christmas felt melancholy without the Christmas traditions I relished as a child, though I cherished the week I did spend at home with my parents even more.

Being a member of the "real world" and living in a different state from my parents for the first time meant that I couldn't participate in all of the traditions I cherish from my childhood. For example, I didn't get to help my parents pick out a tree, and I didn't help put Christmas lights on the house. I didn't get to shop with my mom and dad for presents for each other, and my family didn't get to make Christmas cookies together. There simply wasn't enough time. This transition had been brewing in my college years, with more and more traditions carved off my Christmas turkey with each successive year. It's what happens when you get older. First Santa goes, and slowly all the other trappings.

Never fear! We had a great Christmas despite the brevity of my family's time spent together. I enjoyed every day of my week at home, conscious all the while that most people who work reception jobs don't get this much time off around the holidays. My parents' Christmas tree was lovely and well-stocked with presents:

I love giving my parents presents, and I can tell that they love to give me presents. I've taken a special ownership over the stuffing of stockings, and I like to think that I do it very well. My parents both loved their presents and stocking stuffers, making Christmas morning a success. Later that day we took an entire meal to my grandparents house for Christmas dinner: roast, Gruyere potatoes, asparagus, green salad, rolls, and buttermilk pie, oh my! The roast in particular was delicious and afforded excellent sandwiches later.

After Christmas there was a birthday dinner for my grandmother, an outing to a garden statuary store with the Eckels, my parents took Malcolm and me to the Nasher sculpture garden for a Calder exhibit (swoon!), and even a day of classic movies and Chinese food. The holiday was a perfect blend of action-packed and restful hours. The only thing I regret is not having time to see my few friends who still come back to Arlington. Essentially, it was an excellent Christmas; I think the brevity of time with my family made it all the more special.

So while we pulled together and made an excellent holiday week, the truth of the matter is, I'm not always going to get to spend a week in Texas for Christmas, and even if I am, there's still the month before which should be full of decorating, cookie baking, and present acquiring time that I am going to have learn to make my own now that Malcolm and I are our own little family.

This year, with the exception of shopping for presents, Malcolm and I didn't do these things with gusto if at all. It just felt a little silly without family, as though trying would somehow make our isolation feel more pronounced. I imagine that one day, many years down the line, when we have our own children this will be different, but for now, we settled on a few simple observances of the Christmas season.

For example, the last meal Malcolm and I had together in L.A. this semester (sorry, I still measure time by an academic calendar) was the exact same meal we had the morning after I first arrived in L.A.: Literati Cafe's Eggs Florentine with Hashbrowns! Perhaps this wasn't strictly a holiday tradition, but the beginnings of a tradition nevertheless:

Furthermore, we our own little tree. I put curled ribbons on it, and Malcolm folded origami cranes. It was simple, handmade, and lovely, but it certainly won't fit the collection of winged ornaments my parents have been adding to- an ornament a year for 23 years! Still, it seems more practical and more environmentally friendly to have small potted trees as long as we are apartment-dwellers:

I also made a few simple, low-budget and very DIY-y attempts at Christmas decorating:

Perhaps the closest we got this year to a continuable tradition were the Christmas cards I handmade and hand-wrote this year. I like the idea of making cards every year, somehow it feels more genuine. I tried to make the messages in them as heartfelt as possible.

So while this year Malcolm and I seem to have failed to celebrate Christmas together in style (we still haven't even wrapped, given, or opened our presents to each other), I have a plan for the future! I have resolved to make stockings for Malcolm and myself next year. As previously mentioned- I love stockings, I love the tiny little bits of joy, and I love how stockings feel super-traditional in their long history. It's a tradition from my own family's holidays and from the days of yore that I look forward to claiming as my own next year. I have something like this in mind. That's all you can do, right? Try to get a little more festive every year.

How did you claim Christmas as a holiday for young adults this year?


  1. Is there something wrong with my browser? This post says it was written on December 20?

    Anyway, the only traditions I really missed were (a) being with family, (b) watching "A Christmas Story, and (c) eating tons of dessert foods. I was definitely able to satisfy (c), and also (a) because a family adopted me for the weekend and it was wonderful, but (b) left a little hole in my holiday.

    Your homemade card was amazing, by the way. It really was. Although there was a slight feeling of "Oh gosh... and to think I just bought mine." It's still on my desk, spreading Christmas cheer!

  2. Nothing is wrong with your browser, for some reason blogger dates posts based on when you started a post, not when you finished it. It's very odd.

    I'm sorry about A Christmas Story. I gave my dad a Christmas Story Lamp Nightlight.

    I'm glad you liked it! There is this problem with home-made things though, where people feel a little like your showing off. I certainly didn't mean to give you anything but warm feelings. :-/ I'm glad it's on your desk though!

  3. Your cards were not showing off! My first thought on opening mine was "OH SNAP, Caitlin Miller just went there. Now I have an excuse to go there too." Homemade things are the best things!

    And I also totally missed out on A Christmas Story this year, but since I wasn't at home it didn't feel weird. I think I am just as happy being subsumed into other people's traditions, at least up to a point. It's kind of cool to see what little things other people hold dear.