Holiday Traditions

I love snow. Snow is the main thing I miss about living in the North. There are lots of people, places, and events that I loved while growing up and spending a total of thirty-three years in Pittsburgh, but the only thing I miss is snow.

I love snow. I attended Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, which is located smack in the middle of a snow belt. Edinboro gets almost as much snow as Buffalo, New York. Last year, I believe Edinboro was hit with well over two hundred inches of the white stuff. As I recall, it usually fell about a foot at a time. And I loved every bit of it. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the countryside blanketed in white. There’s nothing more serene than walking in the moonlight when the only sound is the muffled crunch of the snow under your feet.

Having spent a little more than half of my life in the North, it’s impossible to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas without thinking of snow. However, the theme I’ve been working with is Christmas; so I’ll shovel the snow to one side and concentrate on the holiday.

In the past I’ve written about the wonderful Christmases my parents and older siblings provided for me. Maybe one day some of my children will write similar stories. Even farther down the road of life, my grandchildren may write about their holiday memories. In each case, the main topic would be “family traditions.”

While we were still living in Pittsburgh, my children’s mother and I were faced with the difficult task of trying to create traditions for our own little family. Our parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings all wanted us to continue sharing the holidays with them… at their homes. Thus, most holidays were spent driving from one relative’s home to another.

We believed it was time to begin creating memories for our children that revolved around our own home. We tried to invite all the relatives to our home, but the idea didn’t fly. The “tradition” called for us to continue visiting others homes and dining on meals prepared by others. Whoever said, “You can’t fight city hall!” could’ve added, “or grandma’s wishes.”

We wanted our children to be able to open their presents and enjoy playing all day in their own home. We lost.

In 1977 we moved to Georgia. For a few years after, we’d pack the van (with the gifts from Santa carefully hidden amongst the luggage) and drive back to Pittsburgh for Christmas so we could continue the family tradition.

We eventually broke the cycle and began having the Christmas celebrations at our own home. We even managed to get grandma and grandpap to come visit us during the holiday season. It was then that we finally began our own family traditions.

Unfortunately, my children’s mother and I divorced in 1993 and ended the solidarity we once had. Now our children have to attend at least two gatherings for every holiday. Usually, there are more than two events. Since three of my four children have in-laws, there are other family traditions involved.

The way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before all of our children – Lu’s as well as mine – decide they need to start their own traditions. Regardless of how tasty my deep fried Cajun turkey might be, they’ll want to spend the holiday in their own home so their children don’t have to be pulled away from their presents to go visit one relative after another.

My bride and I could make the best roast goose and beef Wellington on the planet, and they’ll ask for a rain-check. In fact, they’ll undoubtedly invite us to come to their home for dinner. Eventually, we’ll accept those invitations. Otherwise, we’d be dining alone.

That’s the road of life. We all begin life enjoying whatever family traditions are there. We’re perfectly content waking up before the sun and opening all the gifts from Santa and whoever else saw fit to shower us with presents. Then we whine as we’re told we have to get cleaned up and dressed so we can go to grandma’s or Aunt Patty’s, or wherever to see our cousins and have dinner. If we’re lucky, our parents allow us to take one toy with us. Of course, they knew all along that we’d receive other gifts from other relatives.

As we get older, so does grandma and grandpap. Our parents make a decision to host the gathering – partly to take the burden away from their parents and partly so they can begin their own traditions. Now we still get to see most of the relatives, but we can stay home and enjoy the day.

Eventually we marry and face the challenge of keeping two sets of parents and other relatives happy. For several years we pack up the children, their diaper bags, their pack-and-plays, and their toys and make several stops – and perhaps eat more then one dinner – in a desperate attempt to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.

Finally, we say, “Enough is enough!” Then we try to start our own traditions.

As far as I know, my bride and I are still on the hosting end of that road, but barely holding on. We had most of our children and grandchildren over for Thanksgiving dinner on the Friday following the big day, but Christmas will be a totally different story.

Christmas Eve will be spent with Lu’s daughter as hostess. We’ll be joined by Lu’s two sons and their families. On Christmas Day, we’ll travel to my daughter’s home for lunch and gift exchange with my other children and their families.

Then we’ll come home to spend the remainder of Christmas without our children and grandchildren. It will feel strange not serving up a Christmas meal for our children and grandchildren… but we’ve invited friends to join us so we won’t be cooking and eating our Christmas goose by ourselves.

So, it appears at least one of our Holiday traditions has come to an end. So be it! That means our children have taken the difficult step of saying, “Enough is enough!” and are beginning their own traditions. More power to them!

Let’s look at another tradition – one that revolves around the music of the holidays. I can already hear Perry Como singing, “There’s no place like home for the holidays” and Bing Crosby chiming in with, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

While most Georgians would love to see nothing more than lots of rain for Christmas, it wouldn’t break my heart if some of it fell in a frozen state – not as sleet or hail, but as soft, beautiful flakes of snow. I love snow!

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