Ten Christmas Traditions.
- When I was a child, we always had Christmas Eve dinner with my grandparents. Sometimes Grandma made dinner, more often it was at our house. We opened gifts on Christmas Eve -- the Scandinavian time to do it -- but Santa's gifts were not under the tree until Christmas morning. All this amounted to two Christmases, one on the evening of the 24th and another on the morning of the 25th. Yes, I was spoiled rotten as a child.
- For the first ten years we were married we alternated which set of parents we saw at Christmas. Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas with Smokey's, vice versa the next year. This worked well -- no one could complain they were getting short-changed.
- After Smokey's parents retired and moved to Florida at pretty much the same time Elder Son was born, we started going to Florida for the holidays. My parent had both died by then so there was no competition for who to spend Christmas with. This continued for ten years or so, until Smokey's dad died.
- Since then we have tended to have our official Christmas at off times because Smokey tried to pick up extra shifts at the holidays -- double and triple time pay (thank you, nurse's union!) was extremely tempting. So Christmas might be on the 26th, or if it were on the morning of the 25th Smokey would be nodding off after working a double shift on Christmas Eve.
- Back when I used to actually decorate for Christmas, we had Swedish angel chimes (a gift from his parents on our first Christmas) on the dining room table, stockings hanging from the mantel, and electric candles in all the windows. Our house in Minneapolis is a center-entrance colonial, so the window candles were delightfully appropriate.
- I knitted us each a Christmas stocking. Smokey's, done first, was an authentic argyle sock knit from an authentic argyle sock pattern -- intarsia! seaming! putzy as could be! It was red with green and white argyle and gold and black highlight lines, and I knit his name into the sole. My stocking followed a few years later, knit from another pattern in the same leaflet -- white with red and dark green argyle-like patterning on the sides of the leg and my name knit into the sole.
- I knit the boys' stocking much later from a pattern in a magazine. Unlike Smokey's and mine, which were knit from fingering weight like real socks, these were worsted weight. And they each had an intarsia dancing bear on the leg. Said bear was wearing a checked vest; I made one stocking red with a green and white vest and the other green with a red and white vest. I was appalled when I discovered the socks were going to end up being about three feet long. Talk about (implied) avarice and greed! I finished them and hung them every year but was offended every damned time.
- Smokey's Danish grandm*a used to have his parents and us at her apartment for Christmas Eve, where she would serve the traditional Danish cold smörgåsbord. After Grandmas died, Smokey's mother continued the tradition. There would be open-faced sandwiches of thin-sliced Danish pumpernickle, the special pickled herring** called gaffelbiter, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and raw onions; sliced ham and turkey and cheese and seeded rye bread for more ordinary sandwiches; shrimp salad (always made with canned baby peas and tiny canned shrimp); and probably a dozen other things I don't remember. I have done this some years. too; 2013 might be a good year to repeat it.
- Every year we write a long, newsy Christmas letter with lots of photos. Unlike most such letters, ours includes both the good news and the bad news, plus as much humor as we can inject. The whole process tends to take several weeks, and many years the letter doesn't get mailed until 24th or later. Those who get it say they look forward to it, so we keep it going. This is probably our longest-running tradition.
- Christmas knitting: some years I do, some years I don't. Mostly I don't, even though I love to give people hand-knit stuff.
- My latest tradition, begun a couple years ago and of which I am not proud, is leaving the decorated tree up all year. Hey, the tree is in an infrequently used area, and leaving it up saves a bunch of work the next year! All I have to do is blow off the dust and cobwebs, plug in the lights and we're good to go!
::hangs head in shame::
::looks up hopefully::
But I ordered some fabric to make a tree cover, so next year I won't have to blow off the dust and cobwebs -- that counts for something, right?
* His grandma looked like the traditional grandma -- petite, a bit plump, rosy cheeks and a big smile for her grandchildren -- but she was a corker. The first time I met her she had a cigarette in one hand and a Manhattan in the other.
** When I was googling in an attempt to find this particular pickled herring, I found this, which was way too funny not to share.