Christmas Traditions

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Christmas Traditions – One of my favorite things about Christmas is all the traditions that evolve around the Christmas holidays.  Our family has so many Christmas traditions and I love every one of our traditions.  Our Christmas season probably starts the day after Thanksgiving.  For some reason that is the day we start listening to Christmas music and when we begin watching all the Christmas movies.  I love Christmas music and my girls share the same love.  The very first Christmas cassette my husband and I purchased on our first Christmas as a young married couple (I was 17 and he was 18 years old) was the Alabama Christmas album and to this date 37 years later it is the very first Christmas album that I play every year and the very album that my girls and I listen throughout the season and play continually on Christmas day. 

Other traditions that we love are sitting around the television in our pajamas and watching sappy Christmas movies.  I love to buy silly Christmas pajamas for the entire family, and we all put them on and go out to see Christmas lights together.  And yes when one of us has to go potty, several of us will go into the Walgreens in our pjs so that person won’t look silly alone. 

We love to bring the whole family together to bake Christmas cookies together (even though it makes a big mess, and we are sweeping up sprinkles for weeks after (unless one of the dogs find them first).  Another tradition is the last thing I do on Christmas Eve is make meringue cookies and put in the oven to sit overnight. 

Another one of our traditions involves our Christmas eve dinner.  Years ago, I started making Christmas Eve dinner because my mother in-law always made Christmas dinner and I wanted to give her a break.  We always have steamed shrimp, crab dip, pigs in a blanket, chips and dip, hot Virginia dip, punch and lots of cookies.  

This is a meal that I started making over thirty years ago and it never changes. Although last year we thought we would go out and eat Chinese after our Christmas Eve service (like the Christmas story movie). After waiting over two hours to get our food with five hungry children we decided we go back to our traditional meal.

On Christmas eve we all go to a Christmas eve service and come back to the house to eat our traditional meal.  The Christmas eve service is one of my favorite services of the year.  There is something so peaceful about singing Christmas hymns in candlelight.  It brings me to tears every time. It also reminds me of the real reason for the season.

This year took a totally different turn because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I have to be honest, I was really sad about it.  Some of our family would not be joining us for the holidays, we all had to be extremely careful around other people, Christmas shopping was done mostly online (thank you Amazon), and there would be no Christmas eve service to attend.  That was the saddest part of all and the one I dreaded the most. 

But one thing I have learned from life is things are not always going to go your way or turn out the way you thought they might.  It is hard, messy, happy, thrilling, horrible, great, and so many other things all at the same time.  After losing my husband, Carl, (who passed away at 49 years old) and then losing my father two years later (who passed away on December 15th), I was sure I would never be able to enjoy the holiday season again. For several years after my husband passed away, I could not listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies.  I just knew celebrating the holidays were over for me. However, I learned that the heart does mend, it does get easier, your heart will able to sing again and you will be able to feel joy again.  Will it be different?  Absolutely.  Will you feel that that part of your heart is missing?  Absolutely.  Do you want to give up on life and celebrations?  Absolutely.  The one thing that kept me going and keeps me going is family traditions.  I have two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren (and one granddaughter on the way).  The entire time during my grieving process I knew in my heart and I had to keep going.  There were so many more years to come for me and I wanted to make sure that I was there for my family and for my grandbabies to carry on those Christmas and holiday traditions. 

That was until this year. How would all this work out with all the crazy? I mean how would this Christmas season look during a pandemic.

 I can tell you that it all worked out so much better that I could have imagined.  We all gathered together at my daughter, Holly’s, house for Christmas Eve.  We had our traditional Christmas Eve meal which we devoured with gusto as usual. Then one of the most precious Christmas Eve services began.  My son-in-law, Reed, took out the bible while we were all gathered around the dinner table and read the Christmas story from the book of Luke.  We sang Away in the Manger and Reed continued to tell the story of Jesus’ birth.  The grandchildren asked lots of great questions and we all sang (very loudly) Joy to the World.  We all went around the table and talked about some of our favorite childhood Christmas memories.  We heard stories from the grandparents, Barbara and Clayton, about their Christmas traditions growing up.  The kids talked about their favorite Christmas traditions.  We played games and then in another holiday tradition fashion we opened up our Christmas pajamas from Nanaw (something she has been doing for us for over 30 years).  I honestly believe it was probably one of my favorite Christmas eves. 

While we were sitting around the table worshiping and hearing the Christmas story my heart was full knowing how proud my husband would be of my girls.  How proud he would be to know that his grandchildren were being raised to know the real meaning of Christmas.  How proud he would be to know that even though it is so hard for our family during the holidays, we all pull it together for the sake of the grandchildren and family. 

Like so many this holiday season was so different than normal.  And I couldn’t help to think about all the family members that were lost during this pandemic and how many families were experiencing their first holiday season without their loved ones and my heart broke for those families. I took that moment to take a silent moment of prayer for those families that have lost loved ones.  I prayed that they too would be able to have holidays in the future that were filled with love and hope like this holiday season was for our family.  I prayed that they would one day be able to sing, dance, laugh, be silly, play games and remember all the happy holidays that they had with their loved ones.

Christmas traditions are so wonderful but sometimes those traditions will have to change because of life situations.  Sometimes a crazy life circumstance will happen and all your old traditions have to be put aside temporarily.  But sometimes those new traditions can be so much more that you expect.  Maybe, just maybe you will realize (like we found this year) that new traditions can actually be a really good thing.   And in years to come you will remember where those new family traditions began during the year 2020.  

From my family to yours, I hope the remainder of this year is filled with love, joy, peace and happiness. And that 2021 is filled with great things for you all.


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