Every family has its holiday traditions. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday this time of year, a common thread is the coming together of family for thanksgiving and fellowship to celebrate those things we hold dearest.
This year, my youngest brother got married, and as we welcomed a new member into our ever-growing family, I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on family traditions of holidays past.
My earliest Christmas memory is from when I was five years old. We lived in the country and had five acres of land that included a garden, an orchard, horses, chickens, rabbits and goats.
While it wasn’t quite the Mayberry of the 1960s, it was idyllic for small-town America in the 1970s.
I remember this Christmas especially because Santa brought the present every five-year-old boy dreams about: my very own BB gun.
At the time, my father was an avid firearm collector, and my new Daisy lever action BB gun was the perfect replica of his Winchester Model 1894 30-30 rifle.
It was the best present I had ever received. There I was, a five-year-old boy with five glorious acres to hunt wild animals, defend the homestead from evil bands of wild Indians (we weren’t quite as conscious about political correctness back then), and pretend to be the Lone Ranger riding off into the sunset.
My afternoons, after morning kindergarten, were some of the most adventurous afternoons I’ve ever lived, even to this very day.
Once we grew older and the family expanded, we moved to town into a bigger house. We happened to live next door to our grandparents on my father’s side. Every year for Christmas Eve, the extended family would come over to our house for dinner.
To this day, my mother has continued her long-standing tradition of preparing the most amazing Mexican food feast I have ever encountered. To give you just an idea of what I’m talking about, every year we feast on tamales, chili, beans, enchiladas, and tacos.
During our childhood, after everyone had had their fill, it wasn’t long before there would be a knock on the door and a jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” would ring through the house as Santa Claus made an appearance with a giant red bag full of wrapped presents for each of us and our cousins.
***Spoiler alert: Children, stop reading now and skip the next paragraph!
It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I learned the identity of Santa’s “helper” who visited us every year. It seems there was a really nice older gentleman in town who dressed up and visited four or five homes, delivering presents on Santa’s behalf to the good boys and girls who lived there.
After Santa left and the aunts, uncles and cousins all went home, we gathered in the living room around the Christmas tree and Mom read the story of Christmas from the family Bible. Once she had finished, we all went to bed and stayed awake as late as we could, hoping to hear Santa return.
Somehow, he always waited until we had finally fallen asleep, and when we woke on Christmas morning, our stockings had been filled.
It never failed that we were always up before the sun on Christmas morning. Who isn’t when you’re a child, right? The rule in our house was that we were allowed to get up and open our stockings before six o’clock, but we weren’t allowed into the family room until after six and only after we woke up Mom and Dad.
At our house, Santa always left one big present for each of us that he didn’t wrap, but all the rest were wrapped neatly under and around the tree.
After all the presents had been opened, Dad would make pancakes for breakfast. After a few hours of playing with our new toys, we would go next door, where extended family would get together again at our grandparents’ house for more presents and lunch.
Now that we’re all grown and mostly married, we’ve had to make accommodations for schedules and spousal family traditions as well. While we don’t always get together on Christmas Eve every year, we do manage to find one day to get together and celebrate old family traditions, including Mom’s famous enchiladas and chili.
Do you have any holiday traditions you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Have a Merry Christmas!
Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on Twitter at @CDGLA or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.