The look on his face was priceless! Normally my grandson, Paxton has a wide grin that lights up his whole face, but this expression was a new one entirely. Perched precariously on the lap of “Santa”, Paxton looked absolutely terrified! When my daughter-in-law sent us the picture, we howled with laughter. Pax’s face was shriveled like a troll’s, eyes wide with apprehension, his mouth all pouty with lips pursed. His expression contrasted greatly with the huge grin on his brother’s Atti’s face, who was immensely enjoying his first visit with Santa.
It has become a family tradition: the annual pictures with Santa. I can’t say my children really enjoyed the experience when they were kids, and from the look on Pax’s face this year, the grandchildren may not be too thrilled with the visit with the Jolly ‘Ole Elf either. Still, as parents, we come to cherish those pictures as they mark time and bring remembrances of Christmases past.
When we moved onto the Ponderosa in 1994, my daughter and son were 10 and two years old respectively. Our new home just begged to be decked out for our first Christmas there, and my husband was adamant we start a new tradition to have a real tree in our living room. We’d had artificial ones up until then. My husband braved the -30 C. temperatures to pick out the “perfect” tree, while I stayed at home with the children and awaited his return. He had many misadventures bringing the tree home, and he was cold, cranky and not feeling the warmth of Christmas spirit, when he finally dragged the tree into the living room for me to decorate. Unfortunately, I took one look at the tree and took an instant dislike to it. It may have been tall, but the big Albertan Jack Pine had few useable branches to hang my collection of ornaments. To make matters worse, as soon as the tree started to thaw out, the sap started to fall from it like a sticky rain shower. It was then we discovered I was allergic to the pine, when I broke out in hives and could hardly breathe. I couldn’t decorate the tree, just going near it, made me sneeze, so my husband donated the tree to our seminary down the hill, and the next day we bought a new artificial tree.
Over the years I’ve decorated not one, not two, not three, but FOUR artificial trees in the house. I have downsized to two trees since the kids have moved out, one tree in the entranceway, and one in the living room, because,…well…I had to stop the insanity of putting up four trees! My husband, in particular, loves the house decorated. His sole task is stringing Christmas lights on the trees and putting the angels on top of them, and then leaves me with the rest of decorating. I don’t mind. I may bah-humbug the process initially knowing it is a huge amount of work, but when it’s done I really do feel in a Christmas spirit.
My kids do not like rice pudding. My husband is not a big fan of it either, but every Christmas Eve I dutifully make a large batch of it and place one whole blanched almond somewhere in it. When we have finished our turkey dinner, everyone is ready for the rice pudding. The object is to find the almond, by eating all the pudding. If someone has the almond, they have to stay silent, and keep the almond in their mouth until everyone else is done. The one who has the almond gets the “almond gift”, which is usually a box of chocolates. (My son said one year when he won that it was the reward to wash down the taste of the rice pudding.)
I suppose all families have some traditions we adhere to regardless of whether or not they are whole-heartedly appreciated. We embrace and cherish the memories that are made with all the comical photos with Santa, the over-decorating, and even the much-maligned rice pudding. All are necessary to the Dove Christmas celebrations. We know that to be true because in our family at the heart of every Christmas tradition is a meaningful experience.
My favourite tradition at Christmas is my husband reading the Christmas Story (Matthew 1:18-2:23) to the children. They know the story by heart, so my husband likes to throw in a silly phrase or word to see if they are truly paying attention or just concentrating on the presents waiting to be opened under the tree. It is fun for the kids, but we all recognize that it is the most important part of our Christmas celebrations. The telling of the story reminds us all that if it were not for the Birth of Jesus Christ, there would be no Christmas! He is God Incarnate, Who left His Heavenly Throne to come to us as a Baby for the sole purpose of being our Saviour! Christmas, with all of our family traditions, would just be an ordinary day if we were to exclude Jesus from the celebrations. HE IS the REASON for the SEASON!