Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Family Christmas Tradtions


It was the first week of December. As a tutor I was sitting in the ESL (English as a Second Language) class listening to the teacher describe an assignment for the adult students. Since it was Christmas time the assignment was to present to the class either a family Christmas tradition, or a Christmas tradition in their home country or some other country tradition that is celebrated.

The assignment got me thinking about my Christmas family traditions. Specifically what are my traditions? What is the best way to tell the story? How should it be presented?

My starting point was a mental image of what I was soon to do and that was putting up my tree and the other decorations. My family traditions soon became clear.

Family Christmas traditions are unique and not usually found in other homes. Traditions have their origins in the past. Mine started nearly 55 years ago.

Family Christmas Traditions

Once upon a time two young people fell in love. His name was Robert and hers was Rose. Oh how they were in love.

One day in August 1958 they got married. The sun was brilliant. The skies were a deep, rich blue. The clouds were huge, pure white and filled with promise. They spoke their vows. The one Robert remembered was “... for richer or poorer” because they had so little money.

The first Christmas Rose sewed two Christmas stockings made from red felt with white trim at the top. One said Robert and the other Rose. These stockings by tradition would be filled by St. Nicholas with little wrapped gifts.  Little did they know, it was the start of a family tradition.

Soon after their fifth Christmas together they were blessed with a baby boy. They called him Randall. Then the next Christmas Rose sewed another stocking. It had “Randall” stitched at the top. In the autumn of the following year this family was blessed with another boy. They called him Roger. Very soon Rose was seen sewing a fourth Christmas stocking with letters Roger stitched at the top. Less than two years would pass when this happy family was blessed with a baby girl. Robert named her Maria. The next Christmas Rose sewed the fifth and final Christmas stocking. Maria’s name was stitched to the top of it.

Christmas after Christmas Santa filled these stockings with small wrapped presents for this happy family.

Then one Christmas,  eleven year old Maria gave her father a beautifully illustrated book, “The Night Before Christmas”. This was the beginning of the second family tradition. For several Christmas’s Rose gave Robert a Christmas book. Each year he would look forward to reading another new Christmas story.

As the years went by the small children grew up to be fine adults. One by one they left home to find their place in the world. Robert and Rose had an empty nest. They were like newlyweds, free to come and go as they wished.

Then one day in July of 1995,  just a few weeks before their 37th wedding anniversary, the sunlight was dull, the sky a lifeless blue, the clouds pale white with dark grey edges and filled with grief. Rose departed. She left this world a better place. Robert remembered another vow of so many years ago, “Until death do us part”.

Then Nancy came into Robert’s life and it became new again. Nancy encouraged him to celebrate Christmas anew.  One year she bought him a small little Christmas tree. The ends of the branches light up and change colors, blue, green, red, and white. This tree makes Christmas new and fresh. Each year Robert places his Christmas books under the tree. The days leading up to December 25 he reads the stories.

Robert finds that Christmas time and indeed the rest of the year is filled with joy and gratitude for Nancy’s love.

December 10, 2012
The Christmas tree that changes colors. A gift from Nancy.

My collection of Christmas books. Note the book "The Night Before Christmas" (lower left)
Robert's Christmas Stocking note the small  bell on the  toe.