Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Traditions, Then and Now

Taking a break from reviews and giveaways 
to share the important things this holiday...

The winter holidays are meant for kids.  Santa Claus is real, snow falls solely for sledding and building snow families, and a baby (just like I used to be, they'll say) was born in the hay.  When else do we let them bring trees in the house or bury them with brand new toys, shiny paper, and glittery ribbon?  In the thick of it, they'll tell you every bit of it is magical.  It's not until we get a little older that particular pieces of that holiday magic begin to plant themselves in a special part of our memory. For me, the enchantment was the Christmas tree.

Growing up in Iowa, the formula for the perfect Christmas tree involved waiting for a bitter cold day and swirling biting winds.  The whole family piled out of the station wagon at the country Christmas tree farm, picked up a hacksaw and trudged acres and acres to the farthest, most un-harvested hill.  The arguments then ensued as six girls poured out their hearts in defense of their " perfect"  tree.  Ultimately, Mom got the one she wanted, and the saw went to work chopping down her tree.

The adventure continued on as we dragged our enormous tree back across the snow-laden hills looking for a tractor and trailer willing to give us a ride back to our car.  If we were lucky, the tree would fit in the baler-one year it would not-and a great big Christmas tree bundle got strapped to the top of the car.  Piling back into the station wagon, we raced home to set up our tree.

The happy memories don't end there.  Getting the tree home was only half the act.  Enter Pa-pa and his voice of reason.  "Dawn, that tree is too big.  It won't fit in our house."  He was right nearly every year.  The tree's trunk always  received a second round of shearing before taking it's place front and center in the living room window.

After the tree was decorated and lit, we enjoyed seeing more and more presents accumulate underneath.  We would plug in the lights in the late afternoon and sometime before going to bed, Mom and Dad would unplug it again.  Until Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Eve we all knew the twinkling lights stayed on all night.  Early in the morning (or later in the morning depending on how old we were getting to be), six girls would tumble out of bed, shuffle into the living room and be greeted with the most breathtaking sight!  The glow of the Christmas tree illuminated the room, shining off wrapping paper, and calling attention to a big bag from Santa. Spread out on the floor, in front of the tree, were six stuffed-to-the-brim stockings inviting us to come and partake.  With the allure of new toys, the moment was over in the blink of an eye, but the living room aglow on Christmas morning is what Christmas time magical to me.

Imagine then, the struggle it's been with a husband who grew up a little bit differently.  In a home that in all ways seemed even more frugal than my own, the electric bill at Christmas time apparently just went out the window.  He wants the lights on all the time, day and night and any extra time in between.  Last year we followed each other around, secretly plugging and unplugging.  I was certain he was being obstinate only because he didn't like digging around for the loose cords to fit into the socket.  There had to be a solution before we started our holiday celebrating again this year.

In come our kids.  Even before talking about getting a tree, they tell us excitedly and assuredly that Christmas trees have lots of presents and candy canes.  I have no idea where the candy canes came from, but they are certain and now our tree is covered in candy canes they can eat every day.  The first night we had our tree up I heard our oldest telling his dad that if he couldn't sleep he would just come out and look at the tree.  The second night we had our tree up, I found him sleeping on the couch and when he woke up the first thing he said was, "I just wanted to lay here and look at this beautiful tree."

A mom's heart melts.  It's a struggle to walk by and see the lights on at all times of the day.  I want my family to know joy the way I remember it as a child.  At the same time, who am I to take away a three-year-old's joy?  Children make the holidays!