Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spirit and Tradition

Our holiday spirit is alive and well and it's out in full force.  The halls are decked and the countdown has begun.  I love the sparkle and the bustle and the feelings of Christmas. And this is nothing new.  I remember taping Christmas lights up in my bedroom when I was young.  I would sit in the dark and watch the lights twinkle while listening to the cassette tapes of Christmas carols that my mom had bought at the Woolworth's store.  The words to the songs were printed in the Christmas special of the local paper and I would use them to sing along. 

I have a lot of great memories from Christmases past.  I can still remember the angel and Santa ornaments that my mom would hang in the doorways of our little apartment when I was a kid.  They were made of heavy cardboard and the blue angel that hung by my bedroom had tinsel that reflected the light as it twisted and spun in the drafts of the house.  I remember many of my Santa presents and I remember how my mom would give my brother and I some of the dough from the scuffle cookies she was making to mould into our own creations.  Of course my dad was the lucky one who got to eat those creations.

Our "talking house".
 It tells the story of The Night Before Christmas and I watch in awe as my girls imagine themselves in this mansion with visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.

It's difficult to pinpoint what it is I like most about the holidays... the music, the decorating, the giving, the smells, the camaraderie... I love it all.  But what I love most is not a thing... it is the feeling of Christmas.  And I don't know if I can actually describe the feeling that is Christmas but if you've had this feeling you know what I'm talking about.  It's a warm and cozy feeling.  A feeling like when there is a  blizzard happening outside and you don't have to go anywhere because everything you need is right in front of you.  It is the Christmas spirit. 

And the one thing I want to give my girls the most this year and every year, more than any toy or gift... I want them to feel and experience the Christmas spirit. And for some, this spirit comes in the form of traditions... whether it be gingerbread and shortbread making, giving ornaments that commemorate the year, annual gatherings, sleigh rides, midnight mass, Christmas breakfast or turkey dinner...whatever the ritual, it is the feeling that is produced that we all crave.

I say, "give your sister a kiss" and this is what she does.

And for someone like me who loves the holidays, who craves the feeling that is Christmas, you would think I would be creating rich and meaningful traditions for for Callie and Lexi... in a great effort to have them experience and feel the spirit.  And I will say that I have complete and utter envy for those people out there who thoughtfully choose just the right ornament for each child every year, those who make sooty black footprints next to the fireplace, those Santa's who leave letters for the children next to an empty cookie plate, those who spend the year creating just the perfect gift.... to those people, I wish I was more that way.

But in my reality, I feel like our family traditions will surface when they feel right.  Some years we put out reindeer food, some years we don't.  If the opportunity presents itself, we will make gingerbread houses, if not, we will make a craft instead.  If I find just the right ornament that signifies that special event I will buy it, if I don't spot it this year, that's okay too.  Because for me, tradition can't be forced or done just because it's tradition. For me, it is the feeling I want, not just the ritual. 
Our advent calendar.
 This is exactly what I imagined when I bought it.  A perfect house with 25 doors.
 Just the right size for treats and  playmobil.
This year I hung sixty red, sparkly ornaments from the roof.  Callie was pretending to be the elf and I was the Santa mommy.  She passed me the decorations while I stood on the stool pushing the tacks into the ceiling. After about the tenth ball Callie says, "I think we need some music."  Then she drags her twenty dollar CD player out of her bedroom and pushes play on a Christmas CD she found in the cupboard.  We all danced in the kitchen and sang along to the familiar words. Lexi follows right behind big sister. Callie asks a ton of questions like "who is the new born king?"  and "if we are celebrating Jesus' birthday, how old is he?"

I don't know if we will hang sixty ornaments from the roof each year.  I don't know if that will be the tradition or the thing that my girls will recall when they are grown... but I do know that the Christmas spirit is alive in our house and even though they may not remember exactly what they were doing, my girls will remember the feeling...the Christmas Spirit.

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