If, when seeing, hearing, or reading the word ‘tradition’ you don’t hear the cast from the 1971 musical, Fiddler on the Roof, burst into song in your head (or even you sing the word out loud) then maybe you don’t have a soul. That movie is the best! And that song… That song has only one thing in common with this week’s post: Tradition!
One of the things I love most during the Christmas holiday season are the traditions. People have so many of them. And they can be so varied. It’s just so much fun to see and hear about them. As my family and I were getting out the decorations for Christmas I spent much of my time—as I always do—quietly reliving my childhood holiday memories. As certain decorations were put out, I would revile in the joy of what special memories they held. One of which is super annoying. I know, big surprise, right?
Somewhere, in years long past, my mother brought home a wall decoration that made her quickly reget her purchase. It was a Santa Claus face with a push-button nose. When you press his big red nose, it lights up, and the tune of Jingle Bells plays in a slightly digital tone. Once it was up on the wall and the novelty of the tune (and flashing nose) wore off for my siblings, it didn’t for me. Every day, when I got home from school, play, or just being outside, and walked past that nose (or even just walked past that Santa) I would press that nose. You would think that with all those years of nose pushing that the thing would break. Nope. It’s still going strong.
It now hangs in my house and I still press that nose to hear that Jingle Bell jive and see that nose glow.
Another favorite Christmas tradition is the breakfast casserole (I mentioned it last year). We make it only once a year. Only for Christmas Day. Only a couple pans of it. And, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Period. That’s it. That has been a Bagnall family tradition since before I was born. So, over half a century, people! It’s important. My whole family loves it! LOVES IT! And by making it only once a year, it stays special. Very special—and delicious. So-o goo-ood!
One of my self-generated—but not actually, sort of—traditions is The Traveling Wisemen. If you are not a follower of this blog you may not be aware of this one. If you are, you should already know about the wisemen. My mother is from Costa Rica. When I was a child she would often tell me of the Latin tradition of having the three wisemen slowly walk across the front room, during the month of December, toward the manger to welcome the baby Jesus. She would talk about how people would open up their windows and rearrange their furniture to allow the journey to become more elaborate and allow the neighbors to walk by and see the journey. Each day the wisemen would get just a little bit closer to the manger. Apparently, it was a big deal.
The funny thing about that is, we never did it. It was never a tradition in my childhood home. But, several years ago I started doing it in my home. For my children. We have a Playmobile set so the children would want to touch and play with them. They could interact and I wouldn’t have to worry about the pieces getting broken. It worked (and none of them are lost). Then, eventually, I started to make my own journey of the wisemen. It started out as just them walking around the front room, and when the children would come home from school, they would have to go and look to see what the new day’s adventure was. Later, I started to take pictures and post them on my wife’s Facebook page. Later still, I started adding captions. Now, I post them here and on my Facebook page. It’s becoming a big deal. I have people counting down days until it begins. That makes me happy (and stressed—in a good way).
However, out of all the crazy, spiritual, or fun traditions that my family has, one of my favorites (in the top three) is the ornaments.
Ever since I can remember, there have been ornaments. But, they are not just any ornaments. They are special. Each and every one. They are unique and special because a new one is collected each year. I don’t know why it started, but, it’s kind of a big deal at my home.
My oldest ornament is a puffy-hollow-plastic-with-felt Humpty Dumpty on a small brick wall. After that, for many years, they were flat and brass, with etchings. And, each one had the name of myself and my siblings—along with the year—on them. At Thanksgiving dinner, under our plates, in an envelope, these ornaments would sit. We all knew they were there. We all knew we had to wait until after dinner was over before we could open the envelopes and look inside. The anticipation made Thanksgiving dinner electrifying.
After the meal was over, each one of us children, in turn, would open the envelope and show off what we had received, to the family. One of my favorites is of a little boy walking along in the snow, carrying a small present, a puppy chewing on the end of a long stocking cap that sits atop the little boy’s head. Others of mine have been mechanical by nature (as I am a tinkerer, by nature). All have a significance of some sort. It may be as simple as my Santa riding a motorcycle—because I want a motorcycle. Or my sly fox swishing downhill on his skies—because my family used to go skiing every year. Or many a Batman—because I’m Batman. Or the year I got a drum with the presidential seal on it. I was in 6th grade and it was an election year. My teacher had us learn all about the election process, the candidates, and then we voted, as a class. It was very educational. I will never forget it. (my candidate won!—in real life)
The tradition has carried on to my children and grandchild. Each year the children have received an ornament of something that is relevant to them, a significance of the year, or just about them. The fun thing about this tradition is how it has grown. When my brother was married (the first time), his wife freaked out because they had no ornaments for their first Christmas. She was worried about the expense of having to fill a tree. He told her not to worry—she did anyway. He went and got his box of ornaments and she flipped out. There was more than enough. She didn’t know about any of it. Now all of my nieces and nephews (on my side) have ornaments for each year of their lives.
Over the years, many of my ornaments have stayed boxed up, as there has been not enough room on the tree. I have four children and a wife… Let them show off theirs. I’m fine with it. This year, however… It’s just me, the Mrs., and our youngest at home. And, even with just the three of us, the tree is still full of years of tradition—and happy memories. The way it should be.