Thursday, December 30, 2010


I've been reading a few Christmas posts.....always interesting to hear what others do.

Sometimes when I teach about liturgy, I bring up Christmas.  When things are important to us, we celebrate them by developing traditions, and those traditions take on value and meaning of their own.  People care about them.  Often far more than would seem reasonable.....but it is due to all that hidden significance.  If you are Catholic and work in the church, you'll understand the joke about liturgists.  "How is a liturgist different than a terrorist?"  Answer: "You can negotiate with a terrorist."  So true.  I am a liturgist at heart, I must say, and at church often have to hold myself back lest I become legalistic and, well, "difficult".

Not so much at home.  No holding back.  I am the CHRISTMAS COMMISSAR. I say how it goes.  Had to teach my husband this from the outset.  No negotiation.  Fortunately, he was acquiescent and we were able to remain married. 

Actually, things have changed a bit over the years (just as they have in the Church).   Most of our traditions stem from the way it was growing up - which, because I had  very happy childhood, is the way it SHOULD BE.  However, becoming Catholic caused me to add another layer of  the way it should be

After trying a few alternatives, including the very-liturgically-correct option of not putting the tree up until Christmas Eve, we've followed the pattern of putting up the tree on Gaudete Sunday (the one when we light the pink Advent Candle).  That means the tree is up a week or two before Christmas.  Just right.

The tree may not come down until Epiphany - the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and what was through most of the Church's history the conclusion of the Christmas season.  (Whatever Church official decided the Christmas Season should last until the Baptism of the Lord, did not consult me, so we sort-of ignore that.)  This pattern works really well for us, actually.  Honestly, I am not rigid about the tree.  This year it went up a bit late due to basement flooding, and ever so often, I don't get right to it the day after Epiphany....but it's close.

Stockings under the tree

Where there is little room for compromise is the Christmas morning routine.  For a few years stockings were hung at my mom's house.  Then, because she trumps me, and suggested that the stockings be opened at our house, we've done that lately.  It is a good idea.  The kids get a "taste" of Christmas cheer before having to get dressed and make beds before going to my mom's house where the festivities occur.   

At my mom's house, we start with breakfast.  For years the menu was the same - bacon (as much as you could eat - something never dreamed of any other day of the year), grapefruit, and something called "Melvin's Rolls" (because Melvin who worked at Dow Corning with my mom, gave her the recipe).  Melvin's Rolls are an easy mock up of caramel rolls, and quite as good, if not better.  My mother decided the Russians needed a bigger breakfast and (without consulting me) changed the menu, adding an egg dish and removing the all-the-bacon-you-can-eat.  Age has its privileges.  Perhaps she began to fear there was no way she could afford all the bacon our family could now eat!

After breakfast we clean up the kitchen.  Almost had a mutiny his year, led by Ilya, but I would not compromise on that one.   Then we gather in the living room.... 

I hand out one gift at a time, and we all appreciate the gift AND the wrappings are disposed of before moving on. In this, I am "She Who Must Be Obeyed".  One look at me, and they know I mean business.

I took over the Christmas Commissar role from my dad when I was about twelve. Perhaps I thought he moved things along too quickly.  In any case, once I'd taken over, I'd taken over.  This is not a role I will give up easily, and he seemed a bit surprised and amused that I'd never give it back to him.  I just love the present-opening and want it to be enjoyed with no moment missed.  After all the time, money and thought that has gone into gifts, it seems only right to give each one its due.
My  determination that these things must be SAVORED is actually outdone by a friend of mine who has one round of everyone opening a gift, then there is a break while everyone writes a thank you note (for relative and godparent gifts, of course). I went so far as to suggest that approach one year and realized that there might be a coup if I persisted.

I used to have the same level of zeal about how the remainder of the day should go as well, but somehow my Christmas spirit is not what it once was.  I've even acquiesced to a "traditional" sloppy joe meal, rather than making all the generally accpted "favorites".  I suppose it does make sense that "favorites" should be more important than "traditional" favorites.  I'm a bit embarrassed about that, however.  I do make pies.  Won't give that up!


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Wow, I am surprised! You are so relaxed about so many other things. I like the approach though. At my house, the kids can open a gift at the same time, as they usually are getting the same thing in a different color etc. It's other people's homes where things get wild!
Also, I guess I assumed you were a born and bred Catholic and did not realize you had converted, or joined, at a later time.

Tina in CT said...

Wouldn't it be easier for all if your mother came to your house Christmas AM? Are all gifts opened at her condo but for stocking gifts?

I used to have lots of traditions but once my daughter went off on her own and I divorced, things changed. I go with the flow.

Annie said...

Tina, my mom doesn't like things to be "out of control"; I think she feels "safer" at her in: it is easier to tell us (or hint around) that we can go now, than it would be to interrupt everything and ask us to take her home. And she doesn't like driving to our house, as it requires freeways and exits. She can only take "Christmas Cheer" in small doses. Smaller, even, than mine.

Hevel said...

Hehe, I used to be like you when we still did Christmas. Probably because Christmas was (still is) a trigger for me, and control and structure made it not only bearable, but enjoyable. I think structure in holidays is also very important for adopted children.

Now, letting go of Christmas was a whole different matter.

:)De said...

Wow! I do like the "as much as you could eat bacon" thing. Bacon is a rare treat around here too and would probably get more attention than the gifts. LOL!

Tina in CT said...

I love bacon but don't regularly cook it. I always make it with pancakes the first AM after the Muscovites have arrived. They all love it too.

I understand the reasoning after you explained about your mother.

Hope you're off this week with the kids.

Bogaranty├║ said...

I think I understand where you come from with keeping with liturgy. the best thing about the Agnostic/atheist/non-Christian-but-built-on-Judeo-Christian-tradition-and-folk-traditions Christmas is that you can't do it wrong. Recently we are not even keeping serious about the date...

MamaPoRuski said...

Happy New Year to you and your family! Praying for God's blessings, wisdom and peace! HUGS!