Weekly Column: Tradition Junkies

©Stephenie Freeman

I’ve created more family holiday traditions than I have the time or patience for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Grinch who has trouble understanding the meaning of Christmas or a Scrooge whose egotism makes him miserable in the midst of everyone else’s joy. I’m nothing like Ralphie who is only interested in getting his Red Ryder BB gun or Bing who only seems to be dreaming of a white Christmas and dancing with Danny Kaye.

I am like one of those holiday movie characters too overwhelmed by the Christmas chaos she’s created to be able to enjoy the holidays. If there is one holiday movie character that I identify with, it’d be Clark W. Griswold from the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

Clark only wants to give his family a fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas, but ends up driving himself crazy in the process. But Clark cares enough to give his family only the best during the holidays. Traditions are important to Clark. He understands that they are truly what make the holidays special.

And spiked eggnog. Heavily spiked eggnog makes it pretty special too.

Christmas seems to bring out the “traditionalist” in all of us. We grow up doing special things during the holidays that we feel compelled to carry on. But much like Clark does in the movie, I’m currently facing holiday tradition overload.

My children love the holiday traditions that I’ve created for our family. Throughout December they can’t wait to see what new tradition tomorrow will bring. Like addicts, these little tradition junkies look to me each day for their fix.

“What will we do today, Mom? Decorate a gingerbread house? Bake cookies for the neighbors? Drive around and look at lights? Make homemade ornaments? Feed the homeless? Feed the birds? Stuff the turkey? Stuff the stockings? Stuff ourselves? We need more, Mom. Give us more!”

And like most enablers of addicts, I find myself giving into their demands. They need their holiday high and I’m there to give it to them.

We make sack lunches for our local homeless shelter and drink hot cocoa every Christmas Eve. Every year I buy the gingerbread house kit, and every year I try my best not to lose my mind as my children destroy my kitchen. These traditions are just a few of the many, none of which my children forget about from year to year. If traditions are about creating memories, then ours are doing an extraordinary job of it.

The problem that I personally have with these traditions is that they are in addition to all of the required holiday celebrating. Decorating the tree is a given and having lights on the house is a must. And Christmas just wouldn’t feel right if there weren’t presents to hide and trips to the mall to see Santa.

No, our holiday traditions are extra; just one more thing to add to an already long list of holiday “to-dos” forcing me to consume lots and lots of spiked eggnog and homemade fudge just to make it through the day.

Somehow, the spirit of the season encourages me to face the next tradition-filled day head on. Just yesterday, my son busied himself making a lovely wreath out of green construction paper, red glitter, and lots and lots of glue.

“We should do this every year!” he told me.

Instead of running out of the house screaming, I felt that rush that every tradition junkie gets when a new tradition is born. It’s kind of like the rush you get when you eat a lot of sugar, but instead of gaining weight, you gain lots of memories instead.

Like Clark discovered by the end of the movie, traditions really are worth the chaos. Most of the time they cost more, take up more of your time, and never turn out as perfect as you hoped. But when I am old and gray and my boys are off creating their own family traditions, I’ll have my memories of our family holidays to keep me warm.

Oh, and lots of spiked eggnog. And maybe a nice red wine. And some Irish coffee would be good too…

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