Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tradition


Tradition
The afternoon before Thanksgiving found me sprinting the aisles of the market, on the hunt for cranberry cheese, sparkling wine and a very specific colour of candles.  That last item was, I realize, a symptom of the dreaded disease of perfectionism but as I did find the colour I needed ( the precise hue of a ripe blood orange, to be exact) I refuse to waste time thinking about it.  I was making my way to the checkout lane when my phone rang.  Fishing it out of my pocket and placing it to my ear, I was tickled to hear the voice of an old friend.
  “Happy Thanksgiving!”, he said.  “I”m on my way to the wine shop. Where are you?”  
We proceeded to compare our list of holiday chores and then I asked him if the “green stuff” had been made as yet. 
 “Oh yes”, he replied.  “The green stuff is in the refrigerator”
 And we both laughed.  
The green stuff, as it is affectionately called, is part of his family’s holiday tradition.  It is a congealed salad - marshmallow filled and lime flavoured - the sort of concoction that is frequently found on the holiday tables down here in the south.  I have always found it to be an acquired taste, and one I myself was never quite able to manage, a sad quirk of my personality that caused relatives round the tables of my childhood to shake their heads and wonder at the oddness of my palate.  But to my friend, it is a tradition set it stone and it simply would not be Thanksgiving without the green stuff. 
Though congealed salads do not grace my holiday tables, I do have a gaggle of traditions I could never part with.  I never think of myself as dictatorial about these personal customs of the festive season, but I will admit that The Songwriter often chuckles during the opening scene of the holiday classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street, when Santa is walking down the street and spies a chap decorating a holiday window.  Santa stops, gazing in at the man and his work.  Then he frowns, finally rapping sharply on the window.  “You’re making a mistake”, he says loudly.  “You’re making a mistake with the reindeer.  You’ve got Cupid where Blitzen should be.  And another thing... Donner’s antlers have got four points instead of three.”  
When I ask The Songwriter why he finds this particular scene amusing, he looks over at me indulgently and smiles.  
Surely I’m not that bad.
Now is the season for traditions and I believe they serve us well, providing a comfortable continuity that allows us to feel all is right with the world.  They are the creators of family legend and we jettison them at our peril.  Each of us has our own set of traditions, personal and precious, and to alter even one can seem so strange, like wearing someone else’s clothes.  For instance, one year The Songwriter and I decided to open a present or two on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning, as was our life-long habit.
  It felt exceedingly weird and we never did it again.
Each year our main tree is purchased from the same tree lot down the street.  It comes home with us the day after Thanksgiving, without fail, and we put it up over the weekend. 
 The antique nativity scene always goes in the bookcase in front of the Egyptian mural, a blending of historical locales that matters not a bit to us.  
The first batch of fudge is always made with Bing Crosby singing in the background, and the first presents are wrapped to Vivaldi. 
Fir wreaths are hung on the inside of the windows, tied into place with embroidered bows. 
We always watch The Bishop’s Wife at least once, by the light of the Christmas tree, with mugs of hot chocolate warming our hands.
On Christmas Eve we listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
I could never entertain the idea of doing any of these things differently.
Sometimes I think of spending Christmas in London, in a quintessentially English hotel room, with snow falling softly outside my window and a fire roaring in an old stone fireplace.  At three 0‘clock On Christmas Day I would walk to evensong at Westminster Abbey, in a red coat with a black velvet collar.  I would indulge in the grandest of afternoon teas and I would open one perfect present at midnight. 
 Could I scrap all my home-grown traditions for such a trip as this? 
 Believe it or not, I’m not sure I could.  
Anyway, Christmas morning without Edward is unthinkable.

30 comments:

  1. My weenies are the reason I could never leave on such a trip. The imagining is better than the real thing.

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  2. Like you, I have a number of traditions that must occur at Thanksgiving and then another set that must occur at Christmas. They are things that have been a part of our family for my whole life and beyond.

    After many, many years I have realized that the actual tradition (the leek dish I must make, the Christmas Eve buffet, our family's version of "the green stuff" -- ours is red and really quite delicious, made with applesauce, cherry jello, and red hots candies -- the ornaments on the tree, watching the Macy's and Rose Bowl parades and so on) are really not that important in and of themselves. It is what they or rather, I should say, WHO these traditions represent....family! When we serve the leek, I think of my grandmother, I used to watch the parades with my dad, the ornaments bring back my childhood and my daughter's childhood, and just about everything brings my mother to mind. Parents, grandparents, all the family that I loved are gone now and I miss them still. But by carrying out the traditions we keep them alive in our hearts and memories and we gladly pay tribute to them with repetition every year, just to feel them nearby at least for a little while. Give up my traditions? Absolutely never! The traditions are what make the holidays special!

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  3. Christmas with Edward will somehow take you right back to snow covered Polish forests and plains. Could any other Christmas be a traditional ?

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  4. Your reality and the daydream both sound so lovely, Pamela.

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  5. Like you I would have a hard time breaking away from my traditions BUT I might consider it for that trip to London as you described it! Very tempting.

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  6. Tradition, tradition, tradition...oh I do know what that is like and I so agree with you it just doesn't feel right if you change them! Your traditions sound beautiful and I am sure Edward also agrees it would not be Christmas without him!!

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  7. Hello Pamela

    Your Christmas and all the traditions sound absolutely perfect and story book material.

    Having travelled and lived in many countries, I have estabished traditions for where I live. In Sydney on Christmas morning, I used host "an orphans breakfst" which essentially was for young people who were away from their home. Each country holds special memories.
    One dream is to be in Florence Italy and attend mass at the Duomo at midnight.

    A great post
    Helen xx

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  8. I don’t have a single tradition. It’s still hard to get into the season with no snow. You’d think after 30 + years
    I’d get over that. Enjoy Pamela...everything you do is magic.

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  9. I love reading about Christmas traditions. Can't wait to start listening to all the hymns and carols!

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  10. We as well have many small and large traditions, coming from my husband's Polish and my German background, making it filled with happy nostalgia and our children -teens now- love these as much as we do!
    We have Advent calendars, nutcrackers and smoking man, filing the air with incense and Christmas spirit!
    A wreath with four candles, lit one more every Sunday before Christmas, music, Bach's Christmas Oratorio and
    we every year watch It's A Beautiful Life!

    What a lovely time each year indeed!

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  11. Pamela...Traditions, they do soothe the soul. They make the memories in our lives so much more cherished!

    My late husband and I did go to London one year for Thanksgiving, as his birthday was in November. It was a precious trip for me.

    We of course were at home for Christmas!

    xoxo
    Karena

    Art by Karena

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  12. As you say, Christmas without Edward would be unthinkable. And it very likely wouldn't snow in London. Gone are the days, sadly, of the Frost Fairs on the Thames.

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  13. That little girl standing, holding the box of ornaments could be me, Pamela. I had to look twice, then thrice, to make sure. I had a red jumper with straps that crossed in the back just like it and often had my hair braided like that. The fact that my blondish little sister would have been the one standing on the chair instead of me makes it all the more poignant. May I ask who the artist is?

    Lest I be to rude, allow me to say that this is such a lovely blog. I love tradition, even though these days we are making some new ones with family in other states. Sigh.

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  14. Such a lovely post, so enjoyable hearing about all your traditions. This is a holiday I embraced when I moved to America all those years ago. It is a very special day when we can appreciate our blessings and be thankful for celebrating it with our family and friends.

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  15. I'm laughing because I, too, have Green Stuff on my Thanksgiving table, as it's a tradition from my Grandmother. I hang on tightly to our family traditions! While I will be gone for new year, I would not dream of not being home for Christmas!

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  16. Pamela, I love your Christmas traditions. Especially watching The Bishop's Wife with hot chocolate. Also listening to A Child's Christmas in Wales. But when you described an imaginary Christmas spent in London, I was hooked. Oooh, I thought, I could do that, couldn't I? Christmas without our loved ones and our familiar traditions would be tough. But the picture you paint is very tempting!

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  17. My previous husband and I once went to Uzbekistan for Christmas (yes, really) - it was minus forty, deep snow, thick ice and very pretty wooden churches painted exquisite blues and whites - but it didn't make up for the fact that when we returned on New Year's eve all our Christmas cards lay on the mat, unopened. Yes Pamela, I am all for tradition - long may it last.

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  18. Dear Pamela,
    I think that it's wonderful that we all have our own special traditions at Christmas......it is where memories are made and magic happens.
    We always have a real Christmas tree. Many of my friends have resorted to fake ones, but I will never do that. I always write our Christmas cards by an open fire with a glass of wine and carols playing in the backgound. We have many more traditions which would take me too long to write about here but, the one my family always laugh about is that I always put walnuts in their shell, in a bowl, silver nutcrackers placed artistically on the top, on Christmas Eve, with instructions not to eat any until our Christmas Eve guests have left...... most of those walnuts are still there, well into February !!!! haha.
    Enjoy your Christmas preparations Pamela and perhaps we should make a few new ones this year ! XXXX

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  19. I can't seem to give up on traditions either. Everything has to be just the way it was last year. I heard someone say that the biggest cultural shock of your life is the first time you have to spend Christmas with your husband's family:-D It's funny, but as mentioned in the comments, it's not the tradition in itself, but the memories of things and people that make us stick to them.

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  20. Your love for Edward is amazing. I'm dog-less so I'd be off to London for the holidays...

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  21. Hello Pamela

    I dream of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in England(Lyme Regis). I know one day it will come true for me.

    Take Care and have a great day!

    Best
    Tracy :)

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  22. Good morning Pamela,
    Ahhh traditions. Love them. Decorating for Christmas seem to be one of those traditions that my kids have gently let go of. Growing up with the added responsibilities of jobs, school, etc. Darn the luck!
    So the decoratings all on Mom this year. Can you say manicure? Geeze!
    Would love to invite you and your adorable Edward to become friends with my Gracie at The Gracie Porter Collection on Facebook! He is haaaandsome!
    Hope your having a lovely holiday so far.
    Best, Lisa

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  23. You are so very right! We have the green goo too....and I do take a spoonful out of politeness. BUt it at brunch following Thanksgiving Day. I also have those candles you were talking about....but only one pair left (I tend to hoard candles when I find the right ones!) And we open only one present on Christmas Eve....the pajamas! And we had contemplated going to Santa Fe for Christmas (I have very fond memories of Christmas there....snow, luminarias, adobe home and Indian jewelry!).....but you are right....I had not thought about the dogs! What was I thinking?!

    Our Creche is wood, hand carved from Germany and we find pieces to add every so often. Tradition reigns supreme during our holidays....and for all of the reasons you mention. It is also a way to remember those who are not with us this year.

    Have a beautiful holiday season!

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  24. I,too, smiled about the green stuff
    this was my favorite thing about
    the Thanksgiving meal one my mother
    always made. She is no longer with us and I being the only member of
    my family who favors it have not continued this tradition but it is a lovely memory.

    Loved reading about all of yours.
    Beautiful post Pamela.

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  25. Your traditions are wonderful, and I don't think I'd swap any of them either, especially as the weather in London can be quite contrary at Christmas and might not play ball with the snow.

    My traditions are very small but they are my own - there are no family traditions, save a small angel which has seen better days must always be somewhere on the tree. So what I like to do is attend a carol service on Christmas Eve with friends, and wrap presents to the sound of Christmas music. When I have my own place I'll probably expand my traditions - I feel they are all waiting for me to step into them - next year!

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  26. And one other comment - congealed salad??!! I am picturing lettuce which has been moulded into a jelly! Is that what it is? *eyes google thoughtfully*

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  27. We almost had your green stuff at Thanksgiving. Our family tradition requires a casserole of sweet potatoes with baked marshmallows on top. This year my young nephew made lime jello for dessert along with our usual pies.

    On the Brits: after celebrating Thanksgiving with us one year, my British in laws now do their own Thanksgiving dinner with friends and serve our traditional food. I've spent a few Christmases in England and it was magical, but I agree with you about wanting to be with my dog on that day.

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  28. Traditions and family (Edward) are what make Holidays grounded in our hearts and souls...after all, we only get to experience them but once a year. Your traditions sound perfectly perfect!
    BTW...I had 'red stuff' last night, no holiday, just MIL's dinner table...it was actually somewhat good, at least the bananas in it were...my little nephews adored it though, especially all the marshmellows!
    xo J~

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  29. This is a lonely Christmas. I was in the super Market doing fine. Then I'll be home for Christmas started to play it makes me sad and I saw the frostie Paws in the freefer and started to sob.I miss my dog so. People started to look at me I was mad I lost control. I am making it by hugging a Teddy bear at night, calling it Thor.
    He was just over his 16th Birthday
    I know how you love your dog.
    Kiss him for me. yvonne

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  30. Oh Pamela, don't do it. You would be sooo disappointed, London would be miserable, cold and moist with no snow just lots of smog. London so seldom has snow for Christmas. Keep it as a lovely dream and hold your own traditions close to your hear.

    After all, traditions mark the milestones of our lives.

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