Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | By: HiDee

Family Traditions

We hear a lot about family traditions at this time of year.

Common traditions leading up to the holidays include marathon shopping on Black Friday, cookie exchanges, and holiday parties. Schools and churches host holiday concerts and plays. Stores and restaurants pump Christmas music throughout their locations, doing their part to put people in the holiday mood, and enticing them to part with their hard-earned money.

Many people spend their time volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens. There are angel trees, and toy and coat drives for those less fortunate, for there always seems to be a need. It soothes my soul to know there are so many caring people in the world.

At home, my family traditions start with getting a fresh-cut tree. Hubby cuts the excess branches to use as background for our shelving decorations, and the faint piney-scent lingers in our rooms. Christmas cards received line the low wall from our front door, and stockings are hung above the fireplace. When the kids were little, our tradition was to load everyone in the car, drive-through McDonalds for dinner, and then drive around looking at Christmas lights. Nowadays, my son and I good-naturedly argue over who gets to drink the eggnog.

Growing up, my family always gravitated to Christmas Day. As kids, we traveled to both grandparents’ houses for meals and gifts. These days, my extended family gathers at my house. We share an abundance of food, and the women usually hang out around the dining room table while the men talk sports in the family room. We don’t currently have any little ones but when the kids were little, they were always the center of attention. I loved capturing their excitement, their wonder, and even their tantrums to freeze those moments in time. These days, my focus has shifted to capturing special moments with parents and grandparents. One of these days, I’m sure it will come full circle.

By contrast, my husband’s family doesn’t seem to care what actual day it is – when we get together for the holidays, the focus is on food and fellowship. The youngest kids hand out presents, and chaos ensues. Following gifts, my mother-in-law always gives us an assortment of items to choose from: calendars, magnets, coffee mugs, decorative dish towels, assorted crackers and pop, meat and cheese gift sets, and miscellaneous items. Some things she designates as one per person, others are one per family. Often, there is a lot of trading going on!

Over the years, our family traditions have evolved, as I'm sure yours have.  I can remember watching musical Christmas specials with my mom, shows like Donny and Marie, The Captain and Tenille, Julie Andrews, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope.  We also watched various versions of Rudolph, Frosty, Snoopy and Sesame Street Christmas specials. As we grew older, we graduated to It's A Wonderful Life - a show that's still a favorite to this day.  Who doesn't want to root for George Bailey?

These things may seem small compared to some family traditions, and yet they are an important fabric of our lives. The young adults in our family get upset if we try to shake up any of the normal ways of doing things. They have come to count on our traditions and find comfort in the familiar routines.

What are some of your family traditions?  Have you given your characters any unique traditions? Please share!