It’s funny how important traditions and a sense of wonder can be. Every year, I spend some time around Christmas going back to L.A. to be with my family. It’s one of my favorite things to do, despite the parental drama it can come with, because spending time with my family (and now my sister-in-law, nieces and nephew) is absolutely soul-lifting. Even spending time with my crazy parents can be fun.
I don’t remember much about Christmas at my house growing up – in large part because, as we’ve established earlier, I have a sieve-like memory. But I’m also the youngest of four kids (by six years), and my parents split when I was eight (I think. I always thought I was six, but in a recent conversation with my sister, it turns out I must’ve been 7 or 8 since she was already in college when it happened.) We aren’t religious, so we didn’t do the whole church thing, and my parents are immigrant Chinese (funny to think that – they’ve been here almost 50 years now!), so the whole Christmas thing wasn’t the ingrained cultural thing that it has become for many, if not most, Americans. I remember stockings, singing Christmas carols and the (occasional?) Christmas tree, but I don’t really have the major traditions that stick in my mind the way so many other people do. Just to be clear, I don’t feel I was deprived of anything – It’s just I don’t have these major traditions that others have that I feel compelled to repeat over and over again. The same is true of Thanksgiving, actually. We spent most Thanksgivings at the table of our friends, not our own place, so I have no “we must….” dishes.
Anyway, my point is that the holidays are awesome as a time to get together with family, but I’ve never thought much about the traditions that surround it – the tree, the magic, the food, the order of events, Christmas Eve, etc. And so I’ve always thought that the trappings of Christmas didn’t much matter to me.
Since K was born, however, I’ve learned just how wrong I was.
Two years ago was K’s first Christmas, and we arranged to go to LA the week before Christmas, arriving home on the 24th.
As a result, we didn’t buy a tree or decorate the condo. We bought and wrapped our gifts to give to everyone else (and K), but planned to spend the day at others’ houses.
And I realized that while I don’t feel like I had a deprived childhood, I wanted K’s Christmas to be deeply rooted in tradition and wonder. I want her to feel anticipation as Christmas gets closer. Experience the joy of finding the perfect Christmas tree. I want her to know that Santa Claus comes every Christmas Eve and that every December we read Twas the Night Before Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That her daddy will be making shortbread from her great-granma’s recipe, and that Christmas brings with it a roast, pate and prosciutto.
And when she grows up, I want her to be able to describe what her Christmas was like and to have created traditions that she passes on to her family some day.
So while we’re still in the midst of creating her traditions, tell me – what are your favorite ones?