My church recently posted a question on Facebook: “What are some of your Christmas traditions?” That simple question, together with learning my dad’s baby sister passed this week and there’s only my dad left from parents and their family siblings, stirred up even more the swirling cauldron in my mind that has me longing for Christmases past.
In truth, there isn’t much left in the old traditions as they seem to fade as the years go by and my kids get older. This isn’t as much a complaint but more a personal warning to try to keep traditions alive.
Most of this stems from the fact my traditions were mostly passed down from my mom, a few from my marriage and there’s little from life now as a single dad. The melancholy that comes from not having Mom around for what will be a fourth Christmas has begun to permeate what’s left. So my thought is to write about a few of my traditions in the hope of regaining the wonder and love they’ve brought to my life.
I’ll start with what I miss most: My mom’s handmade pierogis. Always made by the dozens on Christmas Eve for the family to enjoy, Mom kept up this tradition through all of her ages — even to the ripe old one of 91 for our last Christmas together. Even more important, my oldest daughter was her constant helper for the 14 years she knew and loved her Nana. What I wouldn’t give for one more serving — or three — of Mom’s pierogis.
This year when I get my girls on Christmas Day, my daughters and I will try our hand at making pierogis. Even if we have no idea what we’re doing and they turn out bad, they’ll still be good as the memories they will bring rushing back will remind us all of the best Christmases with Mom and Nana.
Keeping on the food theme, I was always known for bringing along a HoneyBaked ham on Christmas Eve for the meat eaters of the clan. You see, Mom didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve — something to which my oldest daughter still adheres. But I was having none of that. And since the largest private HoneyBaked distributor was a client of mine at a store I worked at in the 1980s, I always had the best ham. Oh, no substitutes allowed for me, either. This is one tradition I’ve maintained with the HoneyBaked store here in town. And, yes, I overbuy in size.
There’s also pea soup to be made —the only thing Mom had to admit I made better than she did. All this adds to another holiday tradition of mine: gaining weight. No ham can be walked past without grabbing a handful, and I make pea soup by the extra large crockpot.
Mom also baked cookies. She had the best no-refrigerate sugar cookie dough recipe on the planet, thankfully one discovered in an old cookie book a couple of years back. While I haven’t perfected her press cookie expertise, I do OK on the sugar cookies — sans the gigantic mistake of using premade sugar dough in the roll one year that made Santa fatter, reindeer look like that fat horse on the popular meme and pretty much every other cookie look like the blob. With Mom’s recipe and the girls still enjoy decorating with friends, I look forward to expanding to chocolate crinkles this year.
Another tradition began when the girls were young. As a family, we’d go looking at lights on Christmas Eve and then head to Mom and Dad’s to enjoy the pierogi and ham dinner, some great cookies and, of course, some gift opening for the girls. This one, of course, has changed dramatically due to circumstances and probably where my best lesson can be applied.
The fact I’m not married shouldn’t stop me from taking the girls out looking at lights this year — it’s not my Christmas Eve, darned divorce — or in doing any of the traditions we’ve loved over the years or creating a few traditions of our own.
I simply need to turn traditions that became habits and routines back into our family traditions.
You see, December became the month where I ordered Precious Moments ornaments for the girls because Mom and Dad always did; where it became modified, premade versions of holiday meals we so loved and enjoyed; where I had to move that damned elf every night — so glad that’s over; where I was simply going through the motions of traditions instead of experiencing them; and sadly, where I had to renew clients for the next year to keep all this going.
I love and enjoy my clients. I do. But renewals will come if I follow another tradition: provide value and service. In the same manner, if I apply the same value, love and effort to my family traditions, they’ll be a joy forever. And there’s no better time to do it than Christmas.
It’s my sincere hope you experience love and joy in your Christmas traditions with your families this holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or publisher@thebusinesstimes.