It’s Tradition

“How does/did your family countdown to Christmas? Did/do you have any special family traditions?” 

When I was a child we didn’t have as many traditions as some families, but there are things that stand out from that time in my life. First, we always cut down our own Christmas tree. My grandma lived on a farm so we’d search her pastures and woods for the perfect tree. We didn’t go for little trees either. They had to be so big we sometimes had to cut the top off. It had to be a cedar tree too. They smelled so good. When we decorated the tree we made a production out of hanging three little colored birds that my mother found somewhere. The birds were shiny and had googly eyes, but we loved them.

We always attended the local Christmas parade after which Daddy would buy everyone a hot chocolate. It tasted better because we bought it and didn’t make it at home. We mostly ate at home so the hot drink was a big treat to us.

My sister and I always slept on our special Santa pillow cases on Christmas Eve. I still remember how pretty they were. We always got up in the middle of the night to see what Santa brought us. We’d run to get our parents up, and they never complained about it. We just turned on the lights and had Christmas morning in the middle of the night. Man, it was fun!

On Christmas Eve we always had dinner with my dad’s family, and on Christmas Day we ate with my mother’s family. Every child on Christmas Day received a small gift, but with such a large family my grandmother couldn’t spend big money on everyone without going broke. We loved the little things she found because she gave them to us.

Once I was married with my own family lots of traditions remained the same. We didn’t cut our tree down in the woods, though. We always just bought one. I also decorated lots more than my mother did. The kids and I had fun painting Christmas ornaments for our tree. I think we attended more Christmas gatherings. Lots of times the kids were in little Christmas plays at church so we always went to those. Our church was small so at our church get-together after the play the kids got a small gift. My kids didn’t get up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve either. I always wondered why, LOL. I used to read Christmas stories to my kids, and we watched all the animated Christmas TV shows. We also made a production of counting down to Christmas with an Advent calendar. We had one tradition that I miss dreadfully. On Christmas morning my parents and sister came to my house for breakfast, and then we’d all open our gifts together. My mother, father, and sister have been gone a long time now, but every Christmas morning I think of them.

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? I’d love to hear which one it is.

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About Elaine Cantrell

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina. She has a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America. Her first novel A New Leaf was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Press. When she isn't writing you can find Elaine playing with her dog or maybe collecting more vintage Christmas ornaments
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9 Responses to It’s Tradition

  1. kathleenbee says:

    What lovely traditions and memories – so rich. I’m so sorry about your loss and not being able to share the get-together with your parents and sister. The only tradition I can think of is that I buy my (now mostly adult) kids a smaller gift and put it in a stocking for Christmas Eve – we open after supper. They buy me something now that they’re older.

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  2. I always wondered what it would be like to cut down a Christmas tree and then decorate it. We had so many allergies that we had to stick to artificial. Sounds like your family did all the usual holiday traditions! Nice memories.

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    • Elaine Cantrell says:

      Cutting down the tree yourself while out in the woods is fantastic. My sister and I were in a fever of impatience to get the ornaments on it the minute we got home. Now that my husband and I are retired we use an artificial tree. It can’t hold a candle to the real thing, but it suits us better.

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  3. Jeff Salter says:

    Very sorry about the loss of your family members. That certainly changes the entire holiday experience.
    Your traditions — as a child and with your own kids — sound wonderful.
    That said, I can’t picture any parent being gracious about opening gifts in the middle of the night. LOL. When I was a kid, I think the earliest we ever did the Christmas morning thing was around 6 a.m. As a parent, I had a rule that we sleep at least til 7:00 (as best I recall now).

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    • Elaine Cantrell says:

      Thanks, Jeff. Losing loved ones does change everything. I always try to focus on the people I still have left, but sometimes I do get sad. I’m putting up a special tree this year to honor those who can’t be here. I once painted ornaments for each of my family members. I stopped using them because I was afraid they’d get broken. Well, I’m using them this year anyway. What good are they just sitting in a box? The tree is only about 4 feet high, and it’ll be off the floor in hopes the dogs won’t run through the room and break them. Our pack has been known to do that. As far as getting up in the night goes, I still just don’t understand why my children didn’t, LOL. My parents were always good sports about it.

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  4. I started on my Friday post and realized how much loss there is for me, and I guess for many of us at a certain age; I started to get very sad, but I find comfort in what I still have. Change; we just keep going and get out of the season the best that it has to offer us now. I can find joy; I am glad that you also have joy.
    My kids also had Christmas pillow cases!

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    • Elaine Cantrell says:

      I think Wordsworth had a poem about finding comfort in what remains. I can’t think which one right now. Those Christmas pillow cases were the best! Oddly enough, I was searching the web for a retro style Christmas tablecloth, and there was one in the same pattern as my pillow case. I guess the design must have been really popular.

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