The Ghost of Christmas Present
Traditions, customs - two words that come to mind this time of year. Christmas is a time to honor tradition. Many of us return to our families, to old places we used to call home. We take part in feasts. We try to relax and enjoy each other despite our many differences, and we celebrate life, love, and the year’s end.
Last year at this time I shared my own story of Christmas tradition. I detailed the many observances I grew up with in my parent’s house as a child, an adolescent, and eventually an adult. Those traditions stayed basically the same from year to year. I have a sister who ensured this. She actually made a list one year of all the things that had to be done, wrapped, baked, etc. and at the precise time and order in which each duty was to be executed.
For years we’ve eaten turkey and stuffing at my mom’s house on Christmas eve. Whether that happens before or after church depends on the time of the service, though normally I think we stuck with after so as to avoid the effects of tryptophan (the sleepy stuff in turkey) during the homily. We would always open gifts from each other after dinner, and as of recent years, now that everyone’s grown up, the evening has been capped with what we’ve come to call “Christmas cheer,” a mixed drink brewed up by yours truly.
Christmas on my dad’s side of the family has it’s customs as well. The men take up shotguns and chase cottontails in the snow. Grandpa loves ham so we usually have that, and sometimes, smoked salmon. The house is always packed to the brim with aunts, uncles, cousins, and significant others. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe there are so many people. Grandpa sleeps in the camper - swears the cold doesn’t bother him near as much as all the snoring in the house.
Now, some 26 years worth of my regimental family Christmas customs is about to end, or, perhaps not end but change. I’m starting a new family to add to my own and so the traditions grow deeper and richer.
Saint Nicholas, apparently, visits households on the night of December 5 each year and leaves small presents in stockings. Blue and silver are considered appropriate tree decoration colors. Santa wraps his gifts in different paper than I’m used to, and the halls are decked a bit differently... it’s all so much!
There are new laughs and different cut-out cookies, yet somehow, it’s all so very familiar to me, and it feels like home. The lines are blurring, the clock is turning, and I’m holding council with Dickens’ own Ghost of Christmas Present.
I've carried a particular sensation with me since graduating from high school. Whether I was going off to the U.P. for school, down to Menomonie, over to the Twin Cities - all the while I was just looking for somewhere that felt like home. I was growing up as a young adult, moving around and struggling to find something to cling to, something that felt right and true and genuine. I was leaning on my intuition to guide me there, to guide me home. I guess it finally has.
See you out there,
A woodsman in training.