Christmas traditions can still strengthen family ties

By Manor Park Chronicle

Santa trimming a Christmas Tree
Even when seasonal traditions don’t unfold as planned, they help tie families together and buoy spirits through the wintery months of the early New Year. Photo: Cottonbro from Pexels

The ghost of Halloween is past. The next major holiday fast approaches. In the meantime, before we get to Christmas, November, that moon-like landscape month is a good month for planting spring bulbs, if you haven’t already; for finishing fall chores; and for putting up Christmas lights (but not turning them on yet).

Once December comes, it’s a magical time. When the first snow comes, it brightens up the month-of-November look (the non-look!). The nights are brighter and days shorter. Displays of Christmas lights on houses and businesses create the proverbial Charles Dickens environment. Every Christmas is special and memorable, even if you get to the age when you have everything you want, and Christmas no longer has that special “spark.“ Christmas, truly, is for kids! I remember one Christmas when one older brother (I’m the youngest of four sons) convinced me to wrap up one of my father’s ties and give it to him for Christmas. My brother was persuasive. “Ah, Pa will never notice – he has so many ties, he won’t even recognize that it’s his. Believe me.”

Well, being the naïve little brother, I took the bait hook, line, and sinker. My father was a dentist (also an army colonel) and he knew the importance of dressing up; he always wore a tie and had dozens of them.

On Christmas Day I was a little nervous. During the gift openings, my gift was retrieved from beneath the tree and handed to my father. He playfully shook the package and looked in my direction: “Well … what do we have here? I wonder what this is.” He opened the poorly wrapped paper and smiled. I smiled.

“That’s a nice tie,” he said, thanking me. Relief ran right through my entire body. Suddenly, he looked puzzled and looked again at the tie: “Hey wait a minute. That looks like one of my ties. Yeah–that is one of my ties!”

I turned 50 shades of red and wanted to kill (figuratively, not literally) that certain older brother. The pregnant pause that followed seemed to go on for an eternity (long enough to have a baby!). Suddenly my father laughed loudly; my mother followed suit; then all five children, including my younger sister, started laughing. My laughter was probably more relief as my reddened face found comfort in my father’s laughter.

Through my laughter, though, I glanced over at my smirking older brother who had convinced me to give my father one of his own ties. Animosity never lasts with kids, but that memory still persists inside my head to this day. I eventually learned to really laugh about it.

Another Christmas, there was a family living diagonally across the street from us who had five kids. The father was a medical doctor, and they were devout Roman Catholics. One Christmas Eve the parents went to midnight mass at the local church. They left a beautifully decorated tree with gifts beneath it. The presents were from immediate family members, aunts, uncles, etc.

Returning from church they expected the children to be quietly asleep. They came into what they thought would be a dark, peaceful house, instead ‒ chaos. All the children, including the eldest (who was supposed to be in charge while the parents were at church), were playing in the lit-up living room, laughing, and having a marvellous time with the gifts. The presents had been all opened; gift tags and wrapping paper were strewn all over the room. The parents had no idea who gave what gift to whom, and especially who to thank.

The parents were momentarily upset, but then quickly laughed along with their children, realizing that the smiles on their children’s faces were the most important part of the Christmas family tradition.

Once we get through dreary November, the Christmas lights, the joy, and the laughter will be amongst us. That uplifting feeling will carry us into, and through, the wintery months of the forthcoming New Year.