Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Growing up Christmas was always a big deal and because of that so many traditions were born. I am all about traditions to the point that if one falls through the cracks during the busy time of year I can feel a bit of emptiness. My boyfriend thinks I'm nuts and constantly tells me traditions are meant to be broken, but I don't believe they are. Traditions to me are the little things that you grew up doing and there was a reason for doing them. A tradition is not only something you do to keep the so called tradition going but it is a way to reminisce about the prior years. Recall memories that might otherwise have been forgotten. So for this post I am going to give a rundown of all the traditions I take part in for the holiday season. Hold on tight it is going to be a long slippery slope down memory lane.

The first tradition getting a Christmas tree. Even though I no longer live at home I still try to be with my parents when they get their Christmas tree. It is not just going to get a tree with my parents, oh no, it is an adventure. We can leave at nine o'clock in the morning and by six o'clock in the evening still not have a tree and it's not like we live in an area where tree stands are sparse. We live on Long Island there is a tree stand every ten feet. However, my mother is picky and when it comes to her Christmas tree, hard to please. I recall one time where the guy at the the place we were at talked her into getting a tree and when he was pulling it through the netting she told him and I quote, "Well if I get it home and I don't like it I can return it right?" No joke. She insists she said it because he was netting three trees and she thought he might mix them up, but I know that wasn't the case. One tradition about gettting a tree that was broken was that we used to go and actually cut the tree down. Now talk about an adventure. It was the same thing every December. We would go and my dad would take the saw that they provided and after wondering through the rows and rows of trees we would finally settle on the perfect tree. My dad would drop down on the ground and start sawing away. After fifteen minutes of getting nowhere he would start cursing and saying "Next year I'm bringing my chainsaw" he never did, but he always said it. As my father got older cutting down our own Christmas tree lost its appeal, but getting a tree is still an adventure and that is all that matters.

New York City is probably one of the most recognized cities in the world that completely transforms for the Christmas Season. For me and my family trekking into the city to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and department store windows is just another part of our tradition. My birthday is December 4th so usually we pick either the Saturday or Sunday right before or right after to go in. It always winds up to be a bitter cold day and no matter how many layers you have on the wind goes right through your clothes right to your bones. However, there is nothing more exciting then turning that corner and having the tree in all its beautiful glory staring you right in the face. I look forward to it every year. Some years we coordinate our visit to the tree with a visit to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. No matter how many times I have seen that show I still smile like a child who is seeing it for the first time. There is something magical about it. I can exactly say what, but if you have never seen the show before I would make it a point to do so. You will not be disappointed it is everything you imagine and so much more. Tickets are pricey so that is why it is a tradition that is not always able to be followed through with. However, if you plan to go do not pay full price. Check out websites such as and you can find discounts up to 50% off regular ticket prices. I have never paid more that $60 for orchestra center stage tickets.

Christmas lights are probably my fondest memories of the season. Every year my dad transforms my parents house into a winter wonderland and every year despite my mom's requests to keep it simple it gets bigger and better than ever. We are at the point where we have at least eight inflatable figures including Santa, a polar bear, a toy soldier, Spongebob, Snoopy, a tree, a snowglobe and a snowman. Other lighted lawn ornaments include snowmen, Santa's, a dolphin, polar bears, Charlie Brown, presents, teddy bears, elves, reindeer, trees, toy soldiers, penguins, I can go on forever, but I won't. If you have ever heard the song 12 pains of Christmas you would understand what it is like at my parents house when my dad is doing the Christmas lights. Let's just say the first time we heard that song my dad was on the floor all the lights spread out as he checked which ones were still working and we all fell over in laughter. It was as if they wrote the lights part for him as if someone recorded him. My dad is awesome, but can easily lose his patience and sometimes when he gets frustrated everything goes wrong, Murphy's law. If you have never heard that song Google it, you will laugh your butt off.

Baking Christmas cookies is I'm sure apart of most peoples traditions as it should be. There is nothing better than a hot, freshly made sugar cookie or my other personal favorite the classic chocolate chip. I used to bake at my parents house, make a mess and then have my mom complain to me about it. There was a time when she made cookies with my brother and I, but as we got older my brother couldn't be bothered and my mom just didn't have the time so I kept the tradition going on my own. Now I bake them at my own place. I usually have my best friend come over and we listen to Christmas Music, catch up on life and taste a cookie from every batch we make. There is no guilt during the holidays none what so ever. This year I have a ton of new recipes I want to try and will let you know how they come out.

Since I moved out of my parents house I still find myself going back there to take part in all of the holiday fun. I can never not help my mom decorate the tree. The ornaments alone are worth the two hours it takes to get them all on. My mom doesn't follow a theme, she doesn't try to make the tree look pretty, no, my parents tree looks like Christmas threw up on it. The first time my boyfriend ever saw my parents Christmas tree his exact words were "It has everything but the kitchen sink." My mom has a hodge podge of ornaments ranging from paper Santa's my brother and I made over twenty years ago to old glass ornaments she got after her mother passed away to ornaments she recieved from her students when she was a preschool teacher. There really is no rhyme or reason just a tree full of memories, wonderful, sometimes tear provoking memories. Now, however, since I have moved out of my parents house I have a tree of my own. So I get to decorate two trees. My boyfriend gets into just as much as I do. We usually have a Christmas movie playing in the background as we place each ornament on the tree. It's funny because my mom always tells me I put the ornaments too close to each other and my boyfriend says the same thing. Both of them always wind up taking an ornament or three that I have placed and moves them. I just laugh and continue on.

Who doesn't love a good Christmas movie? Heck I even love the bad ones. I can watch a Christmas movie in the middle of July. There is just something about them that brings a smile to my face. There are so many movies I watch every year and a few that every year I swear I am going to finally sit down and watch and never do. A list of my favorites:
The Santa Clause
Home Alone
Home Alone Lost in New York
The Grinch (cartoon and movie)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Christmas Story
Miracle of 34th Street (The original)
The Holiday
Home for the Holidays
The Family Stone
On Our Way To Grandmother's House
I even like Christmas with the Kranks, Bad Santa and Surviving Christmas *hangs head in embarrassment*

 The movies that I say I will watch every year and have yet to do so, but plan on doing so this year are It's A Wonderful Life and my mom's favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Carol (1951). There are also so many more especially the classics that I have yet to see. It's on my list of things to do that is for sure.
Christmas Eve my true Christmas. Originally we would have Christmas Eve at my grandparents house. The traditional Italian Christmas Eve or the feast of the seven fishes. I can bet that you will never see so much in one place as you would in my grandparents house on Christmas Eve. I never ate fish until recently so my grandmother always had baked ziti for me the picky one. Dinner would be served follwed by dessert and then finally opening gifts. As a kid seeing presents under the tree with my name on them was like torture. I wanted to know what was in them, but was never allowed until we all sat around the tree and my grandfather passed each person their gifts. As my grandparents got older my grandmother couldn't do all the cooking anymore so my mom took over. Not much has changed just the location, my parents house. My mom just like my grandma cooks a ridiculous amount of food. Dinner is first followed by dessert and then gifts around the tree. My dad now hands out the gifts as he's the man of the house an honor he takes very seriously. Unfortunately my grandfather is no longer among us opening gifts, but he's still there. He's in our thoughts, our memories, our hearts and to me when it comes down to it all the traditions add up to family.

What are your traditions? What do you do during the holidays that if you didn't the holidays just would not be the same? I'd love to hear about it.

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