When I was a kid, and through most of my adult life, Christmas was steeped in inviolable tradition:
- Celebrations begin at 4pm sharp on Christmas Eve– no earlier, no later.
- At 4pm sharp (no earlier, no later), you may open a single present.
- Remaining presents wait until after Christmas dinner.
- Christmas dinner is not a dinner, but is in fact a conglomeration of Norwegian Christmas cookies, delicious savory meatballs and my Grandpa’s sparkly Christmas punch bobbing with raw cranberries.
- At some point in the evening, you hold hands and walk around the Christmas tree, singing a Norwegian song that some people know a few words to, but most of us mumble. (This is more charming than it sounds.)
- At another point in the evening, we wind up the ancient piebald toy named Jolly Mouse for his single annual somersault.
- Christmas morning, we open Santa presents, and presents from immediate family.
Of these traditions, I have carried on none. I used to feel bad about it, but now– now our new traditions have taken on their own sanctity.
Our blended family of four celebrates together, just us, on December 30th. And we’ve established, quite by accident, our own list of inviolable traditions:
- Celebrations begin on December 29th with the playing of “Blue Christmas.”
- At that time, we begin hanging paper ornaments on our paper tree.
- Mandatory holiday movie-watching takes place while wrapping presents, in this order: Elf, Scrooged, Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Love Actually. All present wrapping must be completed before Love Actually, because it’s the best movie EVER.
- The morning of December 30th, we find that Santa made a special visit just for our kids, because blended families deserve to celebrate with just as much Christmas spirit as other families, even though it’s not on the same calendar day.
- Christmas morning, we open Santa presents. And we have lemony French toast for breakfast.
With every year that we continue these traditions, they become more deeply ingrained for our kids. Maybe even to pass down to their kids. Maybe my stepdaughter will make lemony French toast for breakfast at Christmas for her own family, or maybe my daughter will play Blue Christmas for hers.
Or maybe we’ll all keep celebrating our Paper Christmas together on the 30th, and keep our own traditions inviolable. Sacred. And something entirely ours.
Merry Calendar Christmas!