Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Ain't Too Proud To Beg (For Your Favorite Traditions)

Thanks for indulging my trenchant observations on religious journeys and God and faith. I appreciate all of the comments and emails. I love hearing your stories, and learning about where your faith — or lack thereof —comes from (both are fine in my book) and what faith means to you. For me, now, believing there is something out there brings me a sense of peace and comfort in a way it never has before. Thinking there is a some sort of force or spirit or guiding light makes life’s difficult moments easier to get through. And it is nice to have an extra recipient of thanks for the good. At the very least, faith provides practice with giving thanks and asking for help. Who couldn’t benefit from that? And I have a feeling that strength, patience and faith — my personal trinity of trouble spots — can all be cultivated through and with and during this sort of journey. The funny thing is I thought that I gave up on any sort of spiritual journey and it turns out I never even started.

But now, more on some of my personal gods on earth. This is why I love Mary Karr and her new book, Lit: “Joy, it is, which I have never know before, only pleasure or excitement. Joy is a different thing because its focus exists outside the self — delight in something external, not satisfaction of some inner craving.” What a great comparison of three seemingly similar emotions. Isn’t that something to strive for? To feel that sort of joy? Not just satisfaction and not just contentness. Nor just pleasure and excitement. But pure joy. Lately (and over the years) I feel like I have had little pockets of that sort of joy. And I ride that little wave as it crescendos and crests and then pounds back down to reality. I am not sure it is possible, without major drugs, to live in a state of extended joy. But those pockets, when everything feels so right, feel so good.

I am not above trying to create such joyous moments either. Manufactured joy might lack the genuiness of spontaneous joy but I will take and make what I can get. This is where I need YOUR help (and you get a special pat on the back if you can say that like Dora the Explorer). I love the idea of creating special traditions, and I am not above stealing yours. Here are a few that I have read about already and plan on stealing and incorporating into my life (or already have):

• I read somewhere about leaving a trail of glitter by a window to indicate that the tooth fairy came. How perfect is that? Of course the Tooth Fairy leaves a glitter trail!

• A friend emailed me a great idea: Leave carrots out in the snow (or, on the chance that it is not a White Christmas after all, on the bitterly cold earth). After the kids go to sleep, chomp them into bits and scatter them around to make it look like the messy reindeer indulged. That is a nice add-on to the tried-and-true cookies for Santa routine.

Carey wrote about keeping Christmas presents at a sane level by buying kids something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Four gifts, (plus stocking stuffers) seems rational, as my first inclination is to go crazy and spoil the girls with tons of presents. That said, we have been pretty low key about gifts for them around here and encourage relatives to wrap up recycled toys of their own children as presents.

• Nicole and I go to this place on the eve of Christmas eve every year. We have been doing it for 7 years now. It just isn’t the Christmas season without our annual farmhouse mac and cheese and chicken and leek pot pies.

So help a girl out and tell me some of your favorite traditions that I can weave into my own life!

Pictured above: Nicole and the girls bird-watching. Avery is quite the pro at using her “noculars,” just like Mommy. Also pictured, speaking of eyewear, have you been to Sunglass Hut lately? I swear they are not paying me to say this but they have this great new system set up where you can try on glasses and then email the photo to friends or post it to Facebook! How great is that? Also, it really helps to look at the pictures to determine what looks good on you and what looks ridiculous. I liked these glasses, but balked at their almost $400 price tag. I ended up with a pair of Ray-Bans that I love. Of course it is rainy all day so I won’t be going outside and wearing them. And finally, Annie and I at the Northampton Hot Chocolate 5K. I surprised myself by running the whole race without taking a single break! It was freeeeezing! And I experienced one of those little moments of joy when, as Annie and I walked together after the race, I saw Nicole slowly making her way toward us with a bundled-up girl holding each hand. Endorphin rush plus good friend plus wife and kids plus hot cocoa in a mug warming my hand equals mini moment


Malea said...

We always put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving before everyone flys out.

The kids are encouraged to write letters to Santa and of course Santa(auntie betty) always wrote back:)And leave water on the floor so it looks like he didn't take his snow covered boots off. [it doesn't even snow in Louisiana but we ate it up]

We always open all the presents on Christmas eve exactly at midnight.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the fig Newton on the window seal. :O)

My daughter always left her favorite food for Santa, to many cookies gives Santa a tummy ache. One year she left him a spoon full of peanut butter and an egg salad sandwich….can I say how fun that was to snack on!

I think I need to get an account. L

Anonymous said...

Posting again……this post has gotten me thinking about, this subject. This really has nothing to do with traditions but…..

I remember when my daughter came to me; she was about 10 I guess. She says, Mom, I know there is no Santa and I just want to thank you for all the wonderful Santa gifts that you have given me all my life. Please don’t stop, she is 22 now and Santa still comes on Christmas morning and brings gifts, and she is still making her favorite food for him…..who knows what it will be this year. LOL L

Steph said...

One tradition that I just heard of this year is called "elf on a shelf". They sell it as a kit or of course you could make/buy any little elf doll. The kit comes w/ a book which might be kind of nice to explain things to the kids. Basically you put the elf out from the day after thanksgiving until x-mas eve. The elf helps Santa by keeping an eye on the kids and reporting nightly to him on who's been naughty and who has been nice. Each morning the elf returns from his nightly visit to the north pole and sits on a shelf in a different location. Not only is it fun to have them look each morning for the elf but it helps keep behavior in check.

I think we may get one of these and start this tradition next year. It sounds really cute.

Anonymous said...

We have a "cookies for Santa" party. This orginally started for my nieces and nephews years before I had my own children. We have it on December 23rd and invite family and friends. I pre-make cookie dough and buy lots of sprinkles and icing. The kids roll out the dough and cut out all kinds of cookies and ginger bread men bake them and decorate them for Santa. My kids are now 11 & 7 and still love it!

K J and the kids said...

My kids have Christmas pillowcases with their names embroidered on them. It keeps them excited about Christmas all through the night.

Bring this question up again in a few years. I have lots of fun things for older kids. Syd's just now getting some of them. :)

tessa said...

this is a tradition that i have yet to incorporate into my own life...but i read about it somewhere else and it's stuck in my mind. it is for spring and requires blowing out chicken/duck eggs (whatever is on hand), filling the eggs with birdseed, going outside, making a spring wish and then throwing the egg(s) against a tree so that the shell shatters (and decomposes) and birds get to eat the seed.

i like that idea of the four gifts for christmas - certainly sound rationale.

psapph0 said...

We have a lot of things that we do... just the two of us... and have been talking about how to expand them.

We don't really celebrate Christmas, at least in the religious sense. We go along with the cultural aspect of it (I started a really long reply to your religion post, but decided to just bring it up next time I see you), but we do celebrate the Winter Solstice (Yule) on the 21st or 22nd. On the 22nd, once the sun goes down, all electric lights (except the Christmas tree and the heat lamp for the lizard) go off and we spend the evening in complete darkness. Light a lot of candles. Cook by candlelight, read, play games, etc. You'd be amazed how long it seems to spend the evening in darkness from 4 PM on. We used to make it 'til midnight and open presents, but with school the next day we usually crash by 10. We do our own gift exchange on Yule, and plan to keep that going with a wee one. Little Roswell will get most of its presents on Yule, the ones from mommies, and the presents it gets on Christmas will be made by Santa's Elves. This means Christmas presents will be old fashioned wooden toys (blocks, etc), dolls, hand made clothing and the like. I never thought it made sense that Santa gave toys in plastic boxes... We plan to keep that up as long as possible, eventually replacing wooden toys with other handmade, locally produced crafts.

Shannon said...

We buy the kids a new Christmas book each year, wrap it up and give it to them on Christmas Eve, and read it to them on Christmas Eve before bed.

We also have a decoration for each of our kids that will hang on their door every Christmas Eve to make sure that Santa knows where to find them. :)

Jeannine said...

Christmas is a really big deal for my family, so I have continued many of my parent's traditions in my own home. We do an advent wreath before Christmas. We get new matching Christmas jammies hanging on our bedroom door on Christmas eve morning to wear that night (I am 35 and my mother will still do this for me, my husband does not participate but my kids love it), homemade yule logs for dessert, along with about 10 varieties of cookies, traditional Italian "7 fishes" Christmas eve dinner (even though we are Irish/French, my mom was raised by Italians so that's our tradition) and Chieftan's Christmas album blaring at full blast when we come out on Christmas morning (courtesy of Dad, who seriously could not have Christmas without the Bells of Dublin). So, there you have it. I'm sure there are a bunch of other things we do (always go to mass night before so we can savor Christmas morning in jammies, put our most special present in the stocking, not under tree etc.) but I don 't want to clog your comments. Whatever you decide to do, just keep doing it and voila! a tradition is born. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.

Anonymous said...

I've never commented before but read you all the time. My partner and I have three girls (one named Avery) and I enjoy your posts a lot. I've been thinking about traditions too. Our girls are 2,5 and 8 and I'm noticing the traditions more. I think traditions are things you can create or "encourage" or are just things that evolve. A friend told me today that her little guy demanded candy canes on the tree this year because "we always do!!" (even though they only did it for the first time last year). We have a Christmas count down calendar, an Advent wreath, Christmas videos we keep on a special shelf and get out on Thanksgiving, new jammies for Christmas day, cinnamon rolls Christmas morning after gifts, for years before kids we gave each other a children's Christmas book each year at Christmas that the girls now enjoy and read each night. We love all kinds of Christmas music and we have this one gospel choir CD that has this rockin' song that we all sort of dance/jump/spin to and this year when I got the box of CDs out our five year old squealed and said "oh can we do that jumping Jesus song?!?" It was cute and warmed my heart that part of her remembers having fun jumping to that song in years past. It made me realize that you just do things over and over that feel good and suddenly you have traditions! :-)

ps have you ever been to a Unity Church? some of them are more Christian than others but I like the metaphysical principals

calliope said...

When I was little I was allowed to open my stocking all by myself and at whatever time I woke up. I was NEVER allowed to be all, "it's 5am!!! LET'S DO GIFTS NOW!!!"

Carey said...

I am all about holiday traditions and as our trio gets older, we'll be able to implement more of them - right now, I think they are too young. I want to totally make it look like Santa was here. I grew up with opening one gift on Christmas Eve. Steph bought matching pj's for all of us and that is something I def. want to continue. I just want it to be full of love and laughter - not a commercialized version of Christmas. Next year, we'll do Elf on a Shelf starting on Dec 1st. I refuse to start Christmas in Nov! (so I guess that is another tradition!) Happy Holidays! You should be getting a card from us!! :)