17 Dec 2005

Christmas traditions

Posted by AC

Carolyn and I have started talking about what Christmas “traditions” we should start to institute. For that matter, we’re also talking about how to present Christmas to baby Sam in the future. In many ways, despite the efforts of some true believers, Christmas has become as much a secular holiday as a religious one. As has been noted earlier, I’m hardly a model Christian, despite agreeing with many of the stated (if not demonstrated) tenets of the faith. (How can you love your neighbor as yourself, but invade his country seeking oil under the flimsiest of pretenses?) Nonetheless, Christmas is so pervasive in our culture that it seems ridiculous to try to migrate it back to the winter solstice from whence it came.

In reading a recent issue of a parenting magazine, I came across some Christmas traditions kids love (or some such) article that was filled with the kinda bogus stuff that rubs me the wrong way. It contained things like

Betty, a mom of 14 writes:
Little 2-month old Timmy really enjoys our annual Christmas tradition of making our own Christmas candles. Each year, the kids hand-craft candle molds from steel I-beams donated by the local mill. They then make 2 candles from each mold — one to burn for themselves, and one to ship to less fortunate children in the Indian sub-continent to share the Christmas spirit.

I mean, where to begin? If he’s 2 months old, how does he know it’s an annual tradition? How does he make candles when he can’t tell a candle from his leg from a turkey? Why does he think kids in India will want Christmas candles? HUH? OK, the actual “quote” was a parody with hyperbole. Some. But c’mon!

Did you have Christmas traditions that you enjoyed as a kid? Or ones that you now practice with your kids? Care to share?

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5 Responses to “Christmas traditions”

  1. Being French, most of my family’s holiday traditions have to do with food. My mom always made a Yule log that we decorated. Initially, we just used the traditional French decorations my grandmother sent (a little golden saw and a little golden ax — plastic, of course) and chocolate or mocha icing. We would also sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on the cake to make snow. When I was older we started making meringue mushrooms and other edible decorations (like chocolat truffle snowmen rolled in confectioner’s sugar instead of cocoa) and my little nephew and niece loved these.

    Another French tradition I really like, but haven’t figured out how to do in the US is the “gâteau des Rois” for Jan. 6. It’s a special flaky cake with marzipan that you can flambé with rum. Hidden inside is a “fève” — a little figurine, sometimes of a king or queen or of a character from a nativity scene (though now there are all sorts of figurines, even crabs and lobsters). The person who finds the fève in his or her slice of cake is king or queen and gets to wear a crown. I’ve never found these cakes in the US and I have yet to learn how to make them, but when we have kids I’ll make more of an effort because it was a lot of fun.

    Finally (and boy my short response has gotten long), when I was little we would go through my toys in Dec. and pick out the ones I didn’t play with and didn’t want anymore and that were in good shape and take them to the local firestation so they could be distributed to children that didn’t have toys. I don’t know if firemen still do toy drives and if they do I imagine people usually bring a new toy now. Going through my toys like that was a good reminder of how lucky I was. I know some people have had terrible experiences with that sort of thing (parents making them give away their favorite toy, for example), but as long as the child makes the choices I think it can be good.

    I keep thinking of stuff… so maybe I’ll blog about this!



  2. Ideefixe, That’s interesting. I mainly know about “King Cakes” as part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. Check out: “http://www.coffeeandkingcakes.com/”:http://www.coffeeandkingcakes.com/ Should you be in C’ville again some time, ask ABC if they make ’em. I’d be surprised if they didn’t (OK, I didn’t see it on “their website”:http://www.albemarlebakingco.com/cakes.htm but still bet you could order it). If you asked after it in the past, but asked after “gâteau des Rois”, you probably just got a lazy salesperson who didn’t know enough French to realize that it might be something s/he heard of.

    I don’t know if you remember our “surprising debutant,” but the baby there was from a king cake.

    Oh, and I don’t know about other toy drives, but “toys for tots”:http://www.toysfortots.org/home/index.html is done by the marines, and requires _new_, unwrapped toys.



  3. Oops. It’s “galette des Rois”. I’m not sure if “King Cakes” are the same thing — I had a piece years and years ago and it was like regular cake with lots of colors. “Galette” is really light, a sort of puff pastry. Good idea about ABC. I’ll have to ask.



  4. I have fond memories of advent calendars, Angel Chimes (the candle’s heat made the angels spin and chime), stringing cranberries and popcorn for decoration, making tree ornaments, and decorating the tree.

    Once my grandfather took me into the woods to find, cut down, and bring back a fresh tree. That was especially great. There are people who keep little Christmas tree farms for tax write-offs and supplemental holiday income. Bring your own saw, pick your own tree. That’s still a favorite. So’s stringing popcorn and berries.



  5. Okay, so this is after Xmas, but I figure it’s a good few years before Sam is really paying attention to these “traditions”.

    Like bk says, the popcorn and cranberry string decorations were a mainstay of decorating, especially when the family was young and broke. Then, of course, was the decorating itself, which was awesome, from the lights to the ornaments to the strings of popcorn and carnberries.

    And the one tradition I’ve carried through every year since I left, with a hiatus for college and a couple years after, was the make your own wrapping paper extravaganza. Since 1995 I haven’t missed a year and the paper just keeps getting better and better.

    Then, of course, there is the presents on Xmas day, not Xmas Eve, hot chocolate and orange juice to drink while the loot is distributed and the a breakfast of eggs, toast, cheese, jam, and lil smokies.

    But the wrappig paper is the one I keep coming back to.



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