Christmastime…Some Traditions Ch-Ch-Change…and Th-th-that’s Okay

I love traditions…for the most part anyway.  Especially around the holidays.

It seems like we have had them around our house forever…at least in my memory.  When I was younger, it was more routine than tradition.  Christmas Eve, Mom would be a nervous wreck until Dad got home.  Then we would go to dinner…IHOP was a favorite…Coco’s…usually someplace that was more family oriented.  Then we would drive around the neighborhood and look at the Christmas decorations.  Tradition?  Routine?  Who cares?  Then Christmas morning would begin at the crack of dawn…usually my “little” brother Peter would be awake before others, peeking at the presents.  It did start early because Dad was usually an usher at 8:30 mass.  Then off to Nana and Papa’s house for Christmas breakfast.  This is when the “traditions” really kicked off I suppose.  Papa always had cases, yes cases (even though there were just 15-20 of us), of “champagne” and Cold Duck from 905 Liquor Store.  He also had more Polish Sausage at breakfast than you could find in all of Warsaw. (the Pietkutowski Sausage company remains very grateful and still send us Christmas cards)  When we left Nana and Papa’s house, Dad had his share of both Champagne and Polish Sausage…to the point that he was ready for a nap.  (One memorable year he took a nap, or passed out if you talk to others, on the floor of the only bathroom in the house.)  But before the nap, we had to go pick up Grandma Schaefering, go to the cemetery to visit Grandpa Schaefering’s grave, come back to our house and open up presents from Grandma, then it was time for Dad to take his nap. (a point of clarity must be shared here…Dad usually stayed up late Christmas Eve helping Santa put together our presents, wrapping presents, and probably watching an older B&W movie.  The we got him up around 5:00 AM for presents, mass, and the rest of the day.  So after a bellyful of Polish Sausage and Champagne, it was difficult to fight off the urge/need for a nap-nap)

Again, Tradition or Routine?  Doesn’t matter because the memories are indelible and will remain forever.  Each time putting a smile on our faces.

So, when Diana and I married and began to have children, we adjusted to the older “traditions” and tied to create some of our own.  We made concessions to both families (those who have done this realize how difficult this really is and can appreciate it) and offered to have Christmas Day dinner at our house with both families.  That was nice and worked well, but in time, some family members came, some couldn’t, some were out-of-town, others had other obligations.  So whoever could show up, showed up and we had a great day of it.

But our family (Diana, the boys and I) have created some of our own Traditions.  Actually we have quite a few when you think of it.  They have become as much a part of the Christmas Season around our house as Santa.  A few of them are:

    • Going out to a “pre-Christmas” dinner as a family.  This started out as a means to an end (see the next bullet point) and then morphed into a regular event.  It has gone from having Chili and Sliders at OT Hodge’s Chili Parlor, to enjoying wine, cocktails and a fine dining experience at some of the top local restaurants.
    • Another long-standing tradition is having a picture taken with Santa.  I am not sure at which point I regressed, but at some point it went from Santa and Blake, Drew and Tyler…to including me.  So now it is Santa and the four “boys”. (Santa keeps getting smaller!)  And with the boys traveling around “the globe” almost as much as Santa, we just try to include whomever is around, and the other(s) are represented in the picture with their “head on a stick”.
    • We have already covered the tradition of enjoying a “Sleigh Ride” on Christmas morning in a previous post.
    • And we still enjoy Polish Sausage for Christmas breakfast.
    • My brothers, my sons and I usually have a pre-Christmas smoke at the Ritz Cigar Club, where Peter is a member.  Fun evening for those who are able to make it and a lot of laughs and lies are shared.

    • For the past several years we have enjoyed Christmas Eve at my Mom’s, with everyone coming over and exchanging gifts.  ( we used to go from there to Diana’s Mom and Dad’s…St Charles, MO to Collinsville, IL…that was one heckuva night for all.  Glad we don’t have to make that trek, but I am sad for the reason we don’t.  I miss it, actually.)  But it is too much for Mom to handle so Dan and Nancy are taking it over this year.
    • Not sure why, when or how it started, but at some point I started wearing a Santa hat on Christmas morning.  Then in a blink of an eye, amid such a clatter…everyone was wearing one Christmas morning opening presents.  Although, there was one who resisted for awhile…wasn’t there Blake?

There are other things we do this time of the year that could also be considered “traditions”, but these are the “musts”…outside of the tree, lights, etc.

Except this year.

As David Bowie said…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Oh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

And that is what is taking place this year.  Changes.  Tradition is making way for Transition.  In a rather abrupt way.

You know sometimes this type of thing is a gradual change.  Little by little.  In some cases hardly noticeable even.  Not this.  Oh, sure we have been able to keep a few pieces of tradition intact.  And the thought and intent is still there.  But it is just…well, you know…different.  And that is going to happen.  So Tradition makes its way for Transition.

  • Christmas Eve Dinner is different
  • Pre-Christmas Family dinner is different
  • Pictures with Santa are, and will be different, probably each year.
  • Christmas Cigar smoke is different…this year it is a Post Christmas smoke.
  • And Opening presents Christmas morning will be different.  This is the first year ( and every parent goes through it) Diana and I will be opening presents by ourselves.  Not little feet running to our bedroom to wake us up and tell us Santa came…no excitable reaction to presents from innocent children…no “Thanks Mom, or Thanks Dad” it is just what I wanted…no one asking if the Polish sausage is ready, I’m starved…no three hour “ceremony” opening presents…no group photo in front of the fireplace.

But…I will be wearing a Santa hat…I will have some Polish sausage…and you better believe I will go on a “Sleigh Ride” or three.

And that is not all.

I will also enjoy every moment I have with Diana and relish our love for each other.  I will cherish the time I spend with Drew, Rachel, my Mom, my Brothers and Diana’s Brother and their families, Leon, Marie, Steve, Deb, Chris, Sue, Cindy and everyone who becomes a part of my Christmas…this year and forward.  And I anticipate with excitement and love the next time we talk with Blake, Yvonne and Tyler…and look towards the next time we see each other and the next celebration…whatever and whenever it is.

Ch-ch-changes.  People usually do not care for them.  I only like them if they do not affect me.  Hell, even babies with dirty diapers don’t always like them.  But they happen.  So, shrug your shoulders…embrace those around you and embrace the change…and the Wonderful Life (apologies to Frank Capra)  that comes with it.

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Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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