Carrying on and Creating Christmas Traditions
This post appeared in the December 2014 issue of Charlotte Parent.
When I was a kid, many of my Christmas Eve nights were spent at my Grandma J's house. Each year until her passing, she would host everyone in the same home my father and his brother and eight sisters grew up in. It was tradition. That meant a whole lot of cousins and a whole lot of fun when everyone gathered together. Grandma J would put out an elaborate spread, but the thing I remember most is those chewy little peppermint candies with a Christmas Tree in the center. She knew they were my favorite and I'd probably eat about 80 percent of them. It was a small thing but one of the things I remember most - that and going to midnight mass after the party and trying to stay awake. Even as a 6-year-old I was able to stay up longer than Uncle Jim.
Fast forward many years later and now my wife and I take our boys to a huge party on Christmas Eve. It's a party that my wife Kristen's family has been going to for more than 20 years at a close friend's house. It's like Grandma J's on steroids. It's not just for family but friends, neighbors and coworkers. I've never seen so many people packed into one house. Great music, lots of little ones playing, and enough food to feed Santa and his elf army. The tradition has become so popular that even Santa makes a special stop ahead of time to deliver Christmas jammies to everyone.
Neither Kristen or I had families like the Griswolds who trudged into the snow to find and then cut down a massive, angelic tree. We did both grow up with a tradition for trimming the tree. For my wife, that meant putting on a "The Sinatra Christmas Album" while decking the halls here in Charlotte. I grew up in Wisconsin, so instead of listening to Ol' Blue Eyes, we enjoyed the dulcet tones of Pat Summerall and the unmistakable grunts of John Madden while watching the Green Bay Packers and decorating our tree. Now that we have our own family, we compromise. We listen to Sinatra while football is on the TV.
My favorite James family tradition is one passed down from my wife's family. On Christmas morning, all the kids sit down on the stairs in their pajamas for a group picture before having breakfast and opening the gifts. All the while a chorus sings, "I love those j-i-n-g-l-e bells" before the voice of Sinatra returns. Our kids love taking the picture and then scrambling down stairs to see their gifts. Both the boys also love to go back and look at the stair pictures from previous years.
The traditions don't end there. From baking cookies with mom to going to see the lights at Carolina Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway and driving on the track, we enjoy the holiday fun and building life-long memories with the kids. The best part is creating these traditions doesn't take much time or energy, so you can continue to add fun new activities. If you plan on having me over during the holidays don't forget the peppermint candies with the tree in the middle.
Derek James is a host on WCCB News Rising, and lives with his wife and two sons, ages 3 and 6. Read more from James in his Daddy Derek blog.