I grew up going out to my grandparents house in a small town called Portage La Prairie. It was a house full of love and one that was the home to the matriarch of my world, my Grandma.
She loved Christmas and it was tradition we would spend it with her. It brought her so much joy to have the family at one table (we are now at 3 tables since our family dinners have grown to 27) Our Christmas events were steeped in tradition complete with firecracker hats, cheese bites, pistachio salad, Rye & Cokes and The Crazy Game, a card game played at every family dinner. Our Christmas dinners were boisterous and loud and I can tell you a huge source of amusement when someone new came into the fold. Love you Babe.
As she got older (and as I did), I started to see how very important it was to her heart and to her soul to feel all that love around her at Christmas. Her family was everything and it was important to all of us to give her that happiness.
I am lost this year.
She passed away in August and I feel this sea of grief starting to creep over me these past few days. I realize now that so many of our Christmas traditions were because of her. While part of me feels excited with the possibility of creating new ones with my family, I ache for those old ones to bring her closer when she feels so far away.
I find myself reminiscing of Christmas past and trying to think of what traditions ring true to me as this whole new landscape lies ahead of us. Of all the things I value you about my Grandma, probably the most important one was how much of her character it was to help others.
I watched throughout my life as my grandma made fancy sandwiches, put on countless events, teas, whatever was necessary to support her community. To her, there was no question the importance of helping out. As a kid, we would help grandma serve at the local Odd fellows and Rebekkah’s Christmas tea in Portage La Prairie. It was a source of pride, as my cousins and I would take orders, bring the tea and coffee, serve dainties and then do performances for the residents. She loved our interpretative renditions of Footloose…really? for a bunch of seniors?…in fact she beamed with pride.
Helping others for us has become an essential thread in our world and we have been working with the kids on how to do more. One of our main focuses this year is the Peace Dove Project which has been a beautiful way to get kids creating ways to give back.
We’ve talked to the kids on how we can make other people’s lives better or easier. They have made us so proud as they went through their toys and clothes and this year we have done a hamper, a shoe box, are supporting a family in Barbados with kids with special needs, and donating more of our dollars to the Intrepid Foundation supporting the Village Education Project Kilimanjaro. Lolo especially won me over when she decided part of her tooth fairy money should be sent to Africa.
The tradition is a twist on my grandma’s but at the heart of it, its her legacy and her tradition that lives on in us.
I don’t recall a lot of traditions as a child, not like Jenn does anyhow. Honestly I have a bit of trouble getting up for holidays and the like, and I have no idea why. No latent nightmares to account for it, I just get tired of the frenetic energy going around, like the world is spinning faster for no reason.
I have some early childhood memories of gold shag carpet and ornaments that would break if you looked at them wrong, special angels and opening one present only on Christmas eve.
My folks got divorced pretty early in life, and I don’t know what the arrangement was but I think my mom let chistmas day go as part of the deal.I remember that we would make our way to Grandma’s house, sometimes stopping for Chinese food on the way so as not to put additional strain on the system. I remember homemade elves, an audible cardinal ornament that I can still mimic, and homemade sunshine sauce for desserts.
That experience evolved into my aunt taking over hosting duties, and that was a big hot mess. Too many teens, too many people, it was otherworldly. Like out of the next national lampoon christmas special, but filmed in zero gravity. Just too much.
These days I fight to slow things down, to counter the overdrive that surrounds the holiday and to make sure that everyone finds their own peace on earth. I think we could all use a bit of that in our stockings, no?