Accidental Tradition

I love it when gifts start to accumulate under the Christmas tree. They mean it’s really going to happen – again. Until they do, the tree, ornaments, garland, Santa house and candy dish only set the stage.

Like luminaries, but with less fire hazard and less gaze gripping power, the decorations I pull out of the attic for my wife to put up each year, light the way for other Christmas traditions.

I remember when we’d been married a few years and she said to me, “We need to establish some traditions.” She’s so adorable.

“Well,” I said, “the things we do each year are our tradition.” Traditions aren’t established by plotting. They become tradition from accidental repetition.

We traveled at Christmas then, since both of our extended families lived in lands far, far away. Eventually the kids wanted to wake up in their own house on Christmas morning.

The last time we went to Wisconsin for Christmas it was 13 degrees below zero; which is why that’s the last time we went to Wisconsin for Christmas.

We stalked and bagged a tree each year, and decorated it with ornaments often homemade and always meaningful. As young married couples, we and our friends often exchanged ornaments as a way to start each other’s Christmas decoration attic stash.

We treasure many of those ornaments still. They are precious packets that emit sweet memories each time we unwrap them. Our tree today is adorned with little round pictures of our children at very young ages – and now their children.

I marveled to pull out an ornament featuring the face of our first child, born in 1979. This season we hung that ornament on a tree in our house for the 36th time. There’s an unintentionally established tradition continued through 10 houses.

This year we made ornaments of the faces of his three children. Side note: if you teach little ones in church, have an ornament making Sunday. Their parents will call you blessed for decades.

We’re on the third year of an artificial tree whose primary attribute is that it is pre-lit. I slam the three sections together, plug it in, hit the switch and voila! No more wrestling with tangled cords and the only “blue” in the air is on the ornaments.

Oddly though, the lights overwhelm the ornaments. We can see only the light and not the bells, balls, bulbs, pictures, angels and sleighs that hang there with them.

We had the presents under the tree, wrapped and ready, a week before Christmas. But, I just carried them all to a hiding place because the grandchildren are coming for dinner. We aren’t prepared to deal with the pestering questions, package shaking, hovering and begging that would ensue if they were out there in the open but unavailable to open.

When they leave I’ll pull the gifts back down and spread them again under the tree, my own anticipation growing for when they will be back to share the innocent wonder of what must be the most exciting day in their lives.

The stage is set. Tradition lives.