Maybe it’s because I’ve turned 40, but I’ve been on a nostalgia kick this holiday.
Actually… it’s not because I turned 40 at all. I get like this every year without fail.
For some reason, and maybe that’s why it’s my favorite holiday of the year, Christmas is the single thread throughout every year of my life full of tradition and continuity that just makes it all make sense.
I didn’t have a particularly happy home as a child, but Christmas was always a big deal. I had certain traditions I looked forward to, and even decorations that I treasured because they had been there as long as I could remember.
In a childhood where I moved no less than 20 times in 18 years, having that kind of continuity was a form of security, even when the times I lived in weren’t. I think that’s probably why I make a big deal out of tradition now.
From the food we eat to when I put up the tree, you can count on a wonderful sameness in the midst of all the change and progress.
I like it that way. It brings me great comfort and joy. From the decorative Santa that was around in almost every Christmas till I moved out on my own:
To making sure I watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer every year when it broadcast on network television (in those dark days before VHS and DVD and videos on demand)…
To that lime/pineapple jello salad we had from as far back as I can remember (and I make without fail every year on my own… I just do it sugar free now)…
It was a time when I knew certain things would happen at certain times and I could count on joy. After losing my dad on December 19, 1980, it’s those little things that I could control that came to mean so much.
And I’m one of those annoying people that goes after it with gusto from Thanksgiving all the way to January 2nd. I make the most out of my holiday season.
I play Christmas music every chance I get, although typically it’s more of the fun/modern type songs. On my mix CD you’ll find everything from Bob Rivers to Porky Pig, the Trans Siberian Orchestra to Weird Al.
I watch my favorite Christmas movies whenever I get the chance, and will quote them at random for no particular reason at all.
Even my online presence is not immune… which you will soon see. (You have been warned…)
There are some traditions I abandoned. I no longer make it a point to go to church on or around Christmas. I don’t go to church any other part of the year, so it feels inauthentic for me to “make an appearance”. That’s more for the world, not for God. God knows how I feel and where my heart truly lies during the holiday season.
I no longer make the kids wait for “Santa” on Christmas morning, and instead we exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. Not only does it give me a chance to sleep in on the holiday, my own little gift to myself, but it also puts me out of my misery waiting to give them their gifts. (That high of giving that perfect gift and seeing your child’s face light up is like no other.)
This also helps if you happen to be the target of Christmas Eve robbery… which at one point we were.
Having long lost the childhood decorations of my past, each new year brings an opportunity to honor itself with a special decoration all its own. Typically I do this with ornaments, but I’ve found it to be quite fun to change the landscape of the entire Christmas motif by small (and sometimes large) increments each year. These are usually the gifts I give for myself, as I really never have too much to ask for each holiday season.
I also get unusually attached to them and am distraught if they break or are lost. (If anyone knows where to find a Santa/Christmas glitter lamp… let me know)
This year will be the first truly “sugar free” holiday; where I will abandon old recipes full of the types of food and cooking that got me into the shape I’m in. I’ll be adding more fruits and vegetables in their place; like trading traditional sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows for the new (yummier and guilt free) version with raisins, agave nectar and fresh cranberries.
The lime jello salad will be there, because like I said I learned how to make that sugar free many years ago. (If I ever give up cheese, I’m probably sunk… but leave it to me to find a way to adapt!)
No fudge or divinity or egg nog this year; no bags of candy for the stockings.
Instead there will be new traditions in their place; that fit right along side all the wonderful old traditions we’ve shared for years.
That’s the way it should be. That’s what Christmas is, if you think about it. A marriage of old and new; with reverence to the past and hope for the future.
It’s what Christ came for, and what I hope we can all – no matter what our tradition or celebration – can find at least one moment this holiday season.
So Merry Christmas and happy holidays, folks. And feel free to share your traditions.
Lime Jello Salad
2 small (or 1 large) packages of lime jello (sugar free)
1 package of cream cheese, softened and cubed (can use low fat)
1 can 7-Up (diet)
1 small can pineapple tidbits (or crushed)
Boil two cups of water per jello instructions. Stir water into jello until dissolved. Add cream cheese and beat with electric mixer until blended. Drain pineapple juice from can into a measuring cup, add the 7-Up until it measures two cups. Add to jello mixture. Add pineapple and then either pour into a mold or just refrigerate the bowl until set. (Works best to prepare the day before)
Sweet Potato Casserole
5-6 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water
1 cup raisins
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup nuts
Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Place in a 9×12 baking dish and cover with butter, agave, and water. Add fruit and nuts, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour (or until tender). This is especially tasty the next day, as the cranberries have a chance to sweeten.