Webster’s defines ‘tradition’ as ‘an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior’ or ‘the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.’ Indeed, I just began a post with ‘Webster’s defines,’ like a bad fifth-grade report on gravity (though my elementary-schoolteacher Mom points out that these days, kids cite Wikipedia).
Tradition is most prevalent during the holiday season – what side dishes you eat for Thanksgiving. Where you hang the stockings. What family member will always be late and therefore shouldn’t be counted upon to bring the appetizers.
As things change in my family – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse – we have found it necessary to alter our traditions. After my brother passed away in 2004, we shifted the time and place of our Christmas – instead of spending Christmas morning in Northeast Ohio, we opened presents Christmas Day evening in suburban St. Louis. It was a way to all be together at Christmas but around different scenery that didn’t remind us so viscerally of who we had lost. Five years later, enough healing had occurred that we returned to Northeast Ohio for a Christmas-morning gift exchange (but in the living room instead of the den).
This Christmas holiday, my Dad is the interim rector in charge of celebrating services the local Episcopal Church. This means, among other responsibilities, that he’ll be officiating at four services – 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 10:00 a.m. – in observance of Christmas Eve and Day. It also means my favorite carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ is the recessional (the walking-out, end-of-service) hymn tonight, but I’m sure that is just a happy coincidence and not at all a case of musical nepotism.
So instead of Christmas-morning festivities, we’ll open presents in the early afternoon. And instead of turkey or crown roast accompanied by a nice Pinot Noir, we’re having a Christmas brunch with mimosas and Bloody Marys.
For my contribution, I’m making two casseroles that Molly and the rest of the ‘Chill’ gang (a/k/a my high school BFFs) have politely eaten before. One is my friend Hillary’s ‘overnight’ blueberry French toast containing such healthy ingredients as cream cheese, maple syrup, and roughly 37 eggs (before-baked view shown below):
The other is a Southwestern Brunch Casserole from my favorite cookbook of all time (the recipes are relatively simple and always reliable):
And here’s a look at it, pre-baking (and pre-addition of tomato slices and paprika). A little light reading off to the side there was provided by the Akron Beacon Journal, former stomping ground of my favorite author, Chuck Klosterman (how’s that for a digression):
Mom is making a winter fruit compote, which will be topped with ricotta, honey and almonds:
And we’ll be rounding it off with some turkey sausage links and cranberry bread.
But the point I wanted to convey here (and managed to wait until the penultimate paragraph) is not to make people hungry. It’s to say that even as some of our traditions, travel destinations, and participants change, others hold true. I’ll tell Mom I have a gift receipt for something before she even opens her present. Dad will have silly esoteric gift cards on the items he’s wrapped (one year, all presents were ‘from’ new U.S. Cabinet members; the next year, all presents were courtesy of obscure New Orleans Saints players). A particular Mannheim Steamroller song will play that we all love to hate. Mom and/or I will quote Sesame Street’s Bert and ask for a ‘scissor’ to assist with a particularly snug bow. At some point, an Old Fashioned or three will be consumed. A fire will crackle. And we will feel lucky to be sharing the holiday together. God bless us, every one.
What are some traditions your family shares, in the holiday season or otherwise?