September 18, 2014

The evolving Christmas tradition

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted 12/27/11

Christmas in our family has always been one of traditions that shifts and changes over the years. However, despite their dynamic nature, the changes have always felt like components to a proper Christmas holiday.

When I was a child, we had a very straightforward routine. Christmas Eve we would visit my dad’s side of the family for dinner and presents, then my mom’s side of the family for presents before finally heading home at a late hour for our own family gifts. Come Christmas Day, we would be up early to open presents from Santa before heading off to my aunt’s for Christmas dinner.

Few things stand up to the tests and trials of time, and our Christmas traditions were no exception. Eventually my dad’s side of the family stopped having get-togethers on the scale we would attend, and when my aunt died her Christmas Eve event ceased as well. What remained was the core family gift exchange in the late evening, which came to include dinner as well.

This year, my parents decided to revive an old “tradition” they had at their first Christmas together about 33 years ago, and make a duck for Christmas dinner. Even though this was the first time we’ve had it as a family, it still felt like a proper tradition, the sort of thing that we have always done and would continue to do. The duck also came out quite delicious, which is always a plus.

As has been par for the course over the past few years, my sister’s boyfriend found himself working much of the day, which supplanted extended family events, keeping us from commencing festivities at home until later in the evening. Nevertheless, to me, it doesn’t feel like a proper Christmas without getting together around the tree at 10-11 at night and passing around gifts.

Christmas day’s events have evolved as well, as my cousin has taken over Christmas dinner from my aunt. She has also taken over the extended family gift exchange, simply shifting it over to the same time as Christmas dinner.

I have personal Christmas traditions as well. One unintentional one I dodged this year: trying to surprise my mother with a thoughtful gift that backfires completely. Once I got her a CD I saw she had checked out from the library; as it turns out, she had gotten it for a relative to listen to. Another time my sister had the exact same gift idea I did. Another personal tradition is taking time to hang out with friends who are in town from other parts of the world; or who otherwise have nothing happening. Personally, moving to another area myself has not done anything to dampen that tradition, even if it is now something that has to be cut short (news doesn’t stop for the holiday, after all).

This also leads to another, unintentional tradition of mine: forgetting that it is a bad idea to go to the mall around Christmastime.

With my friend Amanda from Tokyo visiting family in Flint, I figured I would stop and hang out on my way downstate. We agreed a trip to the mall could be fun — we could pop in at the arcade and wander around a bit, since we had both finished our Christmas shopping already — but what we did not anticipate was the horrible traffic that made what should have been a short drive an adventure in stop-and-go.

Being stubborn people, we pressed on past the first group of cars cutting across four lanes of traffic to make a left turn, and even ended up with a decent parking spot what seemed like 400 miles away. Unsurprisingly, the building was packed, and much of the shopping we would have done was deterred by the huge lines.

Nevertheless, it would not be Christmas without an ill-advised trip to the store, I suppose.

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