Holidays have a way of generating traditions. They vary from place to place, family to family, decade to decade. But all hold some special meaning, in their own way.
Here are some of my family’s unique traditions, which I share strictly for the purpose of reliving the good ole days of Christmas’ past:
This tradition started years ago when we moved into an apartment. The previous tenants had left behind a rather devilish looking, red, triangular-shaped, furry Santa, about one foot tall. He had a flat bottom and no legs or feet, and coming out of the peak of his Santa cap was an 18 inch spring. Of course, it would have been nicer if they had left behind needlepoint Christmas stockings, but they didn’t.
We didn’t have much money to spend on holiday decorations, so we utilized “Santa on a Spring” by hanging him in the entryway door. Every person who came to visit was surprised, then bonked in the face as Santa recoiled and ricocheted at them; then they had to move around Santa on a spring to enter the apartment.
We interpreted this as having elements similar to the Advent season itself: it can sneak up on you and surprise you. People seemed to buy it, so ’nuff said, we thought. Today, our daughter has possession of Santa on a Spring and the tradition lives on.
Ever since I can remember, my extended family visited the week before Christmas for cookie baking and decorating. Although that’s fun on it’s own, we started a new tradition over the years: cookie flipping. It sounds silly at first, and maybe a little messy for some parents’ likings - but it’s something that brought laughter and fun to our typical holiday festivities of potlucks, gift giving, brunches, and dinners.
It starts with cookie making. Now, you can do this part however you enjoy it the most. We split into teams, and often made it into an inevitable competition of which team could get their cookies prepped, baked, and decorated the fastest and prettiest, and our grandparents were the judges. Then comes the second competition: the cookie flip. This was always an individual competition for us. Once the cookies were baked and decorated, we took all of the duds (pretty much any cookie that we wouldn’t immediately care about ruining by hitting the ground) and set them off to the side. Each person participating gets one cookie of choice, and the choice goes from youngest to oldest. Next, we head outside. One by one, we line up and prepare for the “cookie flip” - a competition of who can throw their cookie the highest and catch it in their mouth.
The losers were, of course, those who didn’t even come close to catching any of their cookie in their mouth. Next, in line were those who caught it, but maybe it broke off or they dropped it afterwards. And finally, the winner was the person with the best aim and the most stable mouth - the person who could toss their cookie up and successfully catch it in their mouth without it breaking or dropping: a difficult task. As if that wasn’t fun enough, our grandparents picked out a gift, usually a gift card, for the winner to receive at the end of the festivity!
The definition of family means something different to each and every one of us, and I don’t consider it limited to only those “blood-related” members that we often think of immediately. Friends = Family.
A close family friend of ours invited us to their house every year for a Christmas party - but it wasn’t just any Christmas party. I wouldn’t quite call it an anti-Christmas party, because we were still celebrating the holiday (although, one year the requirement was simply to wear Christmas pajamas). To sum it up in the best way I possibly can: a sporadically themed, Halloween-ish Christmas party. Each Christmas party held a different theme to dress up for, and the themes ranged far and wide. When the invites were sent out, the theme was listed in order to give all invitees adequate time to prepare.
A few years back, we did a beach theme - something completely opposite of the harsh cold Midwest winters we were used to. This consisted of beach towels and bags, goggles, swimsuits, tropical drinks for both adults and children, and a warm-weather themed white elephant gift exchange. If someone came without an outfit that matched the theme, they always had extra. Not a single soul could get away with not participating.
It may sound bizarre - especially dressing up in swimsuits in the height of winter; but, it kept us on our toes and left us excited for next year!