Christmas Traditions in our family – an addition to traditional history

Christmas Traditions in our family – an addition to traditional history

Christmas Traditions in our family – an addition to traditional history

 

The earliest Christmas I can recall as when I was about three years old. This was once again a conflict with my old nemesis the snake (psychologists take note). My late father was a whiz with his hands and he and the neighbor were building a "doll house" suite of furniture for his daughter for Christmas. I recall they were building a couch and chairs in green leather with coir stuffing. While they were busy I observed a snake coming down from the rafters in the garage. I attracted my dad's attention to this fact. The snake was dispatched very quickly. The conventional wisdom, at that time, dictated by the local aboriginal population (I hesitate to use the word native as this is no longer PC) was that you burn the creature which then drives the partners and friends away. In any event I recall burning the snake in a tin can.

This clearly had no impact.

In any event, no tinsel, no trees, no further memories, sorry guys.

The next Christmas memory was visiting Grandma. We took the train to a small town in the karoo called De Aar, emotions, feelings and empathy sound byte are in that hub. So I will not repeat them here.

My Christmas present was a complete set of matchbox cars, current and vintage. If I had kept this present, in pristine condition ( and I always kept my stuff in great condition) I would probably not have had to work today.

After that Christmases were some what vague until I became a little older. Grandma and Grandpa moved to Johannesburg after Grandpa went "on pension".

After this, Christmas was an obligatory visit. Now in SA like California ( I know it is not summer here just hot) and Ozz Christmas is in the middle of summer. So Turkey, Ham and Christmas pudding is somewhat of an ordeal. None-the-less born with great fortitude, the current girl friend (when I got a little older) was also always invited to the Christmas feast. Now Granny was a little outspoken. She would tackle my current paramour with the words "You know girl, you are not good enough for my grandson. You know we have blue blood in our arses and are special." I understand this was in reference to the fact that she claimed to be the grand daughter of George Rex of Knysna, who was reputed to be the illegitimate son of King George.II.

After their demise we developed a tradition of spending Christmas with my parents. Christmas began with a "decorating the tree ceremony" normally on or about December 16. We all had to assemble, decorate the tree with the saved decorations which aggregated year by year remember this one belonged to great baunt .. you get the picture) with additions from Christmas crackers or trivial gifts, given by attending parties over the years. This of course was always a subject of tears (if the giver had died in the meanwhile) or joy if the giver was now a year older (specifically in the case of grandchildren). This would be followed by playing of carols and drinking of Champagne. When we attended this ceremony, in my grandparents' day, she would burst into uncontrollable sobs on the playing of silent night. I would always ask "gran why do you cry every year when we play Silent night?' She replied "one day you will understand.

After Gran's demise, dad would likewise burst into uncontrollable sobs on the playing of silent night. Now I do the same, I think I understand.

My second Christmas, that I recall, was when I was about four. We lived in a residential hotel. This was common amongst the working classes in South Africa in the fifties. At any rate Dad said I should put a pillow at the foot of my bed and Father Christmas ( Santa Claus) would put my presents in the pillow. I duly did so, but was so excited that Christmas eve that I could not sleep. Every 5 minutes (or so it seemed to me I would dive into the pillowslip to find out what Santa ha brought. Alas as the night wore on nothing materialized. Much to my chagrin an disappointment.

Somewhere in that night I recall Dad coming into the room and saying " I think we should put the presents down now so that we can go to bed". After that, I once again leapt to the foot of the bed. And nothing! The night wore on. now I needed tp pee. I got up and nearly broke my neck falling over a wheelbarrow and a bicycle. I was overjoyed Father Christmas had been there!. I assumed that some of the smaller wrapped presents were from Mom and Dad and those were the ones left by them! My belief in Father Christmas remained intact for another year (at least , as I recall)!

Our traditions, regarding the tree and carols and champagne, remained intact for many years after that.

The year after Dad passed on we carried on the tradition and guess who bawled their eyes out when we played "Silent Night. Yep me, gran's words came home to roost!

My youngest daughter and son introduced a new tradition once they became adults. This was the "tequila slammer" tradition. After the Champers at Christmas eve dinner we had tequila slammers amongst great hilarity (no exceptions, everyone took part). Politically, we had to split Christmas up, Christmas eve was the traditional dinner, direct family only , us, children (no grand children yet) and it was our special celebration. Turkey, Ham, Christmas pud , the lot. Christmas day was for the extended family, grandparents, brothers, brothers in-laws, kids and cousins. A much bigger affair. Same fair though.

The next year my son died in a car accident, so the next Christmas after that was minus him. The bitter, sweetest Christmas I have known. We had tequila slammers in his memory. This was the last traditional Christmas we had. After that I got divorced. My eldest son said the tradition was "rubbish" Why keep the kids up to midnight to distribute presents. And, why not go to a restaurant on Christmas day so no one is saddled with the costs or the subsequent cleanup.

I still long for the traditional Christmases' we had. They were great.

Christmas is a time of living, loving, nostalgia, remembrance, life and all meaningful things I to our all to short lives!

Comments 28 comments

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

I had a number of matchbook cars as a child and did not treat them well, alas.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Bob yes we had an interesting childhood. Today it would be about the laptop or Ipod and do not think either would survive 55 years!


Louie Jerome profile image

Louie Jerome 7 years ago from UK

Interesting times. I feel quite sad when I observe today's kids and see all the real life adventure that they have missed out on. We used to pack up sandwiches and go on an expedition, or climb trees, build treehouses and all kinds of things. Sadly, kids don't seem to do that much anymore. It's all about virtual adventures!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

Christmas is one of my favourite celebrations and I like hearing about other people celebrates. I like the "decorating the tree ceremony" , it is a great way to put everybody in a Xmas mood. First time I hear about the Tequila slammers as a Xmas tradition LOL sounds like fun. Thanks for sharing your family traditions.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Lois Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love Christmas pain and all!

Princessa Thanks for stopping by and commenting. you support as always is welcome


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Hello Sixtyorso! What I get from your hub is a very personal glimpse into a family and culture very different from -- but in some ways very similar to -- mine. You write lovingly of a time, place and traditions.

I will think of you this Christmas and hope you are enjoying a tequila slammer somewhere (NOT part of my tradition but interesting nonetheless). Totally understand the crying at Silent Night. I have the same reaction to Ave Maria.

Cheers! MM


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 7 years ago from Oklahoma

Sixty, what a beautiful story of your personal life and of Christmas past. I miss the Christmas celebrations I had as a child and wish that my children could have had the same kind of celebrations. Times change and people move away and families do not keep in touch with each other as they should, and that makes having an old fashioned Christmas harder than ever. Your story has reminded me of what Christmas should be, a holiday of love and sharing. Thank you Sixty.


spryte profile image

spryte 7 years ago from Arizona, USA

Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful memories and traditions Sixty. I have to admit...I'm a Christmas Carol Sobber too. Mine is "I'll Be Home For Christmas." *sniffle*


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

Sixty, yes the old traditions and the way things were done will always be a part of the nostalgia, added to it those bitter sweet memories that will never change. However as live moves on we too need to move with those times.

Yes I too feel the tears on hearing Silent Night. especially if it is being sung in German.


ajcor profile image

ajcor 7 years ago from NSW. Australia

beautiful hub - we are great in our family for the Christmas traditions - the tequila slammer must be a great new addition to your Christmas especially after the champagne meal- I think I will keep that one a secret from my sons!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

Dammit, Sixty, the way this started out I thought it was going to be yet another snake hub. I was thinking, dude, wtf is up with you and snakes, you're like a snake whisperer or something.

But then you got sweet on me, and your hub turned really wonderful.  You know, I take great pains to maintain this cynical, jerk-face façade and you mess it up telling warm, loving stories.

You nailed it with the tree ornaments thing.  I used to love decorating the tree when I was little, and it was boring and a pain in the ass when I was  a teenager and in my early twenties, but then with kids old enough to know what was going on, it started getting fun again.  We bought ornaments each year with the kids birthdates on them, you know, the "Baby's first Christmas" ones, and we even got one our first Christmas together (just me and wifey) of two cats getting married, that we hang "near the heart" of the tree each year.   As my kids all moved into their teens, they've become "blah" about decorating the tree and, frankly, I've kind of gotten annoyed with process too.  But we do it anyway, and every time I pull out the kids ornaments and those two cats, I realize why we do silly, pointless stuff like this every year.  Your hub hit that mark beautifully.  I was really planning on being a scrooge this year, and you are trying to make that difficult. I have nothing to be a scrooge about. Your hub really shows just how much that is true.

Anyway, nice hub, you got me thinking.  Oh, and I wish my family did tequila slammers.  I mean, I will anyway, but the rest of them should too.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Lovely Hub Sixty, and reminds me of the magic of my own childhood, when I would hide under the Christmas tree watching the baubles glinting in the fairy lights. I am so sorry you lost your son, that must have been dreadful. When I lost my Husband it was on a Nov 23rd, and his funeral was on my Birthday (Dec 4th). I cancelled Christmas that year as it just didn't feel right, and it has never been quite the same since.

I hope you have a great Christmas this year as I am sure your son will be around you. :)


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Mighty Mom

I am glad I could touch a chord in you and am pleased I managed to share with you.

Gwendymom Yes I guess some of the old things were better and preserving those traditions is a worthwile exercise. If one can achieve that then we can have a measure of inner peace.

Rodney thanks for stopping by and sharing in my hub.

ajcor  My sons and daughter introduced the tradition in our household and we have carried it on. But is does remind us of Greg everytime.

Shades Thanks for your comments.Yes this was a strange hub it sort of wrote itself. The fingers were connected to the brain and suddenly a hub appeared. A little different from the usual I agree.

Hi Misty that year was a hard one like yours but you have to get back on the horse or reindeer and allow the bittersweet memories to flow. It is a kind of annual purging experience


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi sixtyorso, remembering family traditions bring about nostalgia and lovely feelings even amidst painful memories. Thank you for sharing. :)


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Ripplemaker It was a pleasure to share this hub with you and it is wonderful to note the feelings that have been actuated in the readers of this hub. Thak you so much for stopping by and commenting.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

I enjoyed reading your story, but I was a little sad about the part where your son died. I know this is life, but this must have been very hard. My mom always spoke of the wonderful Christmas they had before her mom passed away, and after that it was not quite the same. As for me I really do not have a traditional Christmas anymore because I live with my sister and we simply visit with family on Christmas day. When we were younger we had a Christmas tree and presents, but unlike other kids I never believed in Santa Claus because of the funny religion we had belonged to when I was younger. It actually took a year after leaving that religion before I could get my mom to think it was okay for us to go trick or treating, and I was not eleven until we had a Christmas tree. I love the season and I think it is beautiful, but I never will have some of the memories some kids had because I never believed in Santa Claus. Thanks for the great story hub.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Sweetie pie Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I am glad you were able to relate and share in my experiences painful and joyful alike.


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

Sixtyorso, I apologize for being so long in commenting on this hub, but it moved me so as I traveled down your memory lane carrying my own memories as well.  I was not able to comment, but now I've settled down some and would like to share my thoughts.

I felt your growth, as you remembered what it felt like to see Christmas as a child, then as a young adult, and finally as the more mature adults we become.  I am there as well.  I felt your loss of yesterday, and appreciation for the now> As we grow, we learn such is life, no experience is felt but for the moment.  O that we could hang on to those moments!

Christmas in my house was celebrated with no effort from me, as a child, I simply basked in the delightful food, smells, sounds, and gifts.  I danced in the sparkle of mystery, music, dancing, homemade candy and special giving and receiving. 

My parents gave us beautifully wrapped gifts, my mother was one to take such time over small details.  I remember seeing gifts that I hesitated to unwrap - to a young girls eyes the glitter and shine was as enjoyable as the gift.

Oh, the smells!  Smiles were plentiful as we watched my mom put the ingredients for fudge in the pan and my dad did his part, by using his strong arms to beat the fudge until it lost it's gloss.  The fudge "flowed" from a plentiful fountain.  No effort from me except to eat, listen to the happy conversations, and feel warm, loved and secure in this happy world.  It was a joyous and safe place. 

When mom lost her eyesight, I was 12 and life changed for us all.  Christmas died a slow death each year as I tried to re-create Mom's delicious turkey and dressing.  She would sit at the counter, giving instructions; Her smiling face turned in my direction as she took small bites to make sure I was right on with her mental recipe. 

We all worked to make Christmas happen, but it was no longer magical.  No matter how I tried, the dressing was never "mom's" - no one complained, but for me, it just wasn't as good as it needed to be. 

The packages under the tree were no longer mysteries; the wrapping was clumsy, bows crooked, gifts bought with struggle - Mom and Dad had the magical touch of producing what you asked for, and if you got something different it turned out to be better than you expected.  When I took over the shopping - magic became just a memory and my young attempts to put it together were inadequate. 

Then, Christmas was the culmination of a year of days that brought no sight no matter the struggle from the medical experts to save her vision.  It was the vaccum, sucking joy from the moments.  It took us years to find joy again, and when we did, it did not resemble any joy we knew before.  Everything changed, yet we were the pretenders...trying to smile through it all.

We learned that life is what you make it...that is the magic.

I grew up suddenly, and Christmas past became just a memory.  The Christmas traditions became more my creations as I could not be "mom."  My dressing was not like moms but we learned it was still good.  Christmas meal did not magically appear on the table, but got there from my sweat and tears.  Dad and I shopped, with Mom coming along and us describing things on a shelf.

A new tradition was born.  But, I mourned the more relaxed holidays.  They were forever gone.  Still, we learned we could not look back.  We found humor in the moments, joy in less shiny gifts and more in experiences.  It was not better, but it was still good.

I was 18, mom was 44 looking 30 as left this world, to her reward, and Christmas was again changed.  Now, we had a sad guide dog to be brave for...she mourned enough for all of us.  I was determined to make the holidays special, in memory of Mom.  Soon, I married, and had kids of my own; I worked hard to build that sense of effortless magic; as I now know my parents did for me. 

With my grown children, we have on occasion gone out to eat...all of us came home to a house empty of holiday traditions and smells, and we vowed to cook...no matter what.

This Thanksgiving, my middle son leaves to go to another state to see his baby girl, my oldest son works, and the youngest son didn't want to eat a meal with everyone else gone.  Times of change hit us again.  Mom to the rescue, I said "We will have our cake and eat it too."  Which is always my answer, if it can be done, right?

I'll cook, divide the meal into thirds: take it to first son at work, give it to 3rd son, keep our portion, and take 3rd son out to eat.  When each of us goes back to our home, we will have leftovers.  Not the real deal, but as close as I can make it.

We all nodded with a bit of tears.  Life goes on, tho' on a different path, it's not sad, but its' not happy either. It's just life. 

Sixtyorso, you know I'm a sucker for gentle, and your hub brought it all rushing back, as do the holidays,  I cry for yesterday, I rejoice in the moment of today, knowing it is just that.  A moment. 

Did I say I love your stories??  You know I do.

(oh my, I had no idea this comment was so long, edit it out if you need to.=))


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Marisue Thanks for your wonderful insights and shared feelings.

This is a hub in it's own right and adds immeasureably to mine. As always, I value your input and comments


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

That touched my heart and "Silent Night" is one of my all time favorites as I play it on the piano ever year and my family gathers around it , in and out of tune and we sing. :) I would have freaked out over a snake, I can't stand those things.:)


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi AEvans Thanks fo stopping by and commenting. I have had bad history with snakes in my life (definitely not a green thumb) and my early life (1947-etc). I do freak out over these belly crawlers. Comments always enhance hubs- thank you.


J_Eds profile image

J_Eds 7 years ago from Blackpool

How sad that your christmasses are no longer the lovely season you looked forward to.

I am really sorry to hear about your son. I hope that you can enjoy xmas again soon.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

J_Eds Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Life actually does carry on.  We still have a tequila slammer occaisionally but in memory of Greg especially when my youngest daughter is around at Xmas. But now if possible we prefer to just go away for the holidays.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

What a lovely sharing of Christmas memories. Thank you so much for jogging my own remembrances.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Always a pleasure to stimulate memories in others. Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for stopping by and commenting.


bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California

I love how you are so brutally honest here! Christmas, for good or bad, seems to be the time we long for our traditions. One of the hardest years my husband and I faced, actually sparked our tradition we still carry out today.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Christmas-Love-Letters

Thanks for the journal style of hub- it was great to see the transformations...but sad to see the longing for what was lost.


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa Author

bayareagreatthing Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes we do long for that which is lost and gone. Nostalgia is a great part of being human. Why we sometimes long for someone else's lost past!


blackdove 6 years ago

That's a nice and interesting story. We have a family tradition of pictures during Christmas. See that tradition here: http://isjaw.blogspot.com/2009/12/christmas-past-a...

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