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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2005

Christmas commentary
Traditions define evolving self

By Holly Grosch

I love Christmas. I think that’s because I had a good childhood. In general, I have fond memories of my youth. I even have a fond memory of being sick on Christmas — sitting in front of the TV, wrapped in a blanket chewing Bazooka bubble gum, selecting new pieces out of my new collector’s tin every five minutes and shoving them into my mouth for the freshest taste.

As the rest of my family headed off to church, I snuggled into the latest Benji movie sent to me from my aunt on Long Island.

I don’t see Christmas as a single day, but more like a season, which is two to three consecutive days of festivity culminating into actual Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, the holiday began for me when I came home from school and my mother sent me out to deliver her homemade jams to the neighbors. In return, I would always come skipping home with plates full of cookies from the bakers in the neighborhood.

As I looked gleefully at our newfound goodies of gingerbread and frosting, my mom would place the cookies high on the refrigerator, or hide them in another room until after dinner.

Later, at night, I was in the church Nativity pageant, playing the roles of a shepherd, a king, an angel and, one year, the coveted role of Mary, which was always reserved for an older kid because she usually got a line or two and was the one who got to hold the church’s newest baby.

Then we would sashay into the church fellowship hall for milk, retire home, and watch on TV the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Choral performing Christmas songs, as we wrapped our presents.

The evening concludes with the hanging up of our stockings by the fireplace (my father’s old hiking socks), and taking the annual family picture standing next to our living room Christmas tree, by propping the camera on the couch or rotating one family member out at a time.

I love family Christmas traditions.

I’m not referring to great-great-grandparents’ traditions dating back to European ancestors but instead my immediate family’s traditions. We play Monopoly every Christmas afternoon, which can’t have much to do with ancient family practices except that Christmas is a time for family.

I don’t know how, but my brother’s favorite game won out some how. I don’t like Monopoly, but nonetheless, I can’t wait to play every year on Christmas... The dreadful two hours, involves a good half-hour of bartering for the best properties, when everyone is really still waiting with a watchful eye to see who’s going to land on and get the last railroad — B&O.

But even traditions like this, I would hate to lose; I don’t handle change well.

Some traditions I’m ready to let go of though. For example, I continually tell my mother every year now that I do not want a candy necklace in my stocking anymore. "I am not 10 anymore," I tell her. And on my Christmas wish list I write a reminder at the bottom for my mother: "No, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups are not my favorite candy." They haven’t been since I was five.

So even the routines that I’m ready to let slide, another zealously hangs on.

Last year, I had my very first Christmas tree of my own in the Rotterdam apartment I share with my boyfriend Matt Socia. Sure, our blue spruce was as crooked as a witch’s finger, but, as I tied the trunk with a string to the sliding glass door, and braced it against our entertainment center and tied the other side to an end table, I warmly envisioned Matt and I collecting our childhood ornaments that we made in school or in Scouts and collectively putting them together on our tree, adding one or two new ones to represent the current year.

Neither his mother nor my mother wanted to part with any of them. His mother suggested that the ornaments that we had made as children were theirs by right of parenthood.

Why are the symbols of Christmas so important" Why do we wait every year to make gingerbread rather than make it all year round" Why does my mother want to buy me a candy necklace even though I’m too old" And why do I think it just wouldn’t be Christmas unless we play Monopoly — a game I don’t even like.

I think that Christmas is a happy time, with happy memories and we repeat the same things every year because we have such fond memories but also out of fear that newer activities wouldn’t be as much fun and would ruin the whole holiday altogether. So we do the same thing every year — to be on the safe side.

But what about all the people who don’t have a merry Christmas, who are evicted from their home the day after, have a loved one in the hospital, or in jail" Or, are approaching the first Christmas without a spouse who has died" As I think about these people, as I tend to do every year around this time, there is also the realization that my childhood Christmas routine will not last forever either.

One of my Jewish friends has a Christian boyfriend this year. She asks him if he could handle never having a Christmas tree in his home ever again" She wants to marry someone of Jewish ethnicity and religion, but if she were to marry someone of non-Jewish descent, he would have to convert, she has told me. I never heard his response to how it would feel to him, to never have Christmas again.

And one of my best friends from high school happily got married in November, and since she has for the first time moved out and into a new home with her husband, she is not participating in her immediate family’s annual Secret Santa activities, where they leave little notes and gifts around the house throughout the month of December for the family member whose name they have drawn out of a hat.

And now for me, my tradition is being tested. My brother’s new girlfriend is coming to our house for Christmas this year. He met her at divinity school where they are both studying to become ministers.

It makes complete sense my brother would like to share Christmas with his girlfriend as I enjoy doing so with Matt. So why does it ruffle me"

Because she doesn’t do Santa.

Deborah comes from a family in western Michigan who celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday and resists the lies of Santa to honor the truthfulness in the story of Jesus’ birth.

They do not hang stockings or gorge themselves on boxes of chocolate and then blame the big guy in red.

My father called me a few weeks ago and told me the bad news. "No stockings this year," he said. My response, in resistance, was, "What should Santa buy Deborah for under the Christmas tree then""

I have also learned that she will be staying at my parent’s house for five days while I will only be there for three. "I’m being replaced!" I exclaimed out of jealousy.

Of course this is not true, but I don’t handle change well, and I like things to stay the same, the way they have always been, the way I have been happy and enjoyed them.

This Christmas Eve, as I traditionally watch the Melodies of Christmas, I will be sitting on the untraditionally-Grosch barren, dark gray, cold, stone fireplace hearth — void of the usual green and red stockings — but I will have my Bazooka Joe collector’s tin at my side, offering a hint of red color, and the melodies bringing tidings, as I solace myself with fresh pieces of gum every five minutes.

Perhaps some things haven’t changed... so it will make everything, okay.

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