Our grandchildren have no memory of traditional activities they had with their parents. My husband and I came from large Catholic families full of traditional food and family activities. They moved from house to house, sometimes right at Christmas with no real sense of permanency or tradition. While my husband and I moved quite a bit as we grew up, we fondly remember spending holidays with extended family and friends. We have treasured traditions and expectations of this season. My biological children have many of the same traditions and hold them dear. These children have either forgotten or blocked any memories they have of Christmas past. The shadows of Christmas past haunt them in ways they don’t have the abilty to express. A particularly difficult time was when my oldest Grandson was asked to write a point-of-view essay for English. I tried to get him to write about the angel they had on top of the tree the last time they had Christmas with their mother. That essay didn’t get written, instead he wrote a fictional essay about a star on top of a tree.
This year, they have the memory of last Christmas, and they remembered specific decorations we had out last year. Our traditions are becoming something they can count on. This is of course, a blessing and a curse. In the day-to-day world of the big family, some things just can’t happen the same every time. Teaching them traditional Christmas carols, has been an exciting adventure. My granddaughter was so very surprised that one of the girls at her school knew all the same extra words (ie; Like a Lightbulb!) to Rudolph as we did! Reading to them from “A Christmas Carol” and then being able to discuss the different ghosts was also hilarious (They all thought Marley was a girl, and thought Dickens really repeated the fact that she was dead too much) We have made Gingerbread houses, hung stockings and shopped for silly presents for the whole family. The children love hearing that they were included on Christmas cards from far away friends and family members and they relish the thought of being one of the biggest families in the Church on Christmas Day.
A point of joy of the three new kids is they LOVE my cooking. (of course they come from a background of fast food and cereal for dinner, but that’s besides the point) They will try almost anything and eat whattever creation I serve up most nights. The grandkids are happiest when we have family style dinner, so quick sandwich nights on the run are rare these days. Lucky for me, my family tradition of shepherd’s pie on Christmas Eve lives on despite the objections of my teenagers.
My teenagers have found joy in the new additions this Christmas as well. These kids, despite the horror they have been through, still believe in Santa. They have brought renewed energy to our preparations and have helped us see Christmas through new eyes and appreciate the time we spend together as a family. Our quiet Christmas morning, will most certainly be a jamboree of joy and laughter. I’ll give the stern direction “don’t wake me up until after 7am, but I can guarantee I’ll be up way before that. Cooking cinnamon buns and drinking coffee… I’m off now to finish wrapping, settle onto the couch with some good Christmas movies and snuggling with my big family! As tired as I’ll be tonight, I can’t wait for six a.m tomorrow morning.