Candlelight flickered and cast a warm glow inside the old, log house. Dinner was finished hours ago and the remnants were packed away for another day. The children were scrubbed clean, cozy in their pyjamas, and eagerly awaiting the arrival of St. Nick. A candle burnt low, sputtered, and went out.
“Maman, you have to find another candle.” The mother, prepared for this eventuality, placed a fresh candle into the delicate, silver holder, to join the flickering lights of the other candles that decorated the Christmas tree.
A pine tree. With needles drying by the second.
Adorned with open flames.
Image Source: Christoph on Flickr
This was one of the traditions we brought with us when we emigrated from Europe.
When you’re part of a culturally diverse family, different traditions get slotted in here and there, as they fit. While we lived in Germany, and spent Christmases with Opa and Oma, silver candleholders designed to clip onto pine boughs fit into our traditions. We moved to a 19th century log home shortly after arriving in Canada, and while our family continued many of the same traditions we’d known in Europe, the candles were discarded after two seasons. Perhaps the habit of deliberately lighting a tree on fire inside a log house became too ridiculous to continue. But part of me knows it was also convenience that sent my parents to Canadian Tire for strands of lights easily arranged and replaced, if necessary.
Though we sent that one packing, other traditions lasted and found their way into a new generation. On December 24th, and late into the night, my brothers and I made our way upstairs to wait for Mr. Claus. We took turns looking out the window at the stars and arguing about which blinking light signaled his arrival. And even when we were past the the wide-eyed wonder stage, we continued watching and waiting. Our parents enjoyed doing it and we loved playing along with it, even as teenagers, when by all accounts we had surly moments. Today, with children of our own, my brothers and I continue the tradition.
Each year we gather at my parent’s house on Christmas Eve. There’s food and A LOT of talking; we play games and listen to carols late into the night, and NORAD’s Santa Tracker helps us keep tabs on the big guy. Once he nears our location we hide out, look out a window, and wait, remembering to leave brandy and cookies – poor guy has enough milk sloshing around in his belly at that point and needs a warm up with a bit more kick. The kids listen closely for the telltale bells and then it’s a madcap dash down the stairs and around the corner as our socked feet send us all sliding towards the tree.
As new immigrants we adopted the tradition of hanging stockings on the chimney and tested out opening gifts on the morning of the 25th. That last one was vetoed by a unanimous vote. There was only so much adapting we kids could do. New country. New friends. But keep the presents coming on the 24th.
Our families have grown and so have the traditions. And that’s what I love about Christmas: making room for the old and the new. There’s excitement, anticipation, family, and a lot of love. It makes me giddy and sappy all at once.
My husband and I created our own tradition, too. We wrap late into the night several days before Christmas and Love Actually plays in the background, providing the soundtrack to the evening. Really, it’s my husband who wraps late into the night after I crash on the couch part way through, but let’s pretend I pull my weight.
What’s your craziest or most treasured tradition?