At no other time of the year (except maybe for Carnival) do so many people have Traditions (yes, with a capital “T”). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a stickler for traditions myself – I served as ritualist for my sorority for two years and was once known to cry when, instead of having our traditional Thanksgiving afternoon at the house, my Dad brought home box seats to the Cowboys game. But there’s something about traditions affiliated with the holidays that engenders extremes of emotions.
When my fiancé and I bought our home, we started new holiday traditions. Anyone who has gone through the merging of family holiday rituals will understand the worries of that first year: Will my parents get upset? Will his? Will we get time just to ourselves? Our compromise was to have Thanksgiving for just him and me; conversely, Christmas is for everyone.
The preparations for our holiday traditions start over a week in advance – though shopping for gifts starts much earlier, if I’m lucky. You see, my fiancé’s family lives here, but mine lives in Dallas. So on Christmas Eve we attend afternoon Mass with his family and then assist his parents in hosting their Christmas Eve open house party. Then, starting at 1 a.m., we host about 30 people at a traditional reveillon at our house (one course an hour until 6 a.m.). Once everyone leaves we clean up, pack and open presents with some coffee before hailing a cab and going to the airport to fly to Dallas where we have Christmas again there the next morning.
We thought about trying to travel for Christmas … once. That idea didn’t go over so well. You see, the holidays bring out both the best and worst in people. And once you’ve set a tradition, other people are counting on you to fill a space within their own traditions. And since I’m at that age where everyone around me is either getting married, having a child or retiring, everyone’s holiday rituals are in flux.
I think that’s what causes so much angst during this season: There are so many emotions riding on such a short time period (much like a wedding). Instead of enjoying the (sometimes forced) time together and attempting to avoid expectations, everyone’s happiness is tied to someone else: Will she like my gift? Will he get me what I want? Do we need to buy a present for them? What if someone shows up for whom we forgot to get a present? Will they think I’m trying too hard? Is the floor clean enough? Did we remember to baby-proof that room for her? Do we have so-and-so’s favorite drink? Will my office like the candy I made?
Our last reveillon drove this point home for me. My fiancé’s co-worker brought his adorable son (who, by the by, loves dressing like a superhero) and we set him up by our Christmas tree with blankets and cartoons on a TV.
My maid of honor had the amazing foresight (another reason she’s fantastic) to bring a boatload of sparklers. So, at about 5:30 a.m. on Christmas Day, a bunch of my closest friends and some people I had only met that evening stood around a fire in our backyard, drunk on caffeine, alcohol and the lateness/earliness of the day, giggling like toddlers while holding sparklers. It was an image, and a feeling, I will never forget. All of my worries went up in smoke and I was thankful in that moment for everything – my fiancé, dear friends, new acquaintances, sparklers right before dawn, giving and getting gifts, a stomach full of great food and luxurious libations and so much more.
I can only hope that everyone will enjoy reveillon as much this year – it's a Tradition that seems here to stay.
I hope you enjoy all that the holidays bring – and a large glass of strong eggnog to make it sweeter.
What are your holiday traditions? Are there any you would change if you could?