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Christmas Eve, 2016

It’s Christmas Eve. It seems like a time to reflect back (and perhaps forward) on family traditions.

When I was young, we had two important family traditions. First, we didn’t get our Christmas tree until Christmas eve. I’m not quite sure why, but my father was insistent. And it was clearly enough of a tradition that friends of the family remember it now, nearly forty years after dad passed away. I think one friend suggested that we waited until then because trees were cheaper on Christmas eve, but that seems like a strange reason.

Of course, when you get a tree that late, you have to find a way to decorate it quickly. That was the other family tradition. Each year, we’d host the not-so-politically-correct Christians decorate the tree, Jews eat and drink; choose your religion for the evening party. Since it’s been nearly forty years since those parties, it’s hard to remember all of the details. But I do remember that we had one friend, Diana, who would hang tinsel one strand at a time (The only way; otherwise it doesn’t look like icicles). We also had a few beautiful miniature scenes inside goose eggs (or some other large egg). And mom used to buy the stars from the MFA each year.

I only got to drink it once or twice, but our friend Michael Smith used to make legendary egg nog. If I remember correctly, he’d let it age for a few weeks before the party. I don’t think anyone does that now, with worries for salmonella and such. But I’m pretty sure that the alcohol content was high enough that no bacterium would survive.

Fast forward to our time at Grinnell. We’ve clearly developed new family traditions. One is that we all get pajamas (or something similar; last year it was robes) on Christmas eve and wear them on Christmas day. It’s interesting to see how the kids’ preferences change, and how pajama styles change. A few years ago, the kids wanted footie pajamas, and most had no feet, so Michelle worked hard to find footed ones. This year, the kids wanted no feet pajamas. Strangely, footed pajamas seem to be popular now, and the no-feet full body pajamas are hard to find. I think we ended up with something that Michelle calls The ugly sweater of Christmas pajamas. But the kids seem happy.

While we don’t host a Christmas eve party, like my parents did, we do get invited to a very jolly Christmas eve party. Lots of colleagues, mostly from a certain generation, are there, which provides opportunities for a wide variety of fun conversations.

Just a few main traditions seem appropriate. I think it makes us all happy, although I’ll also admit that the holidays are hard with so many loved ones gone. And, as at Thanksgiving, this year I wonder whether we’ll still be able to get the family together for holidays, given that eldest is heading off somewhere this year, and the others will be soon.

In any case, Happy Holidays everyone, if you choose to celebrate one of the holidays of this season. If not, have a wonderful winter.

Version 1.0 of 2016-12-24.