In families throughout the world, the holidays are dictated by annual traditions like pushing down fellow customers in a big box store in an attempt to grab the latest “Scratch Me Santa,” pouring rum in the eggnog punch to see what kind of family secrets grandma will reveal when she’s tipsy, and attending church services for the first time all year in a last-ditch effort to avoid booking a room at the Hell Hath No Fury Inn when death knocks at the door.
In my house, the holidays are dictated by many wonderful traditions like the ceremonial untangling of the lights, the haphazard decorating of Christmas cookies, and the frantic last-minute wrapping of gifts. But there is one tradition that no one in my house wants to give up—at least not yet.
Every Christmas Eve, we follow the same protocol we have since the children were little. My husband fires up the grill, I make a chocolate cream pie, and my now teenagers set the table. Nothing varies … ever. The menu, seating arrangements, formal attire, and post-dinner television movie choice have remained the same since 1994. God forbid if someone has a hankering for green Jell-O salad or to sit at the head of the table instead of on the right side or to drink out of a water glass instead of a crystal wine glass or to watch It’s a Wonderful Life instead of A Christmas Story. It’s simply not going to happen. On this night, our tradition stands firm.
To be honest, I’m not sure why this tradition has remained set in stone since the year genetically engineered tomatoes were first introduced and I first discovered stretch marks. All I know is that it works and that each year, something memorable happens. One year I saw a bright object racing across the dark sky that I was certain was Santa’s sleigh. Another year my husband grilled our dinner in 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts and blizzard conditions. One Christmas Eve, my son dressed up for dinner like Robert Goulet, complete with a paper mustache and suit and tie.
I keep thinking that one of these days, my children who somehow turned 19 and 16 when I wasn’t looking, will tell me that they are heading in different directions on Christmas Eve. But for now, they are certain of one thing in life: they want to spend Christmas Eve the same way they have since they can remember: in our cozy little suburban house tucked away from the world where green Jell-O salad is not welcome, the seating chart remains the same, and the magic of this one night reminds all of us that it is the memories, not the gifts, that provide us the most comfort and joy.
Happy Holidays, from my cozy little house to yours.
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”
By Vicky DeCoster, All Rights Reserved