Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are You Ready For Some Christmas?

Last night our friends Elke, Michael and their children came over to help us decorate our Christmas tree.

Elke and I were talking about the way that having children shifted the responsibility for maintaining (or creating new) family traditions from our parents or grandparents to us.

We now understand all the work that our mothers, fathers and grandparents did to make our holidays special, even magical.

[And can I just pause to say, “Holy CRAP! What a lot of WORK!”]

Because K and I are such control freaks so totally anal so organized, we hold a pre-holiday planning meeting where we review The Spreadsheet of Potential Festivities, make decisions, create complicated task lists and divide up the responsibilities.

[My mom teases us that our marriage is run like a business.]

[Have I mentioned the quarterly financial power point report K makes for me? No? Another time.]

K and I grew up with similar, suburban, big city, Christmas celebrations and so merging our family traditions hasn’t been too difficult.

There was no question, for example, that we would get and decorate a Christmas tree.

[Our friends Gwen and John (who are Quaker) wanted to get a tree, but their three year old daughter announced that she is officially Jewish -- and not just for the Hanukkah parties. She says that she is "Jewish all the time." The mere mention of getting a tree makes her SCREAM.]

[John is my friend whose New Year’s resolutions included eating more bacon and touching the breasts of men.]

With K and I there are only a few bones of holiday contention in the merging of our traditions.

It is all my mom's fault.


When I was young, my mother visited Colonial Williamsburg.

In Williamsburg, my mom got a wild hair up her…uh…early American settler.

From then on we had to string a popcorn and cranberry garland for our tree.

I admit, I love me some popcorn and cranberry garland. It does look nice.

However, I have spent many-a-night stabbing myself in the hand with a needle and it is not even Easter!

Finally, there's the issue of lights.

When K was growing up his family used multi-colored lights on their Christmas trees.

Things started out that way in my family, but the colonial hair up mom’s early American settler also brought the tradition of only using white lights.

[One must approximate hand dipped, tallow candles, right?]

So I grew up with white lights and CAN’T do colored lights.

And Huey from The Boondocks says,

“Oh, WHAT? Yesterday you were all “rainbow coalition Santa,” but today you’re all “Christmas Tree Lights of THE MAN?!!”

I'm a WHAT?!!!

What can I say?

White lights are my family tradition.

When my friend Lisa and her partner started a family they wanted to create a brand new tradition around Christmas and together they created Festivall.

Lisa says they did it because,

“My partner and I have many fond memories about our holiday celebrations growing up but it has become increasingly difficult each year to find the holiday spirit. Festivall is a way for us to intentionally celebrate Christmas, a time for spiritual renewal and celebration, rather than Capitalismas. Creating Festivall was our way of building a hopeful and meaningful family tradition connected to the spirit of community, giving, coming together and reflection on the year's end."

Lisa’s Festivall is a ten day celebration that starts every year on December 22nd.

The ten days of Festivall are:

  • 22nd Day of Fasting & Cleansing
  • 23rd Day of Self
  • 24th Day of Family
  • 25th Day of Tradition
  • 26th Day of Home & Hearth
  • 27th Day of Community Service
  • 28th Day of Discovery
  • 29th Day of Nature
  • 30th Day of Peace & Justice
  • 31st Day of Reflection & Renewal

Lisa's family celebrates each day of Festivall by following the day's theme in whatever way they wish.

I think that's pretty darned cool.


Omaha Mama said...

Balance is rough. Enough said.

Now, about that financial spreadsheet, I think we could use some of that around here. More on that later, k?

I love that you and K are partners in the planning and plotting. I'm more the dictator around here, shouting commands and making everyone compliant to my holiday demands.

Annie said...

I loved this post right up until I saw that last picture! Now I'll have Topol and his Tevye mutterings going on in my head all day! It doesn't help that I was in a stage production of that darn show about 10 years ago - so the songs will be going through my brain now too - still - a nice change from 'Frosty the snowman' ;)

I NEED to know more about the financial powerpoint presentation - sounds like something that might help my husband understand that possession of a debit card does not equate to bottomless money supply!

Janet said...

Beck jokingly linked white lights to communism in a recent post.

You know what, though? Whenever Castro comes over he always compliments me on how pretty my tree looks with it's little white lights.

So I'm with you: white lights rule.

dawn224 said...

Gotta say - Christmas in my house (when I was a kid) was always pulled off well. Got older and it was kind of a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" thing.

diggin Festivall, but I'm too lazy :)

tulipmom said...

I suspect that running your marriage like a business isn't all bad ... G-d knows we wouldn't pull most of the crap with our co-workers that we do with our spouses.

carrie said...

Balancing all of our traditions is the tricky part, huh? But, sooner or later you get a nice compromise . . . or you invent a new way to do it, like Festivall (which sounds mighty fine)!

Either way, Merry, Merry! :) said...

I have an ex (for good reason) who was very stringent in his "Rules of Christmas" The kids and I rebelled, and just ignored his crap. Partnership is for those who are willing to negotiate, not dictate.

Magpie said...

I don't which I like better, "The Spreadsheet of Potential Festivities" or the ten days of Festivall.

I'll skip the Powerpoint though.

Oh, white lights over here too.

Theresa said...

3 year old?

White lights over here too!

flutter said...

Christmas at your house is slightly petrifying.

Beck said...

My husband and I grew up in households were our holidays revolved around eating Christmas dinner in front of the tv (his) and fighting until the police came (mine) and so we've now become The Most Christmasy Family In The World, in rebellion.
My husband is a white light man, while I am a coloured light woman. This causes great division within our marriage AND on our Christmas tree.

motherbumper said...

What are these colored lights you speak of? In my world only teeny-tiny white fairy lights exist. Babe, I've strung so many cranberries and popcorn garlands that I no longer have a thumb on my left hand, it is now a tomato-shaped pin cushion. It's damn hard getting a pair of gloves that fit.

Hydes Like Us said...

I think eating more bacon is a wonderful resolution. I think we should all strive to eat more bacon.

And for your friends daughter...there's always turkey bacon.


WILLIAM said... you are saying that K only gets to give you the power point once a quarter....Wow.

M&Co. said...

Your mom kind of looks like Dolly Parton without the big hair and boobs.

Loralee Choate said...

When I was cursing and swearing at stringing lights on the tree, I looked at my eleventyhundred pine needle wounds on my fingers and told my husband that next year we are going to join George Castanza and have a Festivus Pole.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

I love the idea of Festivall! What a wonderful way to make your own traditions.

ps.. I think I need a financial spreadsheet too!

Jennifer said...

White lights are fine and dandy for outside. Inside? They must be colored lights. Must.


Mrs. G. said...

White lights or no lights. I'm with you on this one, sister.

we_be_toys said...

Ah Tradition! Yeah, I'm a white light fan too (sorry K), and I love the popcorn and cranberry garlands - I wanted to make then this year, but it just got away from me- maybe next year.
The child of Quakers who decided to be Jewish? I love it! And I may have to borrow the Festivall idea - how groovy is that?

mikster said...

My ex-wife and I always had trouble with one thing with Christmas. When we had kids I always thought the morning was more important and she always wanted the eve to be the gift thing.

Clink said...

Your blog is such an emotional education!

Natalie said...

Okay, so where does one find the time to make these beautiful popcorn and cranberry garlands? They are very pretty. I really enjoy white lights on trees that are themed (have you ever seen a teacup tree?), but with a modge podge tree such as mine (with red and gold being the primary colors), I think the colored lights are the best!

From Here to There

A Beaverhausen said...

Must do colored lights! On the house. On the mantle. On the tree. It's the law.

Krickett said...

Wow, can't believe I'm commenting again, two days in a row. My lurker status is questionable now. Anyhow, let's see - about tradition. My sister and I laugh when we talk about the xmas tree we grew up with. Four foot silver with a color wheel under it. Can you feel the warmth? But funny thing, last year as every light I unpacked (inside and outside) refused to work I finally understood how smart my father was. "Retro is in!" I exclaimed to my horrified husband on the idea that my dad had it right. Luckily he took the matter out of my hands and we celebrated with a real tree, gold and white lights, per our tradition.

LSM said...

The first tree Adventure Guy and I had the year we got married was THE UGLIEST TREE EVER because of our attempts at merging our traditions. Fortunately, our efforts have improved over the years. We're a white lights family too, which is different than either of our family traditions!

Kyla said...

I am laughing my early american settler off. Or, LMEASO for short.

Scarlett Wanna Be said...

What about the tradition where everyone gets into a big fight after the gifts are opened?...What?!...You mean not everyone has that tradition?!

JCK said...

I wish I could get more meetings over here with my man. PowerPoint, that's an idea.

I grew up with colored lights. We've done white lights for 12 years. This year I wanted to try colored lights. I'm obviously THE BOSS. But, I have noticed how the ornaments are harder to see with the brillance of all those colored lights..

Emily said...

White lights inside.
Colored lights outside.
That's our compromise.

creative-type dad said...

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Jewish during Hanukkah. Christmas seems like a rip-off compared to the neighbors.

painted maypole said...

hysterical, as always.

and as if I didn't have that song in my head 24 hours a day already from my rehearsals for fiddler...but now...even in my blog reading... it haunts me.


The Sour Kraut said...

I loved this post! It made me laugh throughout the entire thing.

We could use K's financial report. The Swede and I are like to children trying to act like grown ups who know what they're doing.

I think I'll adopt Festivall. Loved it!

Merry Christmas.

Kimmylyn said...

White lights--> I totally 100% agree.

This post made me feel like I had to run to a meeting with my husband.. LOL

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Moi said...

Mr. Man and I also had light issues. Then we decided to use both clear and colored lights on the tree.

While you can technically see our tree from the space station, it has settled that issue.

JoeInVegas said...

No no no - you are only supposed to use red lights. Geez, don't you guys know the rules?
Sounds like the Festivus holiday created on Seinfeld - make up your own rules. If everyone did that there would be anarchy!

Little Monkies said...

1) I *envy* that your husband is a planning nerd. Envy it. A husband planning is hotter than the best hotness to me. Hot, I tell ya! Hot! Hot! My husband would receive all of the morning sleeping time he ever wanted (no,

2) Lisa is amazing, intentional and so with it. Where does that woman get the time? I want to be Lisa when I grow up to be a mom...

3) I am staunchly white lights. I am also about opening presents on Christmas Eve, which doesn't work for the husband either. But, if he actually planned ahead, he'd get a say...HA!

Love to you this holiday. (ahem, send me your spreadsheets--please!)

Paige said...

If you're in town over the holiday, please don't hesitate to come by and behold our stab at tradition: cow and chili pepper lights and a Marge and Homer Simpson tree topper...

Family Adventure said...



Ann M. said...

my neighbor's mom used to pawn all her popcorn-and-cranberry garland making on cheap labor (ie, us kids). She even told us every time we stabbed ourselves with a needle, it meant we loved our Christmas Tree that much more. Now that there are no more children on the block, her tree is remarkably garland-free. Apparently, she doesn't love her tree at all.

My mom told me that white lights on Christmas trees to Italians meant that there was a death in the family. I don't know if that's true, but once my grandmother died, we went to white lights and haven't looked back since.

Jo Beaufoix said...

The cranberry and popcorn garlands are very cute.

MsPrufrock said...

My Mom has two or three Christmas trees in her house every year. She decorates them artfully, and what she deems "of the period" of her 200 year old house. Lights are always white, never blinking, and there are CERTAINLY no tacky ornaments bedecking any of her Christmas trees. Growing up, my brother and I were allowed to have our own tree, which we gleefully decorated as horribly as possible -blinking coloured lights, tinsel, artificial snow, and the ugliest ornaments you've ever seen. I'm pleased to say that I have carried on this tradition in my own home, and my goal every year is to have the tackiest Christmas tree ever. No cranberry and popcorn garland here my friend (though I confess it does look rather lovely).

nell said...

Oh, I love Huey. He might just be my soul mate, but don't worry, I still love you too!

kittenpie said...

We totally have spreadsheets. And The Christmas Book (TM), repository of all information of Christmases past and present. Cards and gifts given and received, and ideas for future. It's got a good number of years on it already.

Rusti said...

WOW... that is a lot of stuff you have going on there... I can't wait to have my own little monsters running around and starting traditions for them... our big "tradition" that came from my dad's parents is that we always get PJ's wrapped on the end of our bed from "Santa"... although this year Santa was both myself and my sister... and for the first time in years (like since my dad moved out of his parents' house in 1972 - and maybe ever for my mom) - they got PJ's from Santa :) It's fabulous... we always know we're getting new PJ's... although our husbands are catching on a little slowly... ;) We'll get them into it before long... or we'll keep buying them for each other and ourselves :) Happy New Year to you!

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Festivall is AWESOME. Great ideas. I hate the captialism spin of Xmas too!

And P.S. Merry Belated Christmas, dear!