Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I grew up in a house without many traditions, but now that I’m married with children and have reached the rank of second-in-command, my family has several Christmas traditions. With our oldest son away at college, though, we’ve already had to alter one of them.
This year, for the first time, one of us wouldn’t be here. Our son was returning to college on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and wouldn’t be coming back home until a week or so before Christmas. There’s no way we could wait that long to put up our tree, not with a ten-year-old in the house. And doing it after the parade didn’t seem right, not without Seth here. He said he’d come home for the weekend, but a four-hour drive each way to put up a Christmas tree seemed kind of silly. We contemplated using Facetime while we did it, but decided that wouldn’t fill the void of Seth’s absence.
Our solution was to put the tree up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’m not a fan of people putting their Christmas decorations up early. Contrary to what some might believe, this isn’t a race, and you don’t get a prize for being first. But this year we decided to bend our tradition and put the tree up a little earlier than normal.
This may sound like no big deal, but to us it is. My younger son and I both like things done on a schedule and have trouble with change of almost any type. Maybe this is why traditions are so important to us.
Something was different this year, though. For the first time, there was no arguing. No whining about who sets up the manger on the mantel, no bickering about who gets to put which decoration on the tree. There was only laughter. It was wonderful. The best time we’ve ever had putting up the Christmas tree, without a doubt. I attribute this to the happiness we all felt because my son was home for the first time since August. Bending our tradition worked out for the best in another way. Our ten-year-old ended up getting the flu and couldn’t attend the parade the following weekend, so we wouldn’t have been able to put up the tree anyway.
The next tradition Seth is missing is movie and snack night. Every weekend in December my wife makes a sweet treat – last weekend it was chocolate chip cookie cups filled with pudding and topped with whipped cream, along with homemade hot chocolate – and watches a Christmas special with the boys. I usually join them and try my best to avoid the snack. Being in high school, Seth missed quite a few of these nights the past few years. I have a feeling he’d love to be part of them now, though. At least he’ll be here for Polar Express Night. A week or so before Christmas, my wife makes another sweet treat, sets up an air mattress in the living room and turns off all the lights so she and the boys can lie down and watch Polar Express. Since this is one of the only Christmas specials I don’t like, I usually skip this one (although I’ve been known to partake in the snack).
This is so hard for me as a parent, but I know I can’t fight it. Instead, I’ll enjoy our traditions more and more with each passing year.