Simple Traditions that Define the Holidays

I have been sending out Christmas cards since my 20s. It’s something we did growing up and it is one of those traditions I am loathe to abandon. Even before I knew that you were supposed to send “Thank You” cards to the sweet little grandmothers who handed me $20 after church just because I was graduating from high school, I knew that sending Christmas cards was polite.

Back home, we taped up the cards we received from friends and family, around the extra-wide door frame leading from our dining room to our living room. And each year, it was filled, inch-to-inch, with cards–most proclaiming some religious sentiment (“Hosana In The Highest! For Unto You A Child Is Born!”) based on the fact that nearly all of our family and most of our close family friends’ families, were church-based. But, the cards were wonders of glitter and poetry and they stuck in my memories almost even more than any gifts I received under the tree.

Over the years, I have sent Christmas cards religiously (as an adjective) to family, boyhood friends, and even men I’ve worked with who have meant something special to me either as mentors or just by mere fact of temperament. And over the years, my “list” of Christmas card recipients has dwindled down from nearly 30 at its highpoint, to now no more than half that. Deaths and life simply moving on and not leaving a forwarding address are the two main culprits.

What saddens me more than the fact that my list continues to shrink, is that this exchanging of pleasantries has never been 1:1. There are people on my list whom I have sent cards to for nearly two decades and never received one in return. I know that not everyone ‘does’ Christmas cards, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is but another in a long list of traditions that we will sorely miss without even realizing it.

Today, the annual Christmas card exchange continues in my house. The ones we receive–primarily from my wife’s friends and family, and the families of children our children are involved with–go up on our own extra-wide entry from our dining room to our living room, just like when I was a child.

Even still, I can tell our inbound card volume dipped probably by a 1/5th this year and I’m not quite sure why. And like the ones my wife creates for us to send, most of these cards aren’t the glittery poetic treasures of my youth, but beautiful Snapfish-printed pictures of the families who sent them. But, there’s no place to even handwrite a simple “Merry Christmas;” Yet another part of the tradition that I won’t say I “enjoyed”, but that did force me to stop and spend a few moments thinking only of that person or family and deciding what to write to them. It made me feel connected to that family even if I hadn’t actually seen or spoken to them in the 12 months prior.

Tonight, I will be staying home with my daughter, who is recovering from the flu, while the rest of the family goes on CareerMom’s family’s annual “Progressive Dinner.”  This is another annual tradition I treasure. It’s loud and we’re all cramped into one house after another (there are about 27 of us after all), but it’s family and I don’t hate it. While I will miss appetizers and the Olive Garden-catered main course, dinner always concludes at our house with dessert and coffee and I will still get to experience the best part.

Waters for everyone

With age comes sentimentality and a longing for tradition. Time can steal my youth, my virtue, and my health, but for now at least, I have my memories.

I hope that by continuing these annual activities, what I hold precious will live on in my children far after I’m gone.

To everyone I know and love, to the readers of this blog (some of whom fall into the “know and love” category), I wish you the best this holiday. My prayer is that each of us finds a bit of happiness in sharing this time with those around us. Warm wishes to you all.

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