“Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.”

The morning is lighter than it has been the last few days, but the sun is still a bit shy. It pokes out every now and then trying to decide whether or not to stay. It’s cold. When I look out my window, I see brown leaves, clouds and bare branches. Even my trees define winter.

I have two batches of cookies left to make, but I’ll only do one today as I’m going to see the new James Bond movie this afternoon. The other batch will be made tomorrow. I’m in no hurry as everything is pretty much on schedule. The only item after the cookies on my to-do list is to decide which appetizers I’ll serve on Christmas Eve. It’s our gingerbread house night.

Santa never left wrapped gifts when I was young. The only wrapped gifts under the tree were from my parents, and it didn’t any guessing to know two of those presents for each of us were new pajamas and slippers to wear on Christmas Eve. My mother would tell us we could open a couple of presents, and we’d plead to pick the Christmas Eve presents but my mother never gave in. She’d hand each of us two of the gifts from under the tree: pajamas and slippers, always pajamas and slippers.

I continued the tradition and always sent my sister’s three kids new pajamas for Christmas Eve. The boys had red-footed ones when they were young then red or green sweats when they were older. My nephew swears I pulled a Ralphie on him and made him wear footed pajamas until he was 12, but that isn’t true. My niece got footed pajamas as well but hers came from the Disney Store. Her Pooh pajamas were such a favorite she’d cry if she didn’t have them to wear to bed. My sister had to cut off the feet of the pajamas so my niece could keep wearing them even after she’d outgrown them. This year my nephew, he of the footed pajamas, bought new pajamas for his 6-year-old son and my niece’s 5 month old son.

We keep the memories of Christmas, the memories of family and tradition, and when the time comes, we pass those memories, those traditions, to the next generation. Every Christmas is a reminder of all the Christmases before it. Pajamas and my mother on Christmas Eve are forever linked, and this year Ryder and Declan will celebrate her tradition, now theirs, at Christmas.

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8 Comments on ““Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Thank you letters
    Christmas presents came from so many places, Godparents, neighbors we call Aunt and Uncle, old family friends. Very often it was boxes of hankies featuring an H or a metal puzzle box.
    Anyway the etiquette after Christmas was to settle in and write Thank You letters to anyone that wasn’t there in person.

    • Kat Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      I don’t remember writing thank you letters because we always saw our relatives on Christmas Day. We’d meet at my grandparents house, a million cousins.

  2. Bob Says:

    Every family has their own traditions for the holidays. These are usually variations on the general tradition such as opening the PJs and slippers on Christmas Eve in your family.

    It was customary in Jewish families to give the children money on each night of Chanukah. The ‘Yiddish’ word for money is ‘gelt’. In our highly commercialized society real money gifts have been transformed into presents and toys and the gelt is represented by gold foil wrapped chocolate coins. The coins are usually used as real money while spinning the Dreidle in a game of chance. My Mother in law started a variation on the chocolate coins that I had never heard of anyone doing. She would hide the chocolate coins around her house and the kids had to search for them after we lit the Chanukah Menorah. There is a real tradition of hiding a matzoh during the Passover Seder which my mother in law has copied to Chanukah. I don’t know if that tradition will continue because my children are too young and my nieces are more interested in building their careers than marrying or having kids.

    • Kat Says:

      Bob,
      We always got gold chocolate coins in our stockings. One year my mother put gelt chocolate coins in them by mistake. That then became a tradition.

      The first temple wasn’t built in my town until I was 11 or 12. It was then I learned all about the Jewish faith Chanukah. Even back then my friends got small gifts each night of Chanukah. I was a bit jealous.

  3. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Santa didn’t wrap his gifts to us either. My father wrapped everything else and it was always done to perfection. My mother hated wrapping. After my father died she tried to bribe me into doing her wrapping but I hated it just as much as she did. Thank heavens for gift bags and tissue and really pretty pre-made bows. 😀

    I don’t remember a pajama tradition. There was the slipper sock semi-tradition where we all got those every Christmas for several years.
    The current tradition in my family is for my niece and nephew to give me socks. I seem to lose socks easily and always needed more. They have been giving me socks for Christmas for 25 years now.

    I am awaiting delivery of lunch. I hope the movie is excellent and you enjoy it tremendously.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I never did get to that movie. I called the frame shop about picking up a Christmas gift and found out they were closing at 2 and wouldn’t open until after Christmas so I had to postpone going to the movies until tomorrow.

      I love to wrap. My mother wrapped most of the stuff, but my dad was always willing to help. We could tell his wrapping jobs from hers pretty easily. He liked tape.

      I love those slipper socks and my sister gave me a pair a couple of years ago. I wore those all through my childhood and even most of my adulthood. They were the slippers my mother gave us every year.

      I wear socks until they are a disgrace. I figure if no one can see the holes I’m okay!!

  4. olof1 Says:

    Well, since I’m a Swede my traditions are different. The >Yule Gnome always came on Christmas eve and gave us our presents and I hated when I had to go to him to get my presents. He scared me to death 🙂 🙂 🙂 But we always got to open up one present of our choice when we woke up, just so that we would stay quiet 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Then it’s the Donald Duck and his friends show shown every eve at 3pm, no Christmas without that 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a pajamas but lots of mittens, scarfs and knitted sweaters 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      I love the idea of a Yule Gnome and envy you yours. Santa Claus seems a bit boring in comparison.

      I had forgotten about Donald being such a part of your Christmas.
      That is a delight!!

      I think my mother wanted us to look good for pictures on Christmas morning.


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