Sunday, November 30, 2008

Family Holiday Traditions

The current questions for the next Carnival of Genealogy include:

What traditions were passed on to you from an earlier generation?

The only traditions that I can think of were that children were to believe in Santa Claus, a cut Christmas tree, lots of presents for the kids at Christmas, and family dinners on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

My parents were not religious, and my San Diego grandparents were not either. I never met my paternal grandfather and met my paternal grandmother only one, in 1958. So Christmas was pretty secular, although we did sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve with my grandmother leading.

My dad's cousin Dot and her husband Chuck lived in San Diego, and we always went over there for a meal before Christmas dressed up in a shirt and tie. I loved to look through their National Geographics for naked women, and tried to visit the upstairs bathroom which had naked women on the walls (Dot was an "artist" you see). My brothers and I never did like Dot's gourmet tastes. Her Christmas tree was homemade with decorated foam things rather than the traditional balls and garlands and lights.

On Christmas Eve, we would go over to my grandparents house on Point Loma because they had a fireplace (Santa Claus, you know). And it was a great place for my folks to store our gifts since we were pretty nosy. In the evening, they put us to bed in a back bedroom and my grandmother sat there with us singing Christmas carols with us - it's a great memory - I still get emotional remembering that.

Christmas Day was bedlam - with all the gift opening by the fireplace. We always had to go out and play with our toys on the street in the afternoon. Christmas 1954 was the best - we got Davy Crockett coonskin caps, Daisy air rifles. In 1955, we got Flexible Flyers (sleds with wheels and handlebars). In 1956, we got bicycles, and found out that there wasn't a Santa Claus (we discovered the bikes in the garage before Christmas). As I recall, my grandmother served the traditional turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, pumpkin pie, etc. for Christmas Day dinner.

Do you keep those traditions? What tradition(s) will you or have you passed on to a younger generation?

When Linda and I had our family, we kept all of those traditions (well, not going to Dot's to see the naked women), and started some of our own. Linda was from San Francisco, so every other year we would fly to San Francisco on Christmas Day to visit her family. In the other years, Linda's parents would come down to visit us and sleep on our lumpy hide-a-bed in the spare room (they never once complained).

We were attending Chula Vista Presbyterian Church (we still do!) and they always had a Christmas Eve program which we rarely missed. Then the church started a "Living Christmas Tree" program that we took part in - Lori and Tami in the children's choir, and Tami was the Angel once, and I was always a "wise man" decked out in a turban, a long gown and carrying a gift to the Christ child.

One "new" tradition was started in the late 1970's I think - my father, my two brothers and I started a game of throwing peas into a water glass or wine glass after dinner but before dessert. We were, and still are, quite competitive. After Dad died, my brothers and I kept it going, even though my mother was horrified by our uncouthness. Rather than waste peas, we graduated to wadding up the paper napkins and tossing them - first one to 10 wins bragging rights for the year. When my girls were old enough, they played too (they're very competitive) and now their husbands play too, so it's evolved into a "tradition." After my mother died in 2002, we have called it the "Betty Seaver Memorial Wad Toss."

After my father died in 1983, we rotated the Christmas Eve or Day dinner among my mother, my brothers homes, and our home. Invariably, my one brother would get drunk (is that a tradition?). We always had a great time telling stories and watching the kids act up, er, play in the house - it usually ended up being a game of tag, or go outside and through the football around.

Since our daughters have married and have children, we usually go off to their homes for Christmas, and also visit Linda's brother up in Sonoma County. This is usually a 7 to 10 day driving trip. Last year was different - the girls came to Chula Vista with their families, and it was too much stress for all of us.

Do you think they will keep it up?

I think that they will keep the real traditional things - the tree, the gifts, the meal. They each married into different traditions, and are enjoying those also - centered on getting together with the families.

I am quite sure that the "Betty Seaver Memorial Wad Toss" will be a longtime family tradition - it is too much fun to do it!

Do you care if they do?

Of course - they are family traditions, right? I'm thinking of starting a new family tradition - perhaps a family history game, or a recitation of ancestors, etc. Or painting my bathroom wall with nudes... um, Linda says no.


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Professor Dru said...


What wonderful memories.