Sunday, November 10, 2013


You just never know what will become a tradition in your family.
santa mike denise pat
I have very few great childhood memories, mainly because my father was a serious alcoholic.  He rarely interacted with my brother, sister, or me in a positive, nurturing way.  Well, maybe he never interacted in a nurturing way.    He traveled a lot as a salesman, and a good portion of the money he made either went to feed his addiction or to playing the numbers.  When he was home, there were fights and a lot of ugliness. 

But every Christmas Eve, we saw a side of my dad that almost convinced us that he did, in fact, care about us.  Yep, once a year, we felt special.  

We grew up in Pittsburgh where community ties were strong and relationships grounded in cultural traditions and sports.  You knew your neighbors; sheesh, you knew when they had bacon for breakfast.  Homes were lined up like teeth on a comb and not much went unnoticed.  Front porches were not just for decoration.

I am sure that everyone knew that our father was a drunk, and I am sure they witnessed his meanness toward us; but nobody, in that day and age, would have said a word about it.  There was a line that people did not cross.  That would be considered being "nebby" as they say in Pittsburgh.  Do you know that there is such a thing as Pittsburghese, words that only make sense to those who live there?   I digress. 

Well, on Christmas Eve, my dad would actually pay a Santa Claus to personally come to hand out our presents--so what if payment was a fifth of whiskey.  He came.  To our house.  For us.  It was my dad's shining moment and our brief glimpse at the man he could have been--the man he should have been.

One year, the front door was left open, exposing Santa behind the storm door to the neighborhood children.   I'm sure that my dad had his reasons for not closing the door.   It was Pittsburgh.  It was cold.  I will never forget going up to receive my gift and looking outside to see my friends on their bellies sneaking a peek at my Santa.  That was my nanana-boo-boo moment.  *grin*

When I had children, I knew that I wanted to keep that tradition alive.  I bought the Santa suit with the professional beard, and for a few years I bribed a friend--with food, not whiskey--to ho, ho, ho his way into my children's hearts.  It just was not the same.

Maybe it was not the same because my children had so many other happy things in their lives.  Maybe it was because having accepted the Lord our focus turned more to Christ than Santa.  Regardless, the tradition died out after just a few years.

That's not to say that we do not have traditions.  Probably 20 years ago now, a friend introduced us to the pickle ornament tradition.  Hey, I was from Pittsburgh, Heinz territory, so I was an easy mark. 

On Christmas Eve, the pickle ornament (see below) is hidden in the tree by a responsible adult.  The child who finds it on Christmas morning gets a special gift.  This is where I changed it up a bit to make it more interesting.  I don't really put a lot of thought into making things more interesting.  They just come to me.  I think it's operating in my giftedness. 

One year, I forgot to plan for the "special" gift, so I went to the pantry and took out a jar of pickles.  That jar of pickles was thrown into a gift bag and a tradition was established.  You would think those kids were competing for a trip to Disney World.  No kidding.

Looking through pictures this week, I came across this one.  Apparently, I went all out on the pickle prize that year.  And apparently, Nate was the winner.

A few years ago, Tessa was asked on camera for a school promotion to talk about a favorite holiday tradition.  Her choice:  finding the pickle.  The clip made the cut.  Not many understood, and that's okay.  We are very content in our uniqueness.  It makes us smile. 


themissymom said...

My mom had one of those elves that are now so they call him a shelf elf? He does all kinds of naughty things.
He was our tradition. He was hid in the tree and you had to find him.
I have mom's original elf.
I feel a little miffed when I see all the posts of the funny pictures people do now, I laugh first then get irritated. He was our elf first.

ChefMM said...

All I know is we were playing with our toys first, while most other kids had to wait till the next day.

ChefMM said...

Now our biggest tradition is having Cheese Fondue on Christmas Eve and opening just one gift, the rest have to wait for the next Morning.

SmilingWithYou said...

We make a birthday cake for Jesus Christmas Eve cookies for Santa in our house. Yet, we still have played the Santa game but our children have always known Santa is a game and not real....AND FUN.