With two of her own, Denise remarried and brought two children from her husband together to explore what it means to be a blended family.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions with my children was cutting the tree. Maybe we have watched too much of The Homecoming, The Waltons, and Father Knows Best, but we loved the tradition of it all. We live in California, not the backwoods of Virginia, but we do have Christmas tree farms here where, for a price, they give you a saw and turn you loose. The four kids would scatter through the farm searching for the "perfect" tree. It was so great to see and hear them yelling, "I found it! The perfect tree!"
Finally, we would pick one, and my husband would cut it down. Then the four kids, three girls, and one boy would haul it back to the car and tie it down for the trip home, singing "Jingle Bells." They were a hoot every year. I miss those days. Now the children are grown with children of their own. They tell me that they do the same thing we did and take the kids out to a Christmas tree farm.
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Home Again, Home Again
When we got the tree home, it would have to be pruned a little to fit into the Christmas tree stand but that gave us some branches to decorate with. It seemed to me that we always got the tree too tall for the ceiling, but no one seemed to mind having to cut off a little from the top and the bottom. Then the kids would pull down the ornaments from the attic. They had created most of them over the years, from the petrified marshmallow "snowman" to the aluminum stars and bread dough angels. They are all treasured mementos. I brought out the cookies and the hot chocolate, put on the Christmas music and the kids decorated the tree. I loved that tradition. It's the best part of Christmas, to see them working together harmoniously and singing. Family and love should be what it is all about anyway.
Live Tree or Synthetic Tree?
Among other traditions we always loved was Christmas caroling up and down our neighborhood the week before Christmas. Also caroling at local Convalescent hospitals. They always love seeing the kids there. My girls loved the tradition of cooking making and Gingerbread House building. Every year they tried to out-top each other creating elaborate Gingerbread houses.
We also loved creating some of our own original Christmas ornaments for the tree. We used several different kinds of bread clay but mostly the salt dough was used. Pinecones spray-painted gold with a red bow made some nice handmade ornaments too. Sometimes we made so many, we had some for gifts for every member of the family. It became a mystery as to what new recipe or craft for ornaments we would try the next year.
Another craft tradition was creating our own greeting cards from previous years cards. They were cut up and redecorated and sent out again. It took a good afternoon with Christmas music and hot cocoa to create. Everyone seemed to love it.
Sometimes my theatrical family created an animated skit/performance to give to family and friends. They picked a song and choreographed it perfectly, working on it and practicing for weeks before it was ready. This became a cherished event among the kids and the family.
Very cool traditions
Personal Family Traditions
After returning from his second year in college, my son announced he was coming home with a girlfriend. I was somewhat excited and a little put off. This was new territory for me and I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for accommodations for a girlfriend. In the end, I really like this girl although she didn’t turn out to be “the one”. Still, I was fairly taken aback when my son told me he was disappointed that we hadn’t done the “traditional Christmas” he had grown up with and loved. You see as empty nesters, our life had changed as much as his. We moved from the country into the city. We rented a small apartment rather than a large house and there really was little room for doing it up big. We had purchased an artificial tree some years before to get away from the expense and pine needles of the real trees. I did miss the lovely smell but not enough to endure the cleanup hassle. To be honest, I had no idea that the “traditional Christmas” meant so much to any of the kids. They never said much besides loving the holiday and the presents. The way my son acted you would think I had not bothered to cook a turkey or pumpkin pie.
My story is to say that although life and circumstances change, we really have no idea what the family traditions mean to our kids until they are grown and begin saving those family traditions for their own families. He actually LOVED going out to cut his own tree at the Christmas tree farm, cookies, and hot cocoa while decorating with homemade ornaments and singing to family and friends. Traditions become more than just habits and ruts; they become beloved memories.
Traditional Comments Welcomed
Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 06, 2015:
Wow, Will. What a great Norman Rockwell picture comes to mind with the two of you headed into the woods armed with saws and smiles. I didn't know about the mountains and woods in Arizona. Now I feel educated. Thanks.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on October 03, 2015:
We have some of the most heavily forested areas in America on our mountains and on the Mogollon Rim, Denise. There are hundreds of square miles of forest.
My cousin of the same age (my substituent brother!) and I used to set off every year with bow saws to cut a tree for each family on his father's farm back in Iowa. What hard work and great fun that was for two little boys!
Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 03, 2015:
Wow, good for you. Where do you have to go in Arizona to find pine trees? I'm picturing all flat dessert-type terrain. But of course, you have some mountains in there somewhere. Thanks for commenting.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on September 06, 2015:
I think we'll cut our own this year here in Arizona. All it requires is a permit and determination.
Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 14, 2015:
Some traditions are worth keeping.