’tis the season

When I was child,

It was just the 4 of us, and we were an ocean away from extended family.  There was a nativity that played music, an advent wreath, and chocolate advent calendars.  There was a birthday on the 19th (Daniel Charles!) which started Christmas vacation, and there were movies and movies and more movies.  There was a real, live Christmas tree with fat, colored lights and silver tinsel, and there was midnight mass and white tights.  There was ONE present… but only one… allowed on Christmas Eve.  There were presents from Santa left out in the open and stockings full to be enjoyed immediately upon waking.  There were wrapped presents from family, but those were not to be touched until the the video camera was ready. There was grace and ham with scalloped potatoes for dinner.  My birthday came 3 days later, when we were usually on a ski slope.  The tree stayed up until January 6th, and there was never any question about who we were celebrating or why… We had waited.  He had come.  And He was welcome.

Now that I am older,

It’s the 5 of us.  Abby starts our season with a birthday on the 15th.  There are extended-family gatherings throughout the month… because we are blessed to live near extended family!  We still have a real, live tree but with little, white lights.  We had a small, ceramic nativity but not anymore (Gideon James).  My small family still opens gifts together on Christmas day.  We still eat ham and potatoes in the early afternoon, and my birthday still comes 3 days after His.

It has been such a struggle for me to get into family traditions now that I have my own family.  This came as somewhat of a surprise to me, given I feel like tradition should be mandated in the constitution.  Long live costumes and stories of yore.  Love yore.  But, you get married and you have a kid and all the sudden it’s 8 Christmas-es later and you realize you have never once made it through an advent season with marked educational or devotional success.  Y’all, I don’t think we even had stockings the first year. We were given an amazing box of tree decorations as a wedding gift so we wouldn’t start with a bare tree, but I have done little to compliment that over the years.   Nothing to encourage us to anticipate, nothing to remind us to await.

Perhaps I thought tradition would find me… that it was one of those things that came naturally, built in-between the lines of marriage vows and hospital nurseries.  Turns out, you must pick and choose and make it happen.  Stunner really, that I am almost 36 and still learning life takes effort beyond participation.

A whole week between Thanksgiving and December 1st this year gave me enough time to do complete an internet Tradition Research & Purchase mission.  We have music to listen to: tradition.  We have stories to read: tradition. We have calendars to open: tradition.   We have ornaments to hang: tradition.  I know it takes time for tradition to grab ‘hold with roots, but at least we’re sowing some seeds now.  We are ready to remember to await.  We will attempt to prepare a space.  To teach, as parents, our children why this time is so special. To remember, as Believers, why this time is so special. It’s on.

Ok, so real-tree or fake-tree, People?

I am firmly in the real-tree camp.

Some resources for you as you plant your own traditions:

books and music and such

calendars and ornaments


About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), a bloodhound (Hank), 2 barn cats, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

21 responses to “’tis the season

  • Kathy

    I grew up real tree all the way, but last year we inherited a fake tree and will be using that for the next few years. With toddlers/babies in the house, being able to completely leave the bottom-most branches off the tree is a tremendous help in the “kids vs tree” battles!

    • texasnorth

      I’m expecting a serious learning curve with Abby and the tree this year. She just started pulling up on things this week, so it’s going to be awesome 🙂 The presents may have to wait to be put out until Christmas Eve!

  • Ssebeck

    Your brother still insists on putting those huge ceramic lights on the tree.

    Real tree, for the smell alone.

  • Heather P

    I grew up with a fake tree and my little family has a fake tree now. It is a lot easier to put up and take down, especially when you can leave the lights and garland on the tree.

  • susannah

    we’re definitely real tree people, although we now buy a live tree in a pot and plant it after christmas. we have good intentions but have not fared very well in keeping ALL of the trees alive. [not our fault; it did not rain this summer.]

    i love all of the work you’ve put into this because i’m in a similar boat but hadn’t quite gotten to the researching part. so thank you! we grew up with a jesse tree, and i think that it would be fun to start this year.

    • texasnorth

      A facebook question did most of the work for me 🙂 I love hearing what other folks do… what’s worked and what hasn’t.

      We always had a potted tree, too! We’re going to do that this year, I think.

      • Katie

        Please tell me how you managed to keep a potted tree alive while inside. We tried that once and every single needle fell off the tree. Every. Single. One.

  • Tricia

    Real tree! Love the smell, picking it out every year and finding the right spaces for the few BIG ornaments that always have to be displayed (we have glass ball ornaments for our wedding and each child’s birth from Bronner’s). We also have a couple sets of fancy glass ornaments we received as wedding gifts, and I love reading the enclosed card explaining each ornament’s symbolism (esp. now that Sydney is old enough to help and understand things, too). Alas, we won’t be putting up a tree at all this year, because we’ll be spending our Christmas break in Texas with family. It will be fun, but I’ll be packing the stockings and a few other things to make sure it still feels somewhat like our small family’s Christmas, too. I feel bad, but there’s definitely part of me that wishes we were hosting Christmas here instead!

  • Tricia

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like we need to put up a tree anyway…

  • Cortney

    We are fake tree people (*sigh*), mostly because we put up so many (4 this year), and we can do it as early as we want (except this year it will be late because SOMEONE has law school exams this week, double *sigh*), and because we have too many ornaments to jam onto a real tree (we have a spinner base for our “family” tree so there is no bare wasted space in back). I’m worried about the fate of the trees now that Ellie Bea is so VERY mobile, but the tree at NahNah and Papah’s house has fared pretty well so far, so maybe we’ll be okay. If you hear crying coming from the direction of TN it’s because one of my trees fell over (that happened to us once before, and for some reason I found it emotionally devastating). Also, I worked on a tree lot one season in college, and I found that emotionally devastating as well, but for different reasons. One year I will have a live table top tree, but for now, fake it is!

  • Kim Aguilar

    Fake. Which sounds so, so fake. Kind of a bummer, I guess, but I don’t know any different. We only had real trees when I was tiny, and I don’t remember them. Since we got married, we’ve had a little Charlie Brown type tree that I bought when I was single, until this year. We went all out and bought a 7.5 ft tree from a gal that was selling it online, apparently it had only been used once. Looking at it right now, I must say I’m pleased. Best part about our tree, though, is all the hand-blown glass ornaments I’ve collected from my travels. They’re gorgeous and remind me that I’m blessed to have seen so many parts of this world.

    p.s. I’m only slightly worried about the soccer ball coming in contact with said ornaments. Clark has been threatened within an inch of his life. 🙂

  • steph

    well, my dad was allergic to real, so we had fake. we still have fake…i just light a lovely pine scented candle. 🙂 we’ve had the Jesse ornaments for a few years and this is the first year we will have a little tree for Isaac to put those on. 🙂 ike’s bday is the 18th but my Christmas season started a while ago. you know i can’t resist not listening to Christmas music much past Halloween. decorations don’t go up until after turkey day though. always with Miracle on 34th Street (the original version) playing in the background.

  • Cathy

    We have a fake tree, always have since I’ve married Dave. Growing up my Mom had to have her real tree. Myself, I like the fake ones. Nothing like spending hours trying to clean up pine needles no matter how careful you were in trying avoid them being all over the floor.

    Funny, you talk about traditions because that is going to be one of my topics for my blog this month. I was thinking of all the traditions my Mom did and how they change especially after my parents have passed. However, Dave and I have new traditions, the change was good. I think the one I miss the most is when the family all came to our house on Christmas Day. But, as the family grew, traditions have to change as each family has to start their own.

  • Missindeedy

    I’m with Tricia, above. We won’t be around so I’m really dragging my keester with All Of The Decorating. And, we too had ham and scalloped potatoes – straight from the box (well, cooked a bit inbetween). And the stocking is a big deal. Still is. That is the one tradition that has remained half-way across the country. And, a real tree. All. The. Way.

  • Ellen

    “Life takes effort beyond participation.” This is a harsh reality to me that I think I am just starting to learn. Yikes 🙂
    But a real tree is worth all the effort! Especially when all you do is pick the tree and entertain the kids while your husband loads it up, pays for it and puts the lights on it – see participation only! Much to learn…

  • Amy B.

    Rachel and I have discussed this – I blogged about it too a couple of years ago – how hard it is to find and have and keep family traditions of your own. Like you look up one day and realize, Wait, I’m in charge of someone else’s childhood memories – I’d better get on the ball here. It’s overwhelming.

    Growing up, we had an artificial tree (with beautiful blue balls and garland) – allergies, asthma, sneezing. But now, I seem untroubled by a real tree and that’s the way we’ve gone now for the past 4 years. And last year we purchased a lovely advent calendar (from St. Patrick’s Guild). But, yeah, it’s a slow building process here.

    • texasnorth

      YES! Exactly. I’m in charge of someone else’s memories… and I’ve not even tried. So, we’ll start nice and easy and pray memories of early years are fuzzy and forgiving 🙂

  • Margie

    I was very interested in the comments on this one b/c I, too, have struggled with “traditions.” Now that the kids are older, they’re becoming more apparent. Tree decorating is wildly popular (OMGosh!), and this year – I finally get it! – their setting up of the Little People Nativity is the First Thing to welcome Christmas. I had no idea the impact that baby present for E would have. We read through a Biblical Advent calendar, and will probably watch Polar Express a couple of times. So far, that’s it. Traditions are, I believe, organic; they will grow and develop in their own ways with a little watering. And their memories of what was fun will probably be vastly different from what I remember.

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