Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Breaking New Traditions

My Christmas experiences have always been punctuated by a series of fast and fleeting traditions, drawn from the different corners of my family and pulled from my celebratory cheeseboard of friends, follies, foibles and life experiences.

As with so many haircuts and dreams and Christmas wish lists, the Christmas traditions that decorate my life have waxed and waned in brightness and closeness with the passing of time and the growing of up.

My earliest Christmas memories centre around the red brick barbecue and the inflatable wading pool, like a festively pegged Hills Hoist in full flight. Presents were swapped in the lounge room, with a joke gift hidden among every piece of present gold, while a lone pedestal failed to keep the summer heat at bay.

Those earliest Christmas days were accented with plastic table cloths, sliced ham, honeycomb bites and bowls of beetroot and pineapple up and down the trestle table - almost but not quite long enough to fit the growing family - and soundscaped with the pop of bottle lids and the rhythmic shhhh-shhhh of the backyard sprinkler.

As time moved along and my legs inched taller, the traditions and family numbers grew too. I remember festive day trips to the annual Christmas Pantomime, followed by melting icecream moments on the foreshore. Then there were the blissfully long Christmas evenings singing carols in the family room, hunting buried coin treasure in the pudding, and competing over board games with the extended family until the grown-ups nightcaps capped the day for another year.

As my childhood morphed into adulthood, our Christmas traditions organically lapsed into lazy days on the back deck; simple days of books and socks ensconced in wrapping paper, topped with a fruit breakfast, sandwiched with a seafood spread, and tailed with a lazy champagne (or four) on the lounge.

When I tumbled into parenthood, Christmas traditions took on a whole new level of meaning. As a self-confessed Christmasoholic, I set my jingly Christmas heart on creating a whole new suite of traditions for our little family of three - making our own Christmas cards, visiting obnoxiously bold light displays, wearing daggy Christmas Eve pajamas, and donating old toys before Santa's arrival each year.

At the centre of my tradition bonanza was the annual Christmas decoration acquisition. Drawing on scattered memories from my own childhood and an embarrassingly strong love of Christmas decorations, I decided we would hunt, gather and add one new special decoration to the family tree each year. With the passing of time, these shiny objects would combine together to tell a unique and expanding family narrative.

The year my daughter was born, I ventured into the city to a department store to purchase one unique decoration to mark the occasion. After extensive oohing and ahhing in the magical cave of Christmas trim and several bouts of indecision, I settled on an ornate glass baby bauble with the year marked on it.

Last year, with my toddler presenting a serious decoration hazard, I opted for a child-friendly decoration - a non-breakable, pastel fabric ice-cream cone with sparkly bits and a large woollen 'hook' for pulling on and off the tree.

This year, my daughter proudly chose her own silver star, from the department store shelf - dripping with enough glitter to start our own decoration factory at home - and carefully carried it with her in the car, in her bag, in her bed, in her hand, to do anything with but hang on the tree.

In line with family tradition, we hauled the Christmas tree bits and bobs in from the shed on the first day of December and hoisted the tree into place for another year. As we set about hanging the ornaments, we realised that the ice-cream cone decoration was missing in action. Retracing our steps, we found a trail of shimmering fabric leading to an ice-cream shaped mess: chewed up, annihilated, in the middle of the backyard, next to our guilty looking dog.

Somewhat deflated by our now truncated tradition, we turned our attention to the original glass ornament that started it all. My daughter proudly picked it up, grinned with Christmas excitement, and dropped the ball hard on the timber floor before I could scoop it out of her little hands: smashed, obliterated, in the middle of the floor, next to our bauble-shocked two year old.

In the blink of an eye, all that was left of my young tradition was some shredded fabric, some rogue glass smithereens, a trail of glitter leading to a portable Christmas ornament companion, and the memory of ornaments now past.

But from the complete tradition failure, I think we have actually managed to create a real story and a real tradition: of broken ornaments, family moments and Christmases lived and laughed and loved.

I can't wait to buy another ornament and live through its inevitable demise next year.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions?

M x 

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