Tinsel, trees and tiresome traditions

Several years ago, all of our grown children brought their partners to Summerland for the holidays.

My husband and I have been empty nesters for quite a few years already but several years ago, all of our grown children brought their partners to Summerland for the holidays.

It was the first time in many years that our house was full and noisy.

As the decorations began going up and the Christmas tree was dragged inside, the house filled up with laughter, stories from past years and childhood memories.  What an idyllic moment.

Until, someone said “That’s not how you put lights on the tree!”  “Wait! The stockings don’t get hung until Christmas Eve….”  “No presents yet. They don’t arrive until Santa brings them” and “Don’t you know the soldiers must be on the branches just below Esmerelda?”

When we moved to the Okanagan in 1980, we left all of our family behind. We decided our young family would be just fine, creating new traditions as we went.

For many years we built holiday favourites, based on our valley lifestyle: Going behind town to the hills to find the perfect tree, allowing everyone their ‘number one pick’ from the cookie recipe book, playing Rummoli on Christmas Eve and watching to see that there actually was “magic dust” on the hearth indicating the big man himself had really made his visit.

Fast forward 35 years and to my horror, there were my adult children arguing the finer points of Christmas traditions with their siblings and partners.

How did this happen? When did our lovely traditions become a “right” or “wrong” way to celebrate?

Who knew the importance of ensuring our treetop angel, Esmerelda had all the tin soldiers surrounding her on the lower branches – to ‘guard’ her of course. (From who? Might she be invaded by the cowboy or bears in the branches down below?)  I didn’t realize the tree wouldn’t be “magical” if the lights are turned on before the very last ornament is hung and Essie was on her top branch throne.

I had no idea my adult children were so ensconced in holiday traditions. At that moment in time I was thinking “Oh No!  What have I done?”

I then realized all the young adults in my house had their own idea of how Christmas should be celebrated – the ones I raised and the ones I didn’t.

When I asked them all, “How important is this to your Christmas experience?” they were able to prioritize the traditions.

It was an interesting experiment.  The thing I heard over and over was “It’s just not Christmas without ……….!”

Now that we are grandparents we are eagerly watching as new traditions are being created and enjoyed by a lovely, rosy-cheeked toddler.

I guess the real question is “What makes Christmas special for you?”

Everyone will have a different answer but the beauty of tradition is they can be recreated, upheld or just plain stopped when they lose their ‘magic’ power.

Several books that speak to the wonder of tradition can be found at the library.  Great ideas for new ways with trees in “The New Christmas Tree” by Carrie Brown, “A Christmas Tree for Pyn” by Olivier Dunrea reminds us that celebrations bring us together and “The Smallest Gift of Christmas” by Peter H. Reynolds is my newest favourite that illustrates the true meaning of Christmas. (at least for me)

(The library will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, reopening on Saturday, Jan. 2.  The book return bins will be closed as well although no library materials are due during the closure.)


Sue Kline is the Community Librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.  Her holiday celebration will include some time-tested traditions and some new ones. (what, no turkey?)