The end of the year -- a time for thought, evaluation, and maybe reconsideration of things that may no longer be of value.
This Christmas I've been quietly examining some of the holiday traditions we practise here in the 'tree fort' behind the cedars.
Bottom-line is I'm pretty much a traditionalist, even if some of those traditions are a bit non-traditional or at least not conventional ones.
As an example, our Christmas Eve tradition means that quite a few people -- family and friends -- come over for a big supper. The menu has remained fixed for decades: Swedish meatballs with egg noodles. And no, we're not Swedish. Nor is anyone in the circle of diners who gather around the table that night. There's a story behind the meatballs, of course, but because everyone in the vicinity of the table groans if I even begin to mention it, know that you too shall be spared this retelling.
The Christmas tradition includes way too many sweets, with baking starting days before the big event. Most of these are confections I make every year -- butter tarts, cinnamon cookies, chocolate-dipped apricots (that have been soaking in brandy since November).
There's even tradition with these, as the butter tart recipe was given to me by my former mother-in-law and the formula for the cookies came down from my Grampa Jim. He was a baker in a hospital and the surviving recipe is one that's been cut down from the mammoth proportions he needed for the hundreds he made. The apricots, though I've made them for many years, carry less mystique. I'm pretty sure I found those in a Woman's Day or Family Circle, magazines where I often took quiet refuge when my kids were growing up. (And I'll admit to some surprise that both of these publications still exist, perhaps providing inspiration or escape to some other harried mother.)
One tradition I've always tried to carry on (besides making a donation to the food bank) is to ensure that everyone in the family gets a toy for Christmas -- this despite the fact that all of us are now 'too old' for toys.
This year, my kids saw to it that this tradition applied to me, with both of them giving me a fantastic toy -- my very own Lego. It's one of those spectacular 'idea sets' -- the Yellow Submarine, complete with four Beatles and a Jeremy. It took a while to assemble the 550 or so pieces, but the time was so relaxing, I loved every minute. It helped that the parts were divided into five bags, complete with warning to not open the next bag until all the bits from the previous one had been used. Reviews of the set make it look like just about everyone who got one of these has had fun with it.
So, what did I learn from playing with Lego? Probably the most valuable part of the gift was that it forced me to 'play' at something with no consequence whatsoever. And maybe the best part of that experience was that looking at the finished submarine still makes me smile, maybe even makes my shoulders go down a little bit. So maybe the tradition I most want to add to my list of non-traditional traditions is the resolve to do something mindless more often, to remember the importance of play.