Unwrapping Holiday Traditions

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    As we get ready to celebrate the holidays, families around the world will enjoy their unique and varied traditions that all make the season so special. Everyone I know has a custom they share with family and friends that is unique to them and bonds everyone in the sharing.

   Like many homes, our traditions sprang from a mish-mash of cultures. I was born in Hawaii, and until I went off to college our Christmas Day tradition involved my mom, grandma and me dancing hula to Mele Kalikimaka in front of the fireplace at my grandparent’s house.

   My Grandfather was from Barcelona Spain so our Christmas dinner was always proceeded by a lavish platter of tapas that included blood sausage and sobrasada (salami), smoked oysters and a variety of cheeses, olives and nuts.  My grandmother always put a dish of small sweet pickles on the tray, and that too has remained a tradition even though I am pretty sure they’re not very Catalonian.

   Going to midnight services on Christmas Eve is a special tradition, mostly because we always went to church on Sunday mornings, so driving in the late night quiet of Christmas Eve darkness added a quality of reverence, redemption and solace – the reason behind the season. As we drove down the empty streets, in the distance we’d see the lit-up stained glass windows of the church shining like a beacon in the night.

   Of course, we always left cookies and milk or hot chocolate for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. With bright eyed, gullible enthusiasm, I’d head first thing to the chair and side table in the living room to see the “proof” that Santa had indeed delivered our presents.  For how else would the cookies get eaten, milk drunk and the carrot bit?

   I wrote last year about how my dear friend Ann’s mom gives everyone in the family a pair of jammies on Christmas Eve that they all throw on to lounge in after dinner. Sadly, Ann’s dad passed away this week, so I am sure the tradition will be even sweeter this year in his absence.

   Another friend has everyone write down what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving and she has wine glasses made for each family member for Christmas dinner with their word. She’s got quite a collection going that they like to look at each year.

   This year we’ll be adding a new tradition to the mix – putting up a Hanukkah menorah.  My step-daughter Adrienne, son-in-law Gabe and granddaughter Ava are currently residing with us, and Gabe is Jewish, so this weekend, in Hebrew tradition, we’ll light a candle for the coming eight days of Hanukkah.

   Ava is almost 4 years old and this is all new to her. Having her around the house is extra special this time of year since there’s nothing like seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child. She brings to our eclectic mix the joy and wonder of the season, and is a good reminder amid the hustle and bustle to slow down and take it all in.

   I’ve found a “fool-proof” potato latke recipe that I plan to surprise Gabe with on Sunday.  If it’s a hit, I’m thinking it will join our traditional Christmas Eve tapas platter as well.

Lynn can be reached at [email protected]

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