Ornaments and Traditions


Every year since we got married in 1971, the day after Thanksgiving is when we start decorating for Christmas. No matter how broke, despondent, worried, angry, or disappointed our life is at that moment, we begin to build our home into a happy place designed to celebrate the traditions of our families and the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, we have collected many decorations, some made by our children and grandchildren, some bought in the far off places we have lived and traveled to, some handed down from friends and family. Each one is a treasure, carefully packed away every year to be brought out and rediscovered the following year. As time goes by, some of them get a bit worn and tattered, but they still go on the best place for them on the tree. As I see them being hung by my family and myself, memories flow through my mind about how and when they came to be part of our tradition.

I have twelve cloisonne bells that were given to me as a gift when we lived in Hong Kong, each one has a slightly different sound when it rings. I have a set of lovely hand carved Angel ornaments that I bought when we were visiting Bruge, Belgium. And the lace ornaments that I bought in different countries to make a special collection is beautiful. But the ornaments that I love the most are the ones made by my children and grandchildren, and now, great grandchildren. Some were made at school, others were made in scouts or as projects we did together as a family. They aren’t fancy, and they aren’t perfect, but they are unique, one of a kind, filled with love and memories. I have hand prints in paint on plastic bobbles, I have ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. I have drawings on paper, hung carefully next to the crystal angel that I bought for my first grandchild’s first Christmas. It doesn’t matter what they are made of, they are more treasured than the most expensive ornament on the tree. Because my babies made them, I would rather have them than any other treasure on my trees.

Now I have two trees, one for my fancy store bought and gifted ornaments. It is lovely to behold. Sparkling and glittering with lights and special stones. I put it up in my home office, where it can be seen from the front of the house. It is an addition to all the sparkling lights outside. The other tree is for all my special treasures from my family. It is in my living room, and it glitters and sparkles unlike any other tree in the world. Each ornament is a memory or a story to pass down to our progeny. Each one is a part of our traditions, sacred, and delightful. Usually, the youngest in the family puts the star on the tree, but the one on the tree is built in now. This year, the youngest will be eight hours away, he is two, the perfect age to start telling the stories about each ornament. Instead, our five year old will do the honors when she comes to visit this weekend. She gets a kick out of decorating the tree her way. Meaning most of the purple ornaments are at her eye level, in one place on the tree. She has a thing for organizing colors that way. If she can’t reach a place she wants an ornament, either her Papa or I patiently position it until she is satisfied. Then we have hot chocolate and play until bedtime.

As the days lead up to Christmas, our entire house is decorated inside and out. While I do the baking creating goodies to share with friends and family, the Mr. hangs lights and swears under his breath every time he has to repair another string of lights. When we are done, our home looks like a place of joy, it smells delightfully of chocolate and fresh baked goods, and the music of Christmas fills the air with both sacred and fun sounds of happiness and celebration.

Traditions bring us together as a family. The stories bring us laughter and teaches us through example. The decorations remind us of the past, the people, and the love we all share one generation to the next. I love Christmas, it completes my life, just as the month of December completes the year. Merry Christmas One and All. God Bless Each and Every One of You.

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How Weird Is That?


I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. What woke me was a dream I was having. I was teaching a class of first year college students (do they still call them freshmen?) and we were discussing who the real protagonist in Romeo and Juliet was. I had a list on the board, The fathers, the prince, Romeo, etc., ending with the Friar. After a minute everyone got a wrong answer so I told them it was the Friar and launched into a dissection of the history of England, the anti-Catholic sentiment of the age and how Shakespeare used his plays to promote the propaganda of first the Queen and then the King of England against the Catholic church. I won’t go into the entire lesson, it is one that I taught several times during my teaching days.
 
One way I kept younger kids, meaning teenagers, awake was to compare the feud between the families to modern day gang wars and how the warring factions of the government today were much like the war between the King of England who was also the head of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in other countries and the Catholic Kings. The kids ate it up with a spoon.
 
After waking up, I lay in bed contemplating Romeo and Juliet and other Shakespeare plays where the bias was blatant if one knew the history of the era in which it was written. Personally, I like the comedies best because he used outright parody of the pomposity of the gentry versus the vitality of the commoners to poke fun at everyone from royalty to the servants, merchants, and country bumpkins. He walked a close line between mocking and sneering and lecturing against the unpopular ideals of the King and his Lords.
 
What I find interesting is that after all this time, I remember all the details of the lesson, history, and play and could stand up in front of a classroom and give it again with a few peeks at the play to get my quotes right. How weird is that? No really, I wonder how weird it is.
 
Anyway, now I have Shakespeare on my mind. And I really, really miss teaching.