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December 20, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Joe Charlebois

After Thanksgiving, our house transitions from the beautiful reds, yellow and oranges of fall into a sparkling display of lights that highlight trees, garland and windows.


This year it should be no different, except we now have a house full of teenagers who are involved in several activities at a time. Life is busy and attempting to keep a sense of tradition grows harder every year.


Typically our family picks out our Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving and – with the rare exception – we always find the best tree at Jeff Golden’s lot next the Outback Steakhouse in Frederick. We always get the fullest Douglas fir, strap it to the top of the van and head home.


In more recent years we’ve celebrated the success of the hunt with a take-away meal from the Outback Steakhouse. Once home we would get our fill of loaded Aussie Fries, steaks, ribs and sandwiches.


This year was different, we just got our tree last Sunday and it wasn’t a Douglas fir, but rather the more expensive Frasier fir. Tradition has it that I throw the thing on my shoulder and carry it into the house. This thing weighed a hundred pounds.


After eating dinner, the tree goes into the warm water of the tree stand and the bolts are tightened while one or two others hold the tree steady and upright. Then I would pull out the ladder, grab the lights – the cheap energy sapping ones – and string together several hundred lights. With the iPod playing Manheim Steamroller, the stringing the lights would be completed. The Charlebois’ family tradition of “there aren’t enough lights” and “there is a gap there” sayings may be made.


Decorating the tree has remained pretty consistent throughout the years, with each of the family members hanging the one red glass ball with our names on it. This is the first ornament each of us hangs. My wife’s red glass ball is from her childhood. We then decorate this natural tree with red and gold ornaments including several ornaments from cities or places we have visited as a family. This year the only tree not yet decorated is our family room tree. We are waiting for everyone to be together so that we can do it together.


Decorating the house consists of displaying several trees throughout; one small tabletop tree for the dining room, a thin nine foot one for the foyer; one for the upstairs landing – that the children decorate – and the natural tree that takes over the family room. Lori has a collection of Santa and Father Christmas figurines that grace the piano, while the powder room has garnered an impressive collection of snowmen figurines.


At dinner on Advent Sundays, our family lights the candle(s) on the Advent wreath as we sing the song “Light One Candle to Watch for Messiah.”


For Christmas Eve service and dinner my wife’s parents join us and stay over through Christmas morning. Once awake, the children still wait at the top of the steps until getting the go-ahead to head down to the tree. Every year there is knocking at the door. It is our next-door neighbor John with hot homemade cinnamon rolls for us to enjoy. Along with the cinnamon rolls my wife will pull out from the oven her “real men eat my quiche Lorraine.”


Once we’re done with the morning’s meal and opened our last present, we head off to visit my side of the family for Christmas Dinner. It is no longer held at my parent’s home, but rather at my oldest sister’s home. All of the same dishes including grandma’s Hungarian style roast and my sisters’ pies will be on the table awaiting our arrival.


Regrettably this year will be the last that our next door neighbors and closest friends will spend with us; they plan on moving within the year.


With our children all being teenagers, we know that many of these traditions will change or even be lost. The demands of a dynamic family have robbed us of a good deal of family time, but it is still our focus to do as much together as we can and keep as many of those traditions alive as long as we can.


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