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It’s December already! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. I’ve yet to put up my tree or any of my decorations. I have not bought a single present. When my sons were little I was one of those people who was so organized my Christmas shopping was often done before Hallowe’en. Then the baking would start. Around the first weekend of December, I would make a gingerbread house. Then I’d let the pieces sit and harden for a few days before putting it together into its house form. The following weekend we’d add all the decorations. It was a lot of work, but it had been something I’d started before Gizmo Guy and I were married and became a tradition every year after that.
Same as going out to cut down our own tree from one of our local tree farms. We’d bundle the boys up in their thickest coats and boots, and trudge around the fields to find the “perfect” tree. We’d let the boys choose, then Gizmo Guy would crawl underneath the branches and cut it down, and wrestle it into the trunk or tie it onto the top of the car, drag into the house, and begin the endless process of trying to make sure it would stay up straight without falling over.
Then we got a dog. Who decided the tree was a fantastic place to sleep under. Or maybe she just liked sleeping on the tree skirt. But usually in the middle of the night, we’d awake to a thump, and often a crash of broken glass too.
About the same time, many of the tree farms we used to go to sold out to developers and soon were razed to make room for new houses. We found ourselves driving farther and farther away for that tree hunting experience. So after grudgingly admitting having a live tree was too much of a hassle, we gave in and bought an artificial. One good thing about it was it let us put the tree up much earlier than we had with a live spruce or pine.
It was about the same time when the boys decided they’d rather just have the candies on the gingerbread house rather than having to deal with the almost cement-like substance the icing had become over the month since I’d first glued them to the gingerbread. To be honest, I was relieved not to have to spend that much time making them anymore.
But now the boys were grown; they didn’t believe in Santa anymore, so many of the routines and traditions we had — not only choosing and cutting the tree, or designing and making the gingerbread house, but things like Gizmo Guy and I surreptitiously slipping out into the back yard to leave “reindeer prints” in the snow late Christmas Eve, or writing a note from Santa thanking them for the milk and cookies the boys had left out. (I was very careful to change my handwriting.) Now Christmas was reduced to a list of presents to buy being handed to you, a date on the calendar for decorations to be put up, or taken down.
Then one year my eldest knew in advance that we’d bought him a guitar amplifier. What he didn’t know was that when he was at work one day, we opened up the box and removed the amplifier, replacing it with weights so it would still be heavy if he tried to move it. Since he’d left it as the last present to open (after all, he knew what it was) he got a bit of a surprise to find the weights and the first “clue” to lead him on his scavenger hunt.
Each year since, we select one family member’s gift and hide it or disguise it. We write a series of clues, leaving the first in their stocking, and each subsequent note in another spot until they finally find their present. It’s not decided in advance; usually it’s a decision made on the spur of the moment. Maybe it’s a special present the person didn’t expect to get, or maybe it’s something they really wanted and we make them work for it. But it’s brought back some of the fun to Christmas morning.
Are there any traditions you’ve lost along the way or new ones you’ve created, or want to lose? Tell me for a chance to win a print copy of Private Deceptions, containing Private Property — one of my most popular menages. ( The contest is open internationally.)