Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Creating Traditions

One tradition we hope to continue...lots of game playing.

This February will mark the seven year anniversary of my relationship with Curtis. While we’ve only been married for three and a half of those years, in that time we have discovered many areas of life where we expect different things. He likes to squeeze the toothpaste in the middle of the tube; I like to roll from the bottom. He likes to make piles on the floor of things to put away; I don’t like to delay the return of items to their designated place. He likes to eat dessert right after dinner; I like to allow the meal to settle awhile before digging into the next dish.

Whatever the detail, we come from different families with different customs and expectations. I would suggest that this is at no time more evident than at holidays.

The first Christmas Curtis spent with my family, he was fairly appalled (though in his good wisdom, he didn’t share this with me until later). My family is one that values efficiency. As a result, we do not subscribe to the “everyone open one gift at a time” practice that some carry. We open multiple gifts at a time, somewhat at the discretion of the recipient, always with a nod from the giver that it is a good time for the gift to be opened.

Typically, we put the breakfast casserole (the beloved “Company French Toast”) in the oven at the beginning of the endeavor, read the Christmas story, and then proceed with unwrapping—always finishing in time to eat breakfast while it is still hot. Gifts are later examined for further appreciation, tried on for fit, and equipped with important pieces such as AA batteries.

Then you have Curtis’s family.

One of my favorite things about visiting Curtis’s family is the slow pace that they carry. Living in a small time on an island leaves little reason to rush, after all. Even though visits there carry late nights of playing dominos or any number of card games, I always return to my everyday life feeling refreshed and relaxed.

You can probably guess how they open gifts.

I must admit, after a lifetime of opening gifts with a measure of efficiency, it was a nice change to linger over every package. Items would be discussed, tried on, and examined or assembled before the next person opened a gift. We even took a break in the middle to make and consume eggnog. It was very different from my typical Christmas experience, but it fit. If his family opened gifts like mine, it wouldn’t feel right at all.

How will we open gifts if we have a family some day? I’m really not sure. We haven’t really had a reason to create our own holiday traditions, content to follow suit with whatever those around us choose. One thing that both of our families instilled in us, however, is an appreciation for a Christmas apart from gifts, and a contentment with people instead of things.

As long as that tradition is continued, I don’t really care if we open gifts in one mass explosion of chaos or one at a time. The gifts were never really the point.

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