7 Dec


A cloud of cigarette smoke hung close to the ceiling, giving the room a hazy-homey-feel of the early 1980’s. The sliding glass door off the kitchen was slightly open, allowing for both the smoke, and the heat from the stone fireplace which greedily devoured the hand-cut cedar logs to escape into the Texas hill country virtually unnoticed. Short, round, and brown Lone Star Beer bottles sat on the oak coffee table, sweating from their proximity to the fire. Two blonde little girls sat impatiently on the floor, eyes glued to the mountain of treasures set before them, and anxiously waiting to grab the attention of the surrounding adults.

The night was Christmas Eve.

This was one of my earliest memories of any Christmas. I was five. My cousin, Jami, was beside me. The two of us were the first grandkids in the family; that number would eventually grow to eight. When I was young, I wanted my Christmases to always be at my grandparents’ house, always surrounded by my aunts, uncles, and cousins; always to stay exactly the same. I was blessed to have family that lived within a stone’s throw from each other and constantly knew each other’s business. I grew up in Central Texas. We do things a bit differently in Texas than some folks in other parts of the country! We say y’all, and we say fixin’ to when we are about to do an activity, but one thing that rings true across state lines and cultures is: Family. My family was one of the tightest.

My grandparents were married for over 50 years before they passed, my aunt and uncle have hit the thirty-year mark, as have my parents. And each new generation have taken things from their past and mixed it with things that they, themselves, have learned along the way. In fact, no matter how precise your life is, something will inevitably get tossed in the middle of the plan you’ve made, that will make you change course in midstream! In my life’s plan, I had no idea that would involve moving away from Austin (aka: my family) and into the fourth largest city in our nation: Houston. Choke.

However, if I had not moved away, I would have never met my husband, Jeff. When we got married, we were virtually alone in Houston; by alone, I mean sans familia. For a wedding gift, my mother gave me some absolutely brilliant advice, and now I am passing it on to you. She gave me permission to start my own Holiday Traditions. At the time, her advice sounded insane. But, as our first year of marriage began to circle toward the end of September, and the phone began to ring with questions from in-laws as to whose house would be seating us for turkey…my mother’s words were like water on a dry land. While I had visions of my grandparents’ stone fireplace rolling through my head, and could almost taste my grandfather’s turkey and dressing, my new husband was having similar visions of his own that involved his side of the family. That first year, we flew to Colorado to eat turkey with Jeff’s dad and stepmother for Thanksgiving. When the silver bells of Christmas Eve began to ring, I was nine hundred miles away from the Texas Hill Country that I grew up in and found myself knee-deep in the snow of central Illinois for a lovely Christmas ham with his mother and her husband.

We have been married for almost twenty years, and have never done that since. Don’t get me wrong! We still see everyone! We have simply started our own traditions since that first year, and you can, too. Some of you reading this, have already started to sweat.


Traditions are good. Family is good—family is a blessing. But, your spouse is those things as well. You must think about that first. Once you get married, it is the two of you—that’s it. And that needs to be enough. You are starting something completely new and different, and that includes the holidays. You take the traditions of your past, and stitch them into your future…together.

For instance, by the time our second Christmas rolled around, we had a four-month-old. Infants are not conducive to air travel; plus they have a MOUNTAIN of paraphernalia that needs to accompany them. It was simply easier to stay home, and have family come to us. Besides, who doesn’t want to come and spoil the first grand baby? The following Christmas, we had another new baby and a toddler. There was no way I was flying anywhere with two babies. Family could come to us. By our fourth Christmas, the stork had us on his Express Mail Route. We had a two-year-old, a one-year-old and one-month-old. I am almost certain we were moved to the “no fly list” after that. Who in their right mind would pack up all those kids and try to spend Christmas in someone else’s house? I did not want to be in my own house!

Yet, those memories of my grandparents’ house continued to circle back to the forefront of my mind each year that I pull out my tree. I have some of my grandmother’s ornaments that go on my tree every year. I have her Nativity Scene. We go to the 4:30 Christmas Eve service at church, and then head back to our house for dinner…just like they did.   I too, have a houseful of people. Some of those people are family; some are friends that are just as close to me as family. My fireplace is not made of stone; it is gas, but it roars to life on Christmas Eve…even if we have to drop the AC in order to run it! There are no fresh cut cedar logs; as our fireplace is controlled by a remote. But my backdoor is cracked open when the house gets too hot, and the weather cooperates. I stand back, and I watch my two boys and daughter marvel at the treasures under the tree. I pray that I am building for them similar memories like I grew up with, so that one day they will be able to pull them from their mind’s eye when they need them, and smile.

One final thought, if you do break from your traditions of years past, and there are some hurt feelings; be patient. Traditions did not happen over night. It takes time to build new ones. Have courage. Do not be ugly or mean when changing up the status quo. Memories are a gift. Helping a family make new ones is a memory-making journey in itself.

Here’s hoping your memories make you smile!


1 Comment

  • Excellent! Young married couples should always start their own traditions!!! Don’t be scared, just do it.

So, what do you think?