Holiday traditions | Tolman’s Tales

Growing up, my family’s main holiday tradition was opening a single gift, usually selected by Mom or Dad, on Christmas Eve.

As the holiday season approaches, I have asked others about their family traditions. Many holiday routines I’d not heard of before.Hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree. This tradition came from Germany and the finder of the pickle in the tree is to receive a reward or good fortune the next year. Berrien, Michigan bills itself “the Christmas pickle capital of the world.” My guess is that Berrien didn’t have to battle many other locales to acquire that moniker.

One friend annually presents a riddle, with gifts as the clues. Last year, for example, family members received (1) a copy of a magazine for inventors, “Make”; (2) a cheese grater; and (3) an American flag. The riddle (in honor of the just-elected President’s campaign theme): “Make America Grate (Great) Again.” Another friend one year had a bowl of dirt with green peas in it on the dinner table. The holiday message: “Peas (Peace) on earth.”

Family members each get matching holiday pajamas. Reminding, I suspect, the family they are on the same team.

Family members each get their own non-matching new pajamas. Reminding, perhaps, family members that each of us is a one-of-a-kind individual.

No presents under the tree until the kids go to bed Christmas Eve. This family obviously understands the innate curiosity of youngster present-receivers.

Prime rib on Christmas Eve. Yum.

Listening to Elvis Presley’s Christmas album while decorating the tree. Songs about a King, sung by “The King.”

For my family and our Christmas Eve partners, “Christmas Jeopardy.” The Final Jeopardy answer last year: 99705. The correct response? What is North Pole, Alaska’s zip code?

Midnight Mass. There are few places better to celebrate the birth than at church.

Watching “White Christmas.” The movie reminds us of how we impact others and who will help when needed, even if not directly asked. And how talented Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney were.

Taking the metal tinsel off the tree, one-by-one, to re-use next Christmas. A labor of love and family tradition.

The Seven Fishes Christmas Eve dinner. An Italian custom for centuries.

Elf on a Shelf. Where the elf will be in the morning has kept just-awakened children scurrying around the house for decades.

Cookies for Santa and his reindeer. (Followed often by dirt and grass around the plate, showing the reindeer were in the house eating the cookies!) As every child knows, for such a long journey even reindeer need nutrition.

Making cookies and fudge together. Working together as a team during the holiday season is always a great gift.

Writing a letter to Santa with the children. Yes, Virginia, there is a “Santa Clause.”

Reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” out loud together. Clement C. Moore’s poem has captivated children for 194 years as they imagine Santa’s belly as “a bowl full of jelly.”

Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The movie reminds each of us how the world would be different without our unique presence and contributions.

Playing games as a family after dinner. An annual gift to remember is the joy of being together.

Opening an Advent calendar until Christmas. Counting the days down to Christmas seems to make the time go faster.

In my house, listing to The Carpenters Christmas album. No one sings “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” quite like Karen Carpenter.

May your days be merry and bright. And may all your holiday traditions go just right.

Happy holidays.

— Jeff Tolman is a periodic columnist for Kitsap News Group.

Copyright Jeff Tolman 2017. All rights reserved.