Holiday Traditions

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Holidays, Life
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It is mid-December and the holidays are upon us.  Preparations have begun.  There are party invites to send, dinners to plan, presents to buy, wrappings to tape and tie, decorations to put up, and, most importantly to me, holiday show tickets to purchase.

Now, I realize that many people, myself included, will hunt for these shows in a more cost-effective way, particularly in our present economy.  Finding your favorite holiday show on television or Netflix or other favorite media resources has become a kind of tradition in and of itself because it’s more easily affordable.

After all, I’ve seen many live productions of my favorite holiday shows, but in recent years I’ve found it more prudent to simply watch them on my television or computer instead of spending the usual hundred or so dollars a ticket to see a spectacular live performance.  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer the live version, of course, but the price has been too steep to accommodate in recent years.  I imagine that I’m not alone in this.

So for the holidays, rather than go to the ballet, I will be looking for my holiday favorites, including The Nutcracker, on Netflix.  It’s a show I’ve been watching around this time of year ever since I was a girl.  My mother always loved to go to dance performances when she could afford it, and she always took all three of her children with her.

As a girl, I couldn’t quite appreciate the girly dresses and the silly costumes – it just wasn’t something a tomboy could like, especially not while in the presence of her younger brothers.  Now that I’m older and studying for a minor in costume design, I can allow myself to enjoy it, not only because the costumes are lovely, but also because the story is quite fun and imaginative.  I think that The Nutcracker was one of the few secular things my mother allowed me and my brothers to see, while we were still young.  Talking animals, fighting toys, and people who shrank (or perhaps everything else just got larger for one night): it was Alice in Wonderland for three children who were not allowed to believe in or read about magic.

This wasn’t the only tradition around the holidays in my house.  My mother would always take us to look at the houses in the more expensive neighborhoods of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  These houses were always covered in lights, with animatronic reindeer, snowmen, penguins, or other holiday icons.  Mother would look for the houses with manger scenes in the front lawns, but my brothers and I preferred giant lit-up candy canes or talking Santas or reindeer-drawn sleighs that straddled a gable near the chimney.  Since we were very young, we were told that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy a reindeer decoration that stamped its hoof on someone’s rooftop.

After driving around to look at the light-outlined houses, we would visit Old Town, where luminarias lined the buildings and made paths along the pavement, and carolers stood at the center, under the gazebo, singing holiday songs, usually in Spanish.  We would follow all the paths, wandering aimlessly to soak in the colorful lights until we could no longer stand the cold.  If it had snowed recently, we would pack it into little fist-sized balls to throw at one another, but that was a rare occurrence even during the wettest December.

Once home, we warmed up with green chili enchiladas or broccoli and cheese casserole or posole soup, followed by hot chocolate and star or tree shaped biscochitos.  Then, as it was Christmas Eve and usually to shut us up, I think, my mother would allow us to open one present.

Finally, once the wrappings were properly folded or thrown away, the part that has always been my favorite holiday tradition, which I still keep to this day: we would watch A Christmas Carol.

I’m not entirely sure why it’s always been my favorite movie, but I’ve continued to watch this one, live or previously recorded, every year during the holidays long after leaving home.  Particularly now that I live so far away from the land of my childhood, where there are few, if any, who decorate their houses, at all.   In California, traditions from home are non-existent or extremely hard to find.  After all, New Mexican traditions and foods don’t usually stray too far from the borders that birthed them.  Perhaps it is for these reasons that I cling to The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol traditions, for they cross borders far better than luminarias, posole, and biscochitos.

May your holidays be filled with warmth, good food, and traditions that remind you of all the reasons you believe in magic.  Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!