Friday, December 05, 2008

Weekend Assignment #245: Holiday Traditions

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that despite everything, Christmas is coming, along with Hanukkah, Solstice etc. Help me jumpstart the spirit of the season by responding to this week's Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #245: Some holiday traditions continue from generation to generation, some fall by the wayside, and some new ones arise as we strike out on our own, form new families and adapt to changes in culture and technology. How traditional are your holiday traditions, compared to decades past?

Extra Credit: What is your most unusual holiday tradition?

The picture at right (which is old and crummy - I should rephotograph the thing) is of a CD John made from a long out of print Christmas record, known in the family as "the green record." The original was on green vinyl, one of the few colored vinyl records I saw until the seventies. If that didn't make it magical enough, We Wish You A Merry Christmas by the Robert Rheims Choraliers had more to offer. It was an excellent collection of traditional arrangements of pretty much every traditional Christmas carol, accompanied by organ and chimes. There were only two verses each on most of them, but that helped to cram more songs on the circa 1960 LP. To me, it's hard to feel that it's really Christmas without hearing these arrangements of these songs. I've been listening to them at Christmas all my life. And by the way, John feels much the same about Christmas songs by the Chipmunks - but only the Ross Bagdasarian originals, not the recent stuff.

A mix of old and new traditions

I don't suppose it's that unusual to have a favorite recording of Christmas music, although I grant you, my choice of same is a little obscure. Other customs around here are a mixture of old and new, sometimes in the very same tradition! Take, for example, our Christmas tree. As I was growing up, the Funk family always, always had a real tree. Anything else was anathema to me. But John likes artificial ones, and I have to admit that our vintage aluminum tree is fun and stylish. It's not historically my tradition, but it is sort of John's, and the tree itself has an unknown history reaching back decades. Similarly, the ornaments on it are a an assortment of genuine vintage ones and modern reproductions of vintage ones, and a few in-the-old-style shapes that may not have vintage counterparts. I don't think a single one of our aluminum tree-friendly ornaments was on one of the old Funk trees, but most of the designs were.

But I still buy a real tree most years. A small one. 'Cause it's another tradition that's hard to give up.

The most worn-out, most decorated stocking in town

Our most unusual tradition is one I tried to describe to John Scalzi back in 2004, in the aftermath of some long ago Weekend Assignment. Very early in our marriage, perhaps as early as Christmas 1979, John and I bought plain red Christmas stockings, and used gold glitter and stick on lettering to label them with each other's names and initials. Every year, we're supposed to add some little decoration or bauble, with the result you see above. Then of course we fill them, with toys and candy and writing implements and batteries and gadgets and a tangerine in the toe. It's great, but the problem is, the stockings keep coming apart due to age and the cumulative weight of the baubles and stuffers. It used to be that just the strap to hang them from the fireplace would come off, but in recent years the whole stockings have started coming apart at the seams. Maybe this year I'll take them to Mendel's Wife the Tailor to be resewn.

Your turn! Tell us about your holiday traditions, preferably for one of the December holidays. Write about this in your blog along with a link back here, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with a roundup of your responses. Here are the ones from last week:

For Weekend Assignment #244: Black Friday, I asked about your Black Friday shopping habits, and any 2008 variations thereon. It's nice to know not everyone was in shop 'til you drop mode:

Martha said...

I started to post early today to complain about my daughter making her reservations to return to college on Black Friday. I knew she had to get back, but I dreaded the drive to get her to the station, I usually vow to never leave the house on Black Friday, the whole weekend for that matter. It's not the crowds in the stores (well, it is, but it's the idiots on the road that really seal the deal).

[So begins Martha's rather harrowing post....]

Julie said...

Even if we're home, I don't go out. I hate dealing with the crowds, and past experience shows the odds of actually acquiring the bargain I want in the store are almost exactly nil. Why bother, especially when I know I can find bargains over the next four weeks?

Carly said...

Ahhhh... Black Friday! That unofficial, in fact no where near a real holiday, holiday, that we look forward to every year! Alan and I have been getting up early to go out on Black Friday and watch people for years, in fact we weren't even a couple the first time we decided to do it. We were just two good friends who enjoyed watching people go crazy at the malls. We have seen a lot of strange things over the years, and even participated a little ourselves, but mostly we watch others in their quests for the perfect bargain gifts.

Mike said...

Anyway, no, I don't go shopping on Black Friday. I don't like shopping on a normal day; there is no way I'm going when the stores are bursting with people. I don't like crowds, have I mentioned that before?

Florinda said...

For years, I have said that the only store I want to go to on the day after Thanksgiving is the grocery store - which, for the record, I will avoid like the plague on the day before Thanksgiving. Sometimes I do end up at a big-box or discount store on Black Friday - I'll usually still need to make my normal weekly Target run - but I keep my distance from shopping malls. Ever since the year I went to Lenscrafters to pick up a pair of glasses without even thinking about what day it was - and it took me over half an hour to get out of the parking lot - I stay away from malls as much as possible for the entire weekend after Thanksgiving.

That's it for now! Busy as I'm sure you are, I hope you'll take the time to participate this week. Write about up the assignment in your blog or journal, and include a link back here. Then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. Please don't forget your links! I'll be back in a week to highlight the results.

A reminder: I'm still running low on ideas here, so I need your input. What would you like to see as a Weekend Assignment topic? Email me your suggestions (mavarin at If I use your topic you'll get full credit and my undying thanks.



barrettmanor said...

Here you go:

Martha said...

I sure hope I have time to play along on this week's assignment - I have lots of good stuff to share!

I can't believe you have the aluminum tree with the light color changing thingie! My Grandmother had that same set up, I thought it was the best thing ever when I was a kid - you brought back some very fond memories for me.

I love your stocking tradition! I think I'll add that to our family traditions this year! :-)

Anonymous said...
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Florinda said...

This was a nice companion post to my "holiday songs" list yesterday - my Weekend Assignment is up, complete with a dog picture.

Mike said...

My post on traditions, if you want to call them that, is up.