It’s nearly Christmas, and over the next week, millions of people around the country will travel to meet with friends and family. It’s a time of love, joy, and of course, long-held traditions. There are a couple of sacred Lanning Christmas traditions, one newer than the other, I make sure we observe every Christmas holiday.
Traditions have real staying power. Doing the same action every year, decade, century, etc. is bound to leave some great memories. They’re important to Tevye, and they’re important to me. As he sang, “TRADITIOOOOOOOONNNNNN. . .”
I’ll start with the newer tradition that was established when I was a young teen (around 2004). My nana and pops were living in Iowa at the time, and they usually have their Christmas tree up around Thanksgiving. Yeah, they’re those people. The only person worse is my uncle Scott, who usually tries to have his tree up as close to November 1 as possible. I swear, he needs to be fined for such egregious behavior. I don’t hate Christmas. It’s just, to every thing there is a season, ya know?
Funnily enough, my uncle is the reason this tradition got started. He lived about 15 minutes away from my nana and pops in Cedar Rapids. One particular year, he was over visiting them and eating candy. My nana and mom both make a habit of having a candy dish somewhere in their houses with chocolate, especially around Christmas. Well, my uncle was going through Hershey’s Kisses by the handful, and as you probably know, that produces lots of little pieces of foil.
My uncle decided to roll them up into little foil balls and toss them into the Christmas tree when nana wasn’t looking. That way he didn’t have to walk over to the trash can every few minutes. He could just continue reclining in the living room and watch the University of Michigan football game likely on the television.
Nana didn’t find out about this until after Christmas when it came time to take down the Christmas tree, and suddenly, there were little foil wrappers EVERYWHERE under the tree. She’s a wise woman, my nana, and she knew who was to blame. She made sure to let her eldest son know what she’d discovered, and she didn’t appreciate it. And my uncle made the mistake of relaying the story to his little brother and the other grandkids.
Now, whenever we’re around a Christmas tree and eating tiny pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil, we roll them up, and toss them into the tree. My mother despises this action, but like nana, she’s powerless to stop it. It remains a powerful tradition more than a decade later.
The second tradition actually goes back to my childhood and means much more to me. On Christmas Eve night, my mother and two brothers all break out a couple tubes of sugar cookie dough. We divide them up, cover the kitchen counter in flour, and roll the dough out. Then, we use some cookie cutters that are nearly three decades old to cut out the cookies. There’s a few different ones, including a Christmas tree, a star, and my personal favorite, a little pink pig.
I know it has zero to do with Christmas, but this pig has become a staple of the cookie event for me. I don’t let either of my brothers use it because it’s MINE. That’s just the privilege of being the eldest child.
There have been a couple Christmases where we didn’t make the cookies, like when I had moved to Portland. It killed me that holiday when I wasn’t home on Christmas Eve night to make cookies. But now that I again live in Arkansas, we can continue partaking in this tradition.
Once the cookies are baked in the oven (and usually lose their carefully crafted shape), we decorate them with a mixture of sprinkles, frosting, and other diabetes-inducing inventions. Then my brothers and I each pick our best cookie to leave out for Santa.
Traditions are important. They bring us closer to people we care about who also share the same experience, and that’s just part of the Christmas holiday.
This weekend I’ll be visiting my nana and pops, and you can bet I’ll leave plenty of foil in their tree. On Christmas Eve night I’ll be making cookies with the fam, and you can bet the pig will be present. TRADITIOOOOOOONNNNNN!