We have to be careful when we plan something special for our family because if we do it once, the boys will insist on making it a tradition. This is especially true of Christmas.
We begin the season by decorating our home the weekend after Thanksgiving, often getting a jump by hauling the bins of decorations from the basement on Friday. On Saturday, we go out for a big breakfast at IHOP and head to Lowe’s for a tree. Since our oldest son, Barron, joined the University of Georgia’s Redcoat Marching Band and has to play at the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech game the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we’ve had to move up the timetable on this tradition to Black Friday, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm.
There was one year, though, when the boys’ enthusiasm was greatly dampened. I didn’t realize how important the ingrained tradition was until the boys threatened to boycott Christmas altogether when we went to Home Depot for our tree because it was closer to IHOP than Lowe’s. When we pulled into Home Depot, the boys were aghast and refused to get out of the car.
“You are ruining Christmas!” they protested.
We had no choice but to load up and drive down Highway 78 the two or three miles to Lowe’s. We have been able to get the boys to expand their idea of the tradition in recent years because the quality of the Lowe’s trees diminished so greatly. In 2019 and 2020 we bought our tree at Randy’s Water Gardens in Lawrenceville, which they tolerated only because we also went to Lowe’s to buy replacement light strings, spotlight bulbs or other items that enhance our home’s holiday visual presentation. It is worth noting we have been back at Lowe’s the past two years.
While decorating the house, rather than the strains of Christmas music, we typically have college football on. Because our decorating falls on Rivalry Weekend, we have our pick of intra-state match-ups to serve as our background noise. Our preferred games are Georgia-Georgia Tech and Auburn-Alabama, but others fill in so that there’s not a gap from noon to midnight.
The decorating is not complete until the boys’ Christmas ornament for the year has been revealed. Carla began the tradition when Barron was little, and we thoroughly enjoy picking the ornament based on something significant from their lives that year. The plan is for each of our children to get 21 ornaments as keepsakes when they leave home. It brings us so much joy to decorate with these glass ornaments and listen to the boys reminisce about each one.
Our Christmas season has some traditions driven by the boys’ involvement in band. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the selections at the Christmas concert each year, including Barron’s turn to take the baton and conduct the Parkview band in “Sleigh Ride” during his senior year as drum major.
We’ve also enjoyed the annual Lilburn Christmas Parade. We started participating with the Cub Scouts, but the Parkview Marching Band has been our reason to attend in recent years. Bundling up and finding a good spot helps us enjoy this community event and appreciate the quality of life we enjoy in Lilburn.
As Christmas approaches, we pick a night to go out to dinner and drive around looking at Christmas lights. We used to listen to our favorite Christmas CDs, like Harry Connick Jr.’s “Harry for the Holidays,” but thanks to Spotify, we now have a playlist that includes all of our favorites, including “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” “Merry Christmas from the Family,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The restaurant changes each year, but the laughter and imitating Nanny’s pet phrase “Look over yonder!” are always a treasured feature of the evening.
Our Christmas Eve traditions include church, eating soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and watching “A Christmas Story.” One year the power went out in our neighborhood, and we went to La Sabrosita, a nearby Mexican restaurant that has since closed. We learned that disruptions to traditions can make the event more memorable. By the time we got home, power was restored, and Santa managed to find our house as usual.
Bedtime on Christmas Eve has been pushed back as the boys age. They no longer rush to bed so Santa can come. Christmas morning, though, still comes early as they cannot contain their excitement for exchanging gifts. Harris, in particular, has the most enthusiasm, stemming from his love of Lego. He knows that in order to complete the sets he gets for Christmas, he’ll need to start early.
To allow Carla some time to enjoy the day and not spend all Christmas in the kitchen, our tradition is to have brunch. She’ll make a breakfast casserole the day before and throw it in the oven before the presents are unwrapped. We always have pastries with it and often a tray of oven-cooked, brown sugar bacon. We spend the day in our pajamas and enjoy Christmas music all day long.
After Christmas we go to Florida to see my parents and about every other year some combination of aunts and uncles and cousins. It’s the one time of year they get to experience Lake Wales, Florida, where I last lived at home, and, frankly, it’s the best time of year to visit. The humidity is low and the temperatures are typically in the 70s. Granny and Paw Paw have lots of outdoor fun in their yard, including a tree swing, fire pit, and outdoor games like croquet and carpet ball.
Carla and I got engaged on New Year’s Eve, but we don’t have any traditions for ringing in the new year. Many years, we’ve been in bed asleep by the time the calendar flips over to the next year, but we have tried to attend parties with friends on occasion. The last time we tried to host, our children were young, and all our friends, who also had small kids, left by 9 p.m., exhausted from wrangling their offspring, who were getting cranky from staying up past their bedtime. We decided a long time ago that ringing in the new year is overrated.
Our holiday traditions are important to our family, and I can’t wait to see what traditions our boys create with their families one day.