>Traditiooooon, Tradition!

>(You’ve got to sing the title with the “Fiddler on the Roof” soundtrack in mind.)

I thought I’d write a little about Christmas family traditions, since it’s getting to be that time of year. As a kid I just assumed that most families did what mine did during the holidays, but now I find it interesting to hear everyone else’s traditions. Hey–feel free to add comments about your favorite holiday tradition!

In my small family of three, we centered a lot of the festivities around Christmas Eve, which was fine by me. This is because 1) I have always been by nature an impatient person, 2) not believing in Santa meant that most of the presents were around the tree before Christmas morning anyway, and 3) most importantly, Christmas Eve has always been more magical to me than Christmas morning. This is because it’s dark, so you can see all the twinkling lights, and it’s hushed, and there’s anticipation in the air for the morning to come. Most of my favorite Christmas memories are of the evening before–like several years ago at my in-law’s house. Alex’s sisters were putting their then-infant children to bed, so he and our brother-in-law Frank and I were playing with these tiny radio-control cars around the Christmas tree. It must have been around midnight, and we had to giggle really quietly so as not to wake the kids, and I just felt like I was a ten-year-old trying not to wake my parents. It was great!

My parents and I had this tradition where one of us would read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke–which I have always found is the most beautiful version of that story, all that great language: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…” Then we would each open at least one gift–in some years we’d open every gift but one, and open just that and our stockings in the morning. I loved how delightfully forbidden that felt!

Alex’s family has several neat traditions that I’ve come to love, as well. One that has been transferred from the kids to the grandkids is that of opening one small gift each day for ten days before Christmas. They’re usually small things like ornaments or toys, but it’s just such a fun idea. Another tradition is that each person receives a new set of pajamas, and they get these on Christmas Eve, so that they can be worn that evening (I’m usually the only adult who still wears them Christmas morning when opening gifts, but I think after six years that the family’s now fully accepted that I’m just a big kid).

And while we’re on the topic of tradition, have I ever mentioned The Lizard Game on this blog? This one tradition fully encapsulates the weird hilarity of my parents, myself, and Alex.

The Lizard Game started when I was in eighth grade, attending Bracken Christian School. BCS held a fair each year–I can’t remember why, now–and that year Dad and I played the game in the kindergardners’ booth (I think it had to do with plastic ducks in a wading pool, but don’t hold me to that). Our prize was a small, rubbery, lavender-colored lizard with a suction cup on the bottom, the type of thing you’d get from a vending machine for a quarter. I thought it was really odd–what the heck were you supposed to do with a suction-cup-lizard?–and the following morning, I found the thing firmly stuck to my bathroom mirror. Dad didn’t say a word, so I grabbed the thing and hid it somewhere in his bathroom–I think it was his toothpaste drawer, the first time. Since then, for 15 years now, we’ve been hiding this lizard and its kin. For the first probably four years, we never talked about it, just found new and bizarre places to hide it. I think the first comment I ever heard about it was when Mom called to tell me that Dad was completely startled to find the thing in his shoe. I’d stuffed it in the toe, and the lizard being of a very squishy consistency, apparently Dad initially thought that the dog had left something less-than-desirable in his footwear. Heh, heh.

The first lizard was lost sometime during my first year at college, and was soon replaced by a similar one–no suction cup, though. He’s appeared in many forms since–he’s been color-photocopied and mailed more than once–and now there is a whole legion of lizards hiding in my parents’ house and my own. I’ll find them sometimes months after my parents have visited, on the top edge of a painting, or a high shelf, or a drawer. Upon being startled out of my wits by my mother’s clever placement of a particularly large lizard in my washing machine, I retaliated with one in her toilet-tank (Alex disengaged the flush to be sure she’d check the tank). We find them in our luggage, in mailed packages, in lunchsacks. Alex has, of course, fully embraced the game and come up with some quite clever hiding places.

And I wonder if my parents ever found the one I stuck in the coffee grounds bag in the freezer… two years ago. (Hi, mom!)

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