By Brittni Henderson
“Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.”- Francis C. Farley
For many people, the month of December symbolizes the reestablishment of important family traditions. These traditions can vary in a multitude of ways, but they act as a way for families, friends, and communities to unify for certain holidays or special occasions. Christmas is probably one of the most widely celebrated traditions in our area, with many families utilizing the common rituals of getting a tree, decorating with bright lights, and adorning red and green to amplify the festive feel of the time. Beneath these common customs are individual, unique, and exciting variations that bring a sense of identity to those who’ve created them.
Traditions strengthen bonds, create a sense of comfort and security, teach values, pass on cultural and religious heritages, connect generations, and most importantly, create memories. There are different events that come up throughout the year that allow families to honor their personal traditions, but during the holiday season, they seem to show up more prominently. Some groups of loved ones are continuing their family, while others are reminiscing about rituals of years passed. Families grow old, move to new places, or sometimes life just gets in the way of what used to be.
For many of our friends on Facebook, traditions—either past or present—have a very special place in their daily lives this time of year. Christmastime allows them to celebrate the times they once had and continue to create new memories to look back on as their families continue to grow.
Dave Schecher, 27, of Smithfield, looks forward to the day after Thanksgiving because, for him, it signifies the official start of the Christmas season. While he was growing up, Schecher would go to a local tree farm with his family to choose the perfect tree that would eventually adorn all of his family’s cherished ornaments that they have collected over time. The ornaments are representations of important milestones in the family’s history, handmade artifacts from Christmases gone by, and personal interests of each family member. Some include military service, motorcycles, and even classic Dunkin’ Donuts cups.
“This tradition meant a lot to me because it was always a fun adventure to go pick the perfect tree,” Schecher shares. “And as I grow up, I get to see all of the old decorations and ornaments that I only get to see once a year.”
Schecher and his family no longer get a live tree, and he’s not sure if the farm they would frequent is even around anymore. Due to his father’s deployment to Iraq in 2003, Schecher’s stepmother resorted to getting a fake tree for the family.
“If I have kids one day, I will definitely continue this tradition,” he says.
Pamela, 27, and Ryan Duffy, 28, have already started some traditions of their own with their two children, Camila and Ryker. The two little Duffys are both under the age of two, so they may not remember these holidays until they are a little older, but they will have the memories to look back on as they grow up.
Pamela and her mother, Beatriz have a “cooking feast” for every major holiday that celebrates their Guatemalan heritage. For Christmas, the menu is tamales, tamales, and more tamales!
“Every year I help my mom prepare tamales,” Duffy says. “It’s like the Feast of the Seven Fishes—but we have a feast of tamales!”
This custom is common in South American countries, Duffy shares, but varies by region. Many times, tamales are prepared for celebrations like Christmas or El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a day commemorating the lives of loved ones who have passed away.
The Duffys also adopted a tradition from Ryan’s side of the family. As a child, Ryan and his siblings would each place a miniature Christmas tree outside of their bedroom doors that they would decorate individually. On Christmas morning, there would always be a few small gifts from Santa under their trees. Now, Camila and Ryker have their own trees to look forward to decorating throughout their childhoods!
Kaitlin and Evan Soccio, 25, of Lincoln, don’t have any children of their own, but are looking forward to the day that their children will be a part of the many traditions their family partakes in each year. Kaitlin and her younger sister Kailey Falls have always gone to their grandparents’ home on Christmas Eve.
They would exchange gifts in the living room by the fire, enjoying time with the cousins on this side of the family. Back at home, the girls would each open one gift from their parents prior to going to bed to await the arrival of Santa. In the morning the girls would wait at the top of the stairs until their father alerted them by saying, “Santa came!” Either mom or dad would have the video camera rolling to watch the excitement on their daughters’ faces as they unwrapped all of their gifts on Christmas morning.
A few days before Santa’s visit, Kaitlin and her sister help her grandmother make Christmas cookies for the family. Now that she is older, Kaitlin does a little bit more of the work to give her grandmother a rest. Her younger cousins even join in on the fun!
Although these families differ in many ways, one thing is certain—their Christmas traditions are near and dear to their hearts.