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SOME TRADITIONS ARE MEANT TO CHANGE
AND I WOULDN’T WANT IT ANY OTHER WAY The exciting thing about family traditions is that no matter where you are, how old you get, or what might change, the traditions still hold meaning. Traditions inspire us as we look forward to them, but we can also look back on them fondly and feel happiness and gratitude.
This year for Christmas, my family will be heading up to Sparta, New Jersey, to my parents’ lakehouse. It was a biannual tradition we’ve missed out on these last few years, so this year should be a big celebration. Not only is Sparta my hometown, but it’s also where my immensely large family can finally get together to celebrate in style. I’ve got what I call a “blended” family, the result of several marriages over the years, and it’s big enough that I can never remember exactly how many of us there are. But I do know we’ll have our hands full with 15 grandkids running around. Not to mention, two of my sisters are due to give birth by Christmas, so that number will grow. When my wife, kids, and I have a quiet celebration at home, the Christmas Eve tradition is usually struggling to get our excited kids into bed, then spending the night sneakily wrapping all their gifts. We’ll put in our worn out copy of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” pop open a bottle of wine, and do our best to make the wrapping look nice before it’s torn to shreds just a few hours later. This year in Sparta, I imagine things will go a little differently. For one, it’ll be tough to be sneaky with that many people in the house. For that reason, I think this is finally the year
we can involve our kids in our Christmas process a little more. No, I don’t plan on revealing anything “noteworthy” about Santa. On the contrary, a family tradition at the lakehouse is to put the kids to sleep, only to wake them with our chiming of bells and our boisterous Santa-like “ho-ho-hos” from somewhere out of sight. We really do our best to keep the magic alive. My boys are getting older, but we’ll still have plenty of young ones running around, including my daughter. So this year, I’ll be doing some heavy-handed recruiting (all right, gift bribing) of my boys to help with other family favorites. Elf on the Shelf is a big one for us, and I always say I have a love-hate relationship with the little guy. If you’re familiar with this newer Christmas embellishment, you’ll know that while it’s a lot of fun to partake in, the time and effort that goes into creating the elaborate ruse of an elf who comes alive every night can be taxing. I think my wife and I are ready to
recruit the creative (and often mischievous) help of our sons to really get the elf going this year. The younger kids will love it, and the older kids will get a kick out of being on the other side of the tradition. And that’s really the wonderful thing about traditions. The more you have them, the more I think they’re liable to change. That’s not because they’re good or bad; it’s simply because change is inevitable. It’s exciting to me that my family has so many opportunities to learn and grow together, whether we’re experiencing something new, or reveling in the routine of old. It creates perspective, while also fostering appreciation. That’s why I’ll always cherish tradition, no matter how much it changes or stays the same.
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