As a high school sophomore, I wrote an essay on holiday traditions for my honors English class. My memoir about my family’s Christmas customs, as written by a sarcastic teenager, follows.
Meriam-Webster dictionary defines tradition as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.” From January to November, my family has no notable holiday traditions. However, the second weekend of December annually marks the beginning of our pre-Christmas rituals. These rituals thrust our family into holiday cheer mode and have turned into traditions – almost.
Our festive holiday season usually begins the second Saturday in December. By this time, my mother has complained daily since Thanksgiving about how we’re the only house without Christmas lights outside. At the same time, my father is also complaining about how the leaves are ruining our lawn’s appearance, and my brother is whining about being bored. Everything changes in one fell swoop.
Dad magically appears outside with a rake and lawnmower. The same day, mom digs up last year’s Christmas bulbs and drags them outside (along with my brother to help). While this is usually one of the most productive family days of the year, it always ends the same way. By about the time dusk falls, my father is cursing the leaves, my mother is swearing at broken light bulbs, and my brother is just shaking his head.
My tradition on this day? Sit inside, watch everyone else, and laugh.
The next day, after our house is glowing with holiday cheer and the lawn is leaf-free, my mother drags out Fertis, our giant fake Christmas tree. She starts putting it together early in the morning and requires several cups of coffee to complete it before dinnertime. My brother is downstairs playing video games, and
Dad is conspicuously running errands or busy with work during this process. Once Fertis is ready for the season, everyone reconvenes. We listen to cheesy Disney Christmas records on a blue Fisher Price record player while we unwrap ornaments from a dusty storage tub.
Decorating the tree is its own hour-long tradition. I hunt until I find “Moose,” my name for the reindeer ornament that I later learned was the first holiday ornament dad bought for mom. We never have enough hooks, someone’s favorite ornament is always broken, and dad always hangs five or six ornaments on the same three branches. After we’ve cleared out the storage box, everyone except mom retires to bed. As we climb the stairs, mom is staring intently at Fertis while sipping blackberry brandy.
Our holiday season is officially in full swing when, without fail, we wake up for school the next morning to find our first Christmas surprise: all of Fertis’s ornaments have been mysteriously rearranged.
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