We started this Christmas tradition maybe not long ago, but at least "some time ago" and we continue the ritual to this day. Hopefully, we will keep it up and some day it will be our family tradition.
When they were young, our five children always enjoyed Christmas time, especially decorating the tree. It might not have been the prettiest tree, but no tree was more loved.
As time passed, our children grew up, married and had families of their own. My husband and I decided if we were to have a Christmas tree, we would be the ones to do the decorating and we did. When the children heard this, they were exasperated.
"You did what?" they all exclaimed.
"We decorated the tree," we answered, proud of ourselves.
"Grandparents do not decorate Christmas trees," we were told. "Children and grandchildren decorate trees."
And so our ritual began.
Every year, we set a date when most of the children and grandchildren can gather, and do the tree. By now our family has grown to include 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson. The tree is artificial, so grandpa and grandma are allowed to assemble it.
The eldest child, Barb, has the job of putting hooks on all the ornaments and handing them to the children. Some children are short, some are tall, some stood on chairs, some stood on nearby stairs and so the tree gets decorated. There usually is a big discussion about the star. Everyone wants the honor of putting it on the top of the tree. Grandpa settled the argument by pulling a name out of a hat.
While this is going on, Christmas music plays on the stereo and everyone drinks hot chocolate and eats Christmas cookies, not the store bought mind you, they must be homemade.
When this is done, and the living room is full of empty boxes, leftover ornaments and lights just too tangled to be put on the tree, in walks Santa Claus, for a pre-Christmas visit, just to make sure he has the correct lists and to check on good boys and girls. There is a gift for each one of the children and each child sits on Santa's lap to remind him what they would like on Christmas Day. Yes, even the 16- and 17-year-olds went along with this part of the ritual. Unfortunately, the requests are no longer for dolls and toys, but more along the lines of new cars and trips to Aruba.
After Santa distributes the gifts he brought, we have a few gifts for him and every year he is so surprised. We sing Christmas carols for him, then it's time for him to "continue his rounds."
When their job is done, everyone else dons coats and hats, mittens and boots and heads for their own home to decorate their own tree now that they are experienced. Grandpa and I turn out all the nights except for the ones on the trees and exclaim, "This is the prettiest tree we ever had." We admired the decorating of then 3-year-old Lauren who put all her ornaments on one branch. She was so excited, she didn't want to stop and kept looking around the house for other things to hang.
The tree will remain as it was decorated all Christmas season. Yes, even Lauren's branch. When they all leave, it's time for Grandpa to construct his village under the tree. It has a lot of electronic items and includes running water.
The ritual remains the same to this day - even this year, though there weren't too many to continue the tradition. Some had other plans and couldn't make it but those present handled the chore very well. They laughed the same as they had years ago and had just as much fun as they did when they were kids. Since it is difficult for Grandpa to crawl under the tree to set up the village, the honor was bestowed to grandson Mark, who was more than eager to get started. Lauren, who by now is 11 years old, helped by placing all the figures.
Alas, Santa wasn't there this year either. I guess he was just too busy with smaller children.
And so the memories continue.
Dolores Dudek is a resident of Dunkirk.