Why Tradition Matters at Christmas By Irene Hannon
(Make sure you read to the end for a fabulous recipe!)
It’s a word that bring to mind longstanding rituals, beliefs, practices—some good, perhaps some not so good.
But in the context of Christmas, tradition is all about memories—and remembering. Christmas traditions are the outward manifestations of the deep, abiding love that binds families together, feeds the soul, and fills the heart.
So as Christmas approaches, I thought I’d share a few of my traditions—past and present—with you.
When I was a little girl, one of our family traditions was that Santa brought our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after my brother and I went to bed. When we woke up on Christmas morning, our bare living room had been transformed into a wonderland of lights and presents. It was pure magic.
This wasn’t a new tradition, created for our family. My mom’s parents followed this same tradition, and she carried it on. When I grew old enough to realize that my parents, not Santa, had worked all that magic late into the night on Christmas Eve, their act of love filled me with gratitude I still feel to this day. I will never forget how my brother and I woke them before dawn, our excitement and anticipation almost palpable, then waited in the dark while they stumbled out of bed and my dad went to the living room to make sure Santa had come and gone—and to turn on the lights.
That first view of the illuminated tree on Christmas morning in the otherwise dark living room is a memory that is indelibly etched in mind. Among all the presents beneath the boughs, in hindsight that magical moment every year was my favorite gift.
Another tradition was our Christmas Eve meal. It was the same every year, served only on that special day—creamy chicken velvet soup, mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat, Sally Lunn bread, and a decadent chocolate mousse.
I carry on part of that tradition by making the mousse every year on Christmas Eve, in memory of Mom. I’ve shared the recipe for it later in this post.
A third family tradition that continues to this day? Our annual viewing of the classic holiday movie, White Christmas. Mom and Dad are gone now, but my husband and I still get together with my brother and his family to watch the show. We know it so well we can recite all the lines with the characters and sing all the songs, but the tradition evokes sweet memories we all hold dear of Christmases past with Mom and Dad.
When my brother’s girls were very young, he started a new tradition. They live in the country, about forty miles from the city where I grew up (and still live). Each Christmas, they take the train into the city. My husband and I, along my parents, would meet them at the station. In their younger years, my nieces always wore the beautiful winter coats my mom made for them each holiday season (she was a wonderful seamstress). Then we’d all go to see Santa at one of the malls, followed by a festive restaurant meal.
Though the girls are in college now, the train tradition has held so far (minus the visit to Santa). Who knows how much longer it will last, now that they are grown? But perhaps they’ll carry it on with their own families one day and remember all the happy Christmas outings we shared as a family.
Since my husband and I don’t have children, I started my own tradition with my brother’s girls when they were tiny. Each Christmas season, I’ve taken a photo of them with the nutcracker we have in our foyer. The annual pictures are a treasure as I’ve watched them grow from sweet little girls into beautiful young women—as you can see in the first photo I took and the most recent shot. This tradition will continue for as long as they humor me!
After my husband and I married, we started a couple of traditions of our own.
Since we enjoy traveling, we decided to bring a small item back from every trip to hang on our Christmas tree. After thirty-four years of marriage and many trips, our tree is now laden with ornaments—aka, memories. Decorating our tree every year is a wonderful trip down memory lane as we reminisce about all of the places we’ve seen and experiences we’ve shared together. I’ve included photos of a few of the ornaments in this post.
And once the tree is decorated, I always hang up the stocking my mom made me many years ago. It wouldn’t be Christmas without that.
Another tradition we have as a couple is our annual Christmas outing day.
Many years ago, we decided that neither of us needed any more “things.” While presents under the tree were a key part of Christmas when we were children, as time goes by we’ve come to value the things that can’t be wrapped in shiny paper more than material gifts. So each year we take a day just for us. We set aside our to-do lists, put work on the backburner, and spend a full day focused on each other. We’ve gone to coffee shops, afternoon tea, the zoo, dinner, the botanical garden—and a host of other activities. We usually end the day with hot chocolate, watching a classic Christmas movie together.
In other words, we make memories.
During this holiday season, my wish is that you embrace the loving family traditions that have enriched your life—and perhaps start a new one of your own.
And may all your memories be merry and bright.
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup boiling water mixed with 1 rounded teaspoon instant coffee
3 ounces unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
3 egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
- Put chocolate and coffee mixture in double boiler and heat until chocolate melts. Beat in butter and egg yolks until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.
- In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat whipping cream till double in bulk and beaters leave light traces—DO NOT OVERBEAT.
- Clean bowl and beaters thoroughly. Beat egg whites till foamy, then add salt. Continue beating. When soft peaks form, add sugar slowly and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Fold egg whites delicately into chocolate mixture. Fold in cream.
- Turn mousse into a large bowl or individual dishes. Cover and chill several hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
Yield: About 8 servings
Make sure to check out Irene’s latest release INTO THE FIRE:
As a former smokejumper, arson investigator Bri Tucker knows her way around fires. But after a mysterious blaze takes the life of a former colleague, Bri inherits a curious puzzle from him that raises questions about several fiery deaths. Someone, however, doesn’t want her picking up where he left off in search of answers.
When she teams up with ATF Special Agent Marc Davis to solve the puzzle, the danger escalates. But will they manage to track down the person behind the mysterious deaths before their budding romance–and maybe even their lives–go up in flames?
The bestselling and award-winning queen of romantic suspense is back with a brand-new series that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping as you burn through the pages to discover the truth.