Archived Story

Old or new, traditions remain special

Published 7:01pm Friday, December 27, 2013

“Where are you going?”

My brother John, 17, sat down to Christmas dinner fully dressed.

As we had all been in pajamas for most of the day, enjoying each other’s and our parents’ company and watching Christmas movies, I knew he hadn’t just decided to get dressed for his own health.

“I’m going to the Montgomery Zoo with some friends,” he replied casually.

“On Christmas Night? Really?” I responded.

My parents shrugged it off – apparently, my brother doesn’t stay at home much anymore, tending to prefer the company of friends.

We all ate dinner together – pork roast, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, cornbread and a Caesar salad – and the next thing I knew, my brother was pulling out of the driveway.

I have to admit, I was a little lost.

My brother was born when I was almost 8, so as he got to the age where he was old enough to really anticipate Santa’s arrival, I was 12 or 13 and should have thought myself “too cool” to participate.

But my parents allowed me to play elf for him, using that year’s gift of K’Nex or Legos to construct some type of elaborate moving ferris wheel, carousel or other contraption.

I got such joy out of him seeing my little projects on Christmas morning – and even more out of us playing with those toys throughout the day.

As we got older, John got more interested in video games than standard toys, so most of the time he’d disappear into his room to play his newest games for the rest of the day.

But completely leaving the house during a time I’d always thought of as family time? This was new.

It got me thinking about the 26 Christmases I’ve now experienced.

One day, my brother and I will both have spouses and may not spend actual Christmas Day or Eve with members of our initial family unit at all.

We may be spending time with our spouse’s families, being a part of their own family traditions.

The thought saddened me.

I looked around at my parents’ home, and in the study, there sat a smaller Christmas tree chock full of ornaments. The tree is one that has been in my family as long as I can remember.

When both my brother and I were born, we were designated a specific type of ornament. I got Santas, and John got snowmen.

We received several ornaments every year, and they were added to both of our collections, which then were placed on the tree the next year.

Up until a couple of years ago when I finally had my own full-size Christmas tree, both Santas and snowmen hung together on that tree, which made the slightly bare thing look full and bright.

The tree is still full of ornaments – though there are decidedly more of the corncob-pipe, button-nose variety since the Santa army made its way to Alexander City with me.

A newer, much taller tree sat in the living room, decorated with beautiful colored Christmas balls and other sparkly, color-coordinated ornaments. The tree became our new family tradition as soon as my parents moved to Prattville in 2008.

I realized the trees were a kind of metaphor for our Christmas traditions – some old, some new, and all very much valued and loved.

One day, I probably won’t be able to spend the day at my parents’ house in my pajamas because I’ll be loading up to go to another Christmas celebration.

But whatever new traditions may come along, I will do my best to love and value them all the same as the past traditions I’ve cherished.

Spears is general manager for The Outlook.