Christmas sounds have been filling my car since early November, when radio stations started playing songs of the season. Although there are plenty of nice contemporary tunes out there, I’m partial to the old classics sung by people like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and Judy Garland. Some of them bring a smile, while others leave me misty-eyed. When a friend asked me (in more than a little exasperation) why I listen to holiday music before Thanksgiving, I blurted out my truth. “Christmas songs make me feel good.” And they do.

Me. (Makeameme.org)

Of course, I’m not completely without boundaries. I don’t set up my tree until just before December 1.  Once the branches have been dropped and de-smooshed, I pull out the ornaments. Unwrapping each one is like stepping back in time. There are whimsical snowmen and  jolly old Santas. Tiny red felt stockings with a fluff of cotton at the top. A lacy-looking angel my grandmother crocheted. Dog figurines – lots of them. Smooth painted wooden ornaments, one of which bears the teeth marks of my dog from years ago. Poor old Schatzi chewed everything she could reach – including baby Jesus, who now sleeps in the manager with a disrespectful puncture hole straight through His belly – damaged, but fittingly not destroyed.

My not-so-MarthaStewarty-tree.

Then there are the sweetest ornaments, with a child’s name scrawled across them – remembrances of the days when my children were young and proudly brought home the treasures they’d crafted at school. Images of toothless grins and wide eyes flood my mind as I hang their ornaments on a tree with no theme or coordinating colors. Yet to me, it’s beautiful, and I don’t care what Martha Stewart thinks.

Once the decorations are finished, I move on to the food. Putting a batch of Snickerdoodles in the oven (my Mom’s special recipe), scents the air with the warm and slightly spicy aroma of cinnamon. If such a thing is possible, the cookies taste even better than they smell. Warm from the oven and practically melting on my tongue, I can almost envision Mom standing next to me. Go ahead and have another one. It’s Christmas.

Why do I love this season so much? I think I’ve figured it out. In many ways, Christmas makes me feel like a kid again. I recreate each sound, touch, sight, smell, and taste of the past, which brings memories of friends and family who no longer walk this earth. At Christmas they can return for a while, much more amiable spirits than Scrooge’s, to remind me of happy times from long ago when I had no bigger worries then wondering if Santa would bring me the Barbie doll I wanted. (He did, too. What a shame I played with toys instead of keeping them as future retirement investments.)

When all grown up, will this little guy crave Snickerdoodle cookies at Christmas?

I don’t think I’m unique in my hunger for tradition. Everyone has rituals related to occasions special to them. In my mind, these are the little moments that firmly connect us to the past. And if we do our job well, they’ll also bind us to the future.

So as you celebrate your own special traditions, whatever they may be, I wish you peace, contentment, and many blessings in the new year. Thank you for being an important part of my life.

Now you must excuse me as I play one of my favorite videos, sip hot chocolate, and stare at my hodge-podge tree while Bing croons White Christmas. Ah, what bliss.

 *****

In keeping with these thoughts on tradition, you’ll find a new recipe on the Easy-Peasy tab. I can testify that whenever this little gem would appear on the school menu, I’d leave the brown bag at home and bring lunch money. It’s cranberry cake with hot butter sauce – the perfect blend of tart and sweet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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