My father already said that they'd never come to our house for Christmas (I think he's joking?) because we don't do tradition so much. After all, for our Christmas meal today, no roast and mashed potatoes. No spiral ham. No green beans or carrots. No bread rolls, no cake, no anything that resembled a typical Beaulieu holiday meal. We didn't even eat at the dining table.
Nope, our meal today was a brunch in front of the TV, the movie showing was "Elf," with a side of Buddy Special. Buddy Special, you ask? Oh you know what I'm talking about. Breakfast of spaghetti noodles covered in, well, whatever awful sweet stuff you want. Syrup, candy, marshmallows, chocolate, chocolate sauce, pop tarts... whatever. Of course we only did small bowls, and the expectation was that if you make it, you eat it. Three of the four did, so I call the brunch experiment a success.
In addition to the Buddy Special, we added fried eggs, honey mustard sausage, toast, a meat roll wrapped in bread baked in the oven, and a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes courtesy of Rebecca. Coffee and hot chocolate rounded it all out.
"Elf" is our favorite Christmas movie. I'm hard-pressed to pick another one that makes me laugh as hard or tear up as quickly. I'll take it any day over "Miracle on 34th Street" or "A Nightmare Before Christmas." OK, the original animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is right up there with "Elf," how could it not?
Post indulgence we had church and a desire for Pinkberry to squelch. The church was empty, the mall was packed. There are about 1/2 dozen Catholic churches in Amman and each one had a single Christmas Mass. We went to the 4 p.m. service and as we pulled into the lot at 3:55 the entire family asked whether I had the right time. The lot had 4 cars in it. The church had about 30 people. I was right, by the way, and by the end of Mass there were maybe 60 people. It's the fewest number of folks, even in a Muslim country, I have ever seen for a Christmas service.
The mall was the opposite. The line for Santa... well, there was no line. The mob for Santa was several hundred strong. In fact, there was more than one Santa. We passed the one sitting on the throne with a rather unsavory looking elf, then while we ate our Pinkberry another Santa came down the escalator with two walking candy canes. There's doing Christmas, then there's doing Christmas the over-the-top what-the-heck-is-that way.
Taj Mall definitely does the latter. But they also do decorate beautifully. Every corner, every store, every hall, and every wall is decorated. It may be 50F-something outside, there may be a controlled and relatively small march of 100 or so Syrians on the bridge by the mall, the call to prayer continues at its regular intervals, and yet inside the mall it felt like Christmas all over, from Santa to carols.
Tradition. It's something the holidays are built on, and yet as we move around the world, as our kids grow up, and as we absorb our host cultures, we release some of those trappings little by little. Kelly at Well That Was Different had a great blog post about just such changes
in expectations and how it can lead to a much calmer and more personal holiday. I see our holiday traditions continuing to evolve over the coming years. After all, this year our tree barely had lights on it, much less a single ornament. Even the cards and few candy canes we dared to add last night before the gift opening were on the ground and in pieces this morning.
We have cats (in case you didn't know) which means that for a year or two, we skip the ornaments. It's OK. New ones will still be added to the collections, we'll just have to wait until the kittens are no longer kittens in order to enjoy the march through history on the tree.
Our kids just aren't into big sit down meals. And that's OK too.
We'll continue to allow our traditions to adapt and evolve (a new ornament each year representing something from their year). We'll continue to have the kids initiate their own (Christmas brunch, totally the kids' idea). And we'll continue to keep some long-held traditions alive (Christmas gifts after midnight, who can wait?). After all, we didn't do Santa and they are fine. We make rolled Christmas cookies every year, and that's fine too.
The best holiday tradition is one that -involves- family in its determination, in both senses of the word.
It's what we're finding with our kids, and I'm more and more OK with it.