In order, my top five Smith (and now Caldwell) family traditions. Happy Holidays, everyone! May you be surrounded by family that are friends and friends that are family. And lots of good food.
5. Christmas Eve spaghetti dinner, complete with green noodles. I don't remember the exact origin of this tradition, but it's a nice break in the monotony of ham after turkey after ham (not that I'm complaining. I could eat holiday food all year round). It always marks the official start of Christmas celebration when I smell my mom's spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove. Of course there's always peppermint red velvet cake, fudge, Woodford pudding, ginger muffins... our family knows how to do Christmas food.
4. Our annual viewing of the Muppet Christmas Carol. My dad and I are definitely the most enthusiastic about this tradition (although I'm sure some members of my family would have much more colorful adjectives) and could probably reenact the movie on our own without the help of the actual Muppets. Nothing can make me laugh the way Gonzo as Charles Dickens and his faithful sidekick Rizzo the Rat can.
3. The mystery of the ugly Christmas fruit. Years ago when my great-grandmother passed away, my mom managed to sneak away from cleaning out her house without a hideous sculpture of fruit that some kind old lady friends were insisting was "just her style". That year or a few years following (the time line gets a little confused now), my aunt Jane gave it to my mom for Christmas. A few years later, Mom gave it back to Jane. The first Christmas Joe and I were married we had a huge gift under the tree from Jane. I was so excited to open it... until I got past the first layer of tissue and saw the tip of the fruit sculpture peeking out at me. Last year I managed to give it back to mom (via a decoy Big Box) and now it's anyone's guess when, where, and for whom it will re-appear.
2. My family always makes a pretty big deal out of going to pick out our Christmas tree and decorating it. My dad brings down the boxes upon boxes or ornaments, Nutcrackers, figurines, and lights and we spend the day after Thanksgiving re-telling stories, singing Amy Grant Christmas songs from the early 90s, and welcoming the Christmas season as a family.
1. The Big Box started on accident 16 years ago. My Dad put a huge box under the tree with no tag on it, and for a 10, 7, and 4 year old, a large unmarked box at Christmas time is a BIG DEAL. Of course, seeing how excited and curious we were about the box, my Dad made a game of it and refused to reveal who the box was for. It was the last thing we opened Christmas morning, all of us nearly exploding with excitement. It was pillows. For Mom. But the Box was back next year, and the year after that, and it's there this year, 16 years later. Some years it's a hit (a Wii, black pearls for Mom), and some years it's a miss (a vaccuum) but it's always there, unlabeled and enormous, our own little Christmas mystery.