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Traditions and customs play a vital role in shaping the cultural fabric of societies across the globe. While some are deeply rooted, passed down through generations, others emerge as families carve their own unique paths. In my family, our traditions originated with my parents as they embarked on their journey as a married couple, creating a tapestry of shared experiences that would become the cornerstone of our familial identity.
Central to our family dynamic was the unwavering presence of my mom and dad.
We engaged in a myriad of activities, fostering a sense of togetherness that defined our shared existence. From holidays to vacations, birthdays, and Sunday night dinners, every occasion became an opportunity to strengthen familial bonds and create enduring memories. The essence of family, as imparted by my parents, became a guiding force, prompting me to perpetuate these traditions in the years to come.
When thoughts turn to Christmas, my mind conjures a vivid panorama of togetherness, happiness, and laughter, encapsulating the spirit of our family tradition.
The inception of this tradition was marked by a series of cherished rituals, commencing with the selection and decoration of our Christmas tree.
Our family, though not large, comprised six members—my mom and dad, my sisters Danielle and Jennifer, my brother Christopher, and myself. Residing in Louisiana, our favorite among the various states we had called home, our abode nestled in the countryside. A landscape dominated by what I believed to be giant Pixie-Sticks was, in reality, sugar cane fields.
The Christmas tree, a pivotal element of our tradition, embarked on its journey from our expansive backyard, which surpassed the expanse of two football fields combined. Here, my siblings and I followed my dad, traversing our own private enchanted forest. We reminisced about the wooden bridge, a site of our past fishing endeavors, and identified various trees—oak, walnut, pecan, and pine—ranging from diminutive to towering.
Choosing the perfect tree required patience, as we deliberated until reminded by my dad that Santa Claus bestowed gifts only upon the virtuous. Once back home, our living room became the stage for the tree's grand unveiling, positioned by the window, visible to all from the outside.
As the tree stood proudly, a tradition unfolded in a familiar sequence each year. While my dad set up the tree, my mother prepared popcorn, an essential ingredient for crafting garland strings. The decorations followed a specific order—lights, ornaments, popcorn garland, candy canes, and tinsel. Amidst the embellishments, my parents shared stories associated with each ornament, narrating tales from their marriage and our births.
Christmas anticipation heightened as my dad regaled us with nightly stories, with my favorite being the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Each night, he recounted the gifts he bestowed upon my mother, culminating in the twelfth day, a poignant tale of love won. Personalized stories, featuring all of us, became my dad's storytelling trademark.
While my mom busied herself in the kitchen baking cookies, I eagerly offered my assistance—limited to mixing eggs or adding sprinkles. The kitchen resonated with festive cheer as we prepared for Santa Claus, with cookies and milk awaiting his nocturnal visit. The crescendo of excitement reached its peak on Christmas morning, as my siblings and I, unable to contain our enthusiasm, rushed to the tree to discover Santa's offerings.
The joyous scene unfolded with perfectly wrapped presents, each bearing our names. The prospect of waking our parents was unnecessary; the exuberance of four children was an alarm in itself. The day unfolded in play, exploring new toys, and enjoying the Christmas parade on television.
Our Christmas dinner deviated from convention, eschewing the traditional turkey in favor of a feast with an Italian flair. My mom showcased her culinary prowess, preparing a medley of our favorite dishes—baked ziti, lasagna, cheese ravioli, and eggplant parmesan. We savored each delicacy, relishing the culmination of our festive day.
Post-dinner, the family gathered to watch "Miracle on 34th Street," solidifying the day's joyous spirit. In conclusion, I find myself cherishing these traditions, unwilling to alter a single facet. As I contemplate the future, the prospect of passing on these cherished rituals to my own family becomes a natural and cherished aspiration.
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