Sunday, December 24, 2006


As the popular song proclaims, “It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” Like so many others, we have family traditions that makes this season so special and meaningful. In our case, we blended traditions that we grew up with and started new ones as a family.

One tradition that we had was making a gingerbread house. It was a messy, sticky, and gooey process but every year we enjoyed the houses that we built. Part of the fun was eating the “building” materials as we built, and the four of us each decorated our side of the house to suit individual tastes. Fortunately, my wife took care of the front and it, of course, always looked the best.

After years of being “homebuilders,” we dropped that and picked up a new “family togetherness” tradition — chocolate making. We perfected our process after a lot of trial and error. The kids loved making candy for their friends using their favorite molds. Recipients were always impressed with their gifts and the kids never revealed how easy it really was, once you knew what you were doing.

My role in the process was to handle product distribution; I moved the filled molds to and from the refrigerator and made sure they didn’t stay in too long. Other jobs that I lost to the more skilled workers included melter, pourer, and extractor. Everyone else seemed to handle these responsibilities with more expertise than I. Now that there are only two of us making the chocolate, I still specialize in the refrigerator runs. By the way, if you start this tradition in your home, note that there are two drawbacks: first, you tend to sample too much of your product, and second, the house smells like chocolate longer than you will want.

Another tradition is our ornaments. Each year, everyone gets an ornament that has some special meaning for that year. It’s fun to spend some time pondering just what will be the right ornament to give. The nice thing about this tradition is the kids have a collection of ornaments that they can use on their family tree and each ornament has special meaning.

As the kids were growing up, it was also our tradition to spend the holidays with their grandparents. One year, we would spend Christmas with my wife’s parents here in North Carolina, and then go the next week to my parents in Pennsylvania. The next year, we would reverse the order, and then the next year everyone would come to our home. The pattern pretty much held except for those years we were in Hawaii.

Christmas in Hawaii is a truly unique experience and added a new tradition. Not only did the temperature being in the 80s make it different, but spending part of the day on the beach made it special. Santa Clause, in his short sleeve and short pants suit, roams the beach tossing candy to the kids and wishes everyone ‘Mele Kalikimaka’, Merry Christmas. Santa knows how to surf, parasail, and snorkel and it’s not unusual seeing him enjoying the day engaged in recreation. My young daughter fully understood that he was just relaxing a little after working so hard all night.

Shopping for just the right gift is also a family tradition. I participate two ways. First, I respond to questions about what is the right gift for family and friends. Second, I buy a present for my wife. Fortunately, my wife understands that I hate shopping so she doesn’t force me to do any. I’m a buyer, not a shopper. I hate going into the malls, and especially at this time of year.

As a buyer, I identify what I want and go buy it. I make every effort to buy locally, and I will admit that I now do more and more of it online. I will go to my three favorite “toy” stores, you know, the two home improvement places and the one that sells Craftsman tools. It’s not shopping when you go to those places, it’s just conducting a survey prior to buying. My wife swears that I just refuse to say that I was in fact “shopping,” but I continue to hold my ground.

Well, I realize that I am very fortunate to have a wife who won’t force me to go shopping and is so understand of my “hang up,” as she defines it. So in the spirit of the season, we continue our traditions and our well-established roles that have served us well these almost 39 years.

And in the spirit of the season, I wish one and all much peace, joy, and happiness and a wonderful holiday in the tradition that you practice. For those who share my belief, I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!

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