Yesterday afternoon I was traveling store to store with my list. It was all of the things that I needed to pick up to finish my Christmas preparations. I was in the grocery store running down my list when it struck me how many Christmas items on my list were from my family of origin. I looked at that list, nuts, apple cider, egg nog, box of chocolates, chips, dip...... it was that poke in the shoulder reminding me of the legacy that my parents have given to me. I lovingly collected my ingredients, little nostalgic smile upon my face.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money. My dad worked hard from morning until literally night. We did not have a lot of money, but we always had what we needed. Mom was a stay at home mom, and Dad picked up as many over time shifts as he could, and so because of that we did not get to see as much of him. We looked forward to Christmas, not just for the gifts, but because we knew we were guaranteed two whole weeks with our Dad. Dad's factory shut down for Christmas, and so we had him. Dad would go out and play in the snow with us, and Mom would have hot chocolate waiting for us when we got in (I guess that's where I get it from).
At Christmas our whole house would always smell amazing, because Mom would be busy baking her brains out. Her specialty was / is Scottish Shortbread. My sister and I would try to steal the bits that were cut wonky, or did not quite turn out. Baking meant / means love, and it means that Christmas will be a good one. We always had a box of clementines, in that little wooden crate. Mandy and I would fight to see who would get to keep the crate when the clementines were finished. Those little wooden crates became doll beds, barns, houses. We would toss the clementine rinds into the wood stove, enjoying that warm citrusy smell.
The best part about Christmas was the nuts. Nuts were an extravagance. My poor Dad would sit cracking walnuts, and the rest. He had a very organized pattern, that I took full advantage of. He would sit for what must have been fifteen minutes, shelling the nuts, creating this beautiful pile. I would wait until I saw that look in his eye, that look that was a mixture of triumph and boredom. That look was my signal to swoop in, that look said he was just about to enjoy eating all of that hard work. I would sit like a little hawk, waiting for that look. I would then swoop in and grab that beautiful pile, squealing "Thank you for shelling all of these nuts for me Daddy." I would then run like a large squirrel with my stash and savour those stolen treats of the season. Dad's hard work, tasted delicious. Somehow the fact that they had been pilfered, made them taste all the better. Stolen nuts mean Christmas to me.
So many of my family's Christmas traditions come from my family of origin. They are so ingrained, that I never think about where they come from, it's just "part of the season". Over the years Christopher and I have added to those traditions, adding to the old, creating the new for our family. There is a comfort in the old. I wonder how many of those traditions are not just Mom and Dad's but also Nana and Papa's? I guess that we all do that. We take what we love from our family and use it to build new traditions with our new families.