Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The afternoon before Thanksgiving found me sprinting the aisles of the market, on the hunt for cranberry cheese, sparkling wine and a very specific colour of candles.  That last item was, I realize, a symptom of the dreaded disease of perfectionism but as I did find the colour I needed ( the precise hue of a ripe blood orange, to be exact) I refuse to waste time thinking about it.  I was making my way to the checkout lane when my phone rang.  Fishing it out of my pocket and placing it to my ear, I was tickled to hear the voice of an old friend.
  “Happy Thanksgiving!”, he said.  “I”m on my way to the wine shop. Where are you?”  
We proceeded to compare our list of holiday chores and then I asked him if the “green stuff” had been made as yet. 
 “Oh yes”, he replied.  “The green stuff is in the refrigerator”
 And we both laughed.  
The green stuff, as it is affectionately called, is part of his family’s holiday tradition.  It is a congealed salad - marshmallow filled and lime flavoured - the sort of concoction that is frequently found on the holiday tables down here in the south.  I have always found it to be an acquired taste, and one I myself was never quite able to manage, a sad quirk of my personality that caused relatives round the tables of my childhood to shake their heads and wonder at the oddness of my palate.  But to my friend, it is a tradition set it stone and it simply would not be Thanksgiving without the green stuff. 
Though congealed salads do not grace my holiday tables, I do have a gaggle of traditions I could never part with.  I never think of myself as dictatorial about these personal customs of the festive season, but I will admit that The Songwriter often chuckles during the opening scene of the holiday classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street, when Santa is walking down the street and spies a chap decorating a holiday window.  Santa stops, gazing in at the man and his work.  Then he frowns, finally rapping sharply on the window.  “You’re making a mistake”, he says loudly.  “You’re making a mistake with the reindeer.  You’ve got Cupid where Blitzen should be.  And another thing... Donner’s antlers have got four points instead of three.”  
When I ask The Songwriter why he finds this particular scene amusing, he looks over at me indulgently and smiles.  
Surely I’m not that bad.
Now is the season for traditions and I believe they serve us well, providing a comfortable continuity that allows us to feel all is right with the world.  They are the creators of family legend and we jettison them at our peril.  Each of us has our own set of traditions, personal and precious, and to alter even one can seem so strange, like wearing someone else’s clothes.  For instance, one year The Songwriter and I decided to open a present or two on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning, as was our life-long habit.
  It felt exceedingly weird and we never did it again.
Each year our main tree is purchased from the same tree lot down the street.  It comes home with us the day after Thanksgiving, without fail, and we put it up over the weekend. 
 The antique nativity scene always goes in the bookcase in front of the Egyptian mural, a blending of historical locales that matters not a bit to us.  
The first batch of fudge is always made with Bing Crosby singing in the background, and the first presents are wrapped to Vivaldi. 
Fir wreaths are hung on the inside of the windows, tied into place with embroidered bows. 
We always watch The Bishop’s Wife at least once, by the light of the Christmas tree, with mugs of hot chocolate warming our hands.
On Christmas Eve we listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
I could never entertain the idea of doing any of these things differently.
Sometimes I think of spending Christmas in London, in a quintessentially English hotel room, with snow falling softly outside my window and a fire roaring in an old stone fireplace.  At three 0‘clock On Christmas Day I would walk to evensong at Westminster Abbey, in a red coat with a black velvet collar.  I would indulge in the grandest of afternoon teas and I would open one perfect present at midnight. 
 Could I scrap all my home-grown traditions for such a trip as this? 
 Believe it or not, I’m not sure I could.  
Anyway, Christmas morning without Edward is unthinkable.