Happy Holidays from the Addison Recorder! Because we’ve all pretty well versed in the pop culture universe, we decided to take a break and look at our favorite holiday traditions, looking and thinking about our personal favorites cultural experiences that come in the month of December. Party on.
Holiday traditions are strange things. My family doesn’t have a lot of them, at least
not centered around the winter holidays. I’m Jewish, and Hanukkah is kind of lame. I mean, we light candles and sing off-key songs about spinning dreidels and fighting off the Greeks, and we all acquired our fair share of grease burns making latkes, but we don’t have the same level of buy-in that most families do when you discuss “traditions.”
I married into some major holidays traditions. My husband’s family celebrates a very non-religious Christmas, but they take their family traditions seriously. There are foods we have to make (Chex mix, date balls, strawberry pie, stollen), and we go for an hour car ride on Christmas Eve to look at the holiday lights. Apparently, they used to use that as a way to put my husband and sister-in-law to sleep, and they never stopped. We have to sit at the top of the stairs, until called down on Christmas morning, and then we open presents one at a time, taking turns. Everything has an order, a way things are done, and my husband (not the most… ordered person) LOVES it.
Now that we’re not living with our families, our group of Chicago friends, including all the Recorder staff, have developed some of our traditions. The most important is our yearly pilgrimage to Quartino, an Italian restaurant with small plates. For two years in a row, we’ve managed to navigate a 15-20 person shared bill like adults. Now that, my friends, is #winning, and a tradition well worth keeping.
In my family, there are several films that get played almost every Christmas but there are two constants. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one because of a unique circumstance. It premiered in 1989, and one year later it was shown on television when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my brother. Since then, we’ve yelled “Shitter’s full!” and “Grace? She died last year!” every year and crack up. In contrast, the other is The Snowman, the silent, beautiful animated short based on Raymond Briggs’s picture book. If you’ve never experienced it, click here and settle in for 25 lovely minutes. And of course, we love Christmas music and listen non-stop, with Mannheim Steamroller as our perennial.
But above all, the Rostan family keeps growing as more cousins have babies, which ensures certain traditions–Christmas Eve masses, champagne breakfasts, massive beef dinners, and wine-fueled family gift exchanges–will not go away any time soon.
I actually failed at it this year <going through an uncertain time of unemployment will do that to you> but writing Christmas cards for everybody I know and love is a tradition I’ve carried over from growing up. Black Friday in our family was a time to look forward to – though not because of shopping. Right around eleven o’clock, stuffed full of leftovers, my mom would plop down a giant stack of Christmas cards and her trusty, beat-up address book. We would then go through the entire list of friends and families we’d be writing cards to – and when you stop to think about how many people you know well enough to write a Christmas card for, you can imagine how deep that stack of cards got. I carry on that tradition (this year excepting), and last year sent out nearly fifty cards to people all across the country. By doing this on Black Friday, it’s a sign that the Christmas/holiday season has finally arrived.
I also am a big fan of televised Christmas specials. Mine run the traditional gamut – Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty, etc. My personal favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I won’t talk a lot about it except that I’ve never heard the spiritual meaning of Christmas/the holidays summed up better than this little clip.
This might be simultaneously the most white girl hipster thing about my childhood and the most hillbilly thing. When I was a kid, every year my family would listen to NPR’s Christmas Eve music show. There are songs I always associate with that show, but our family’s favorite was “Merry Christmas From the Family,” by Robert Earl Keen. It starts out, “Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party,” and goes on to describe what sounds like the most thrown-together group of relatives at a family event. Choice lines include: “He brought his new wife Kay, who talks all about AA, chain-smoking while the stereo plays, ‘Noel, Noel, the first Noel.” My dad would hear it start on the radio and bellow up the stairs for us to come listen and we’d run down to catch it. It’s a hilarious song that also carries a sweet message of putting family first, love, and acceptance. Merry Christmas from the family.
There aren’t too many traditions in my family aside from the “try to get everyone together” variety. It doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that both my parents come from families so large each of which requires renting a hall for our holiday get-together. That said, there are two things that I can look forward to each holiday: fortified wine and pinochle.
Pinochle is a traditional card game that all the kids eagerly awaited being old enough to understand and play (cribbage, too). Fortified wine isn’t a tradition, per se, but after we moved to Chicago, my parents often would gift us a bottle of something (vin gløgg, cherry bounce) they’d found in Wisconsin. My native state may not be known for its wine, but it is known for its brandy, the ingredient that makes the libation “fortified.” Since then, I’ve started making my own gløgg, a practice that will definitely become tradition.