December 23, 2012, New York: At home in Washington, we buy a little tree that looks full-sized from the street below when we place it on the table in the window of our second floor apartment. We hang our stockings on the fireplace and carry the tree home from Eastern Market in early December so we’ll have time to enjoy it before heading out of town. We decorate with ornaments our moms have sent us — pinecone owls we made in elementary school, miniature mice and horses collected in our childhoods, meaningful additions gathered along the way. We top the Christmas tree with an ornament of the Capitol Dome that my dad picked up long before we moved to the neighborhood and made it our own.
The neighborhood lights its own Christmas tree around the same week the city hosts its more prominent, televised tree lightings. Santa arrives for a photo shoot with the kids on Barracks Row, and before leaving town to see our families, we dine there at Belga Cafe, a restaurant we reserve for special occasions like getting in the spirit of the holidays. Over mussels and steak frites and brussel sprouts with bacon, we discuss the gifts we still need to buy and the items on our To-Do list not yet checked off. Just a few more days to pack it all in.
We race through the work week and hit the road. Venturing up the Northeast Corridor, we listen to the audio version of our favorite story from David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice.” Having not heard it in 365 days, we laugh as hard as we did the first time. It’s becoming tradition.
When we get there, we’ll open presents Christmas Eve and my mother will tell us her New Year’s resolution is to finish cross-stitching my stocking that hangs unfinished among the others, the project she started the year I was born. We’ll watch Christmas Vacation and play Scrabble and listen to Bruce sing Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town and sit around the firepit, the boys smoking cigars.
Slowly and surely, we build traditions into our families, our neighborhoods, and our homes.
Are there certain holiday traditions that play an important role in your family and home? Share your seasonal customs in the comments section below.
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