Before I launch into my thoughts on traditions new and old, I’ve finally figured out a replacement nickname for “The Boy” (rejected because it made me sound kind of creepy apparently) He is henceforth “Jarak” after a character from the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Stephen Erikson. If he’s any character ever, he’s Jarak. In the same vein, I’ve found a suitable pseudonym: “Seren“, another character in the series.

One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot while reading A Practical Wedding is the importance of creating new traditions while holding on to the ones that are important to you.

In my family I’m kind of the tradition-keeper, the one who gets grumpy if we don’t do certain things for special occasions. The biggest traditions are around Christmas: the angel in the tree, the silver and gold wire garlands, marking off the days on the felt advent calendar that my aunt made for us, etc.  Between the ages of 3 and 25, we did Christmas at home, just the 5 of us. There are traditions and orders of events around stockings, and food and all sorts of things, that even after my parents split up, I tried to keep going. I hosted Christmas two years running at my apartment in Boston. It was central to everyone, with my middle brother in NYC and my youngest brother home for break at my dad’s house in NH, and my mom in a constant state of flux and moving every 6 months.

The first year was the hardest. I was trying to make everyone happy and trying to accommodate everyone that I ended up snapping at my brothers and being awful. I also had a major breakdown and spent the next 2 weeks recovering emotionally from it.  The second year was slightly less hard, but I vowed never to do it again. My mom said at one point during dinner “maybe this is the last time we do this” and she was right. Too much emotional baggage. I had to accept that my Christmases and by extension my family were never going to be the same and move on. It was after that second Christmas at my apartment that Jarak invited me to come to his family’s Christmas the next year. We had been together for all of 6 months at that point, but I said yes.

So last year I had Christmas without any of my immediate family, only my “adopted” family. (I think I’ve said that I’ve been part of this family for 10 years, because anyone who spends enough time around Collegiate Best Friend or any of the other siblings in this family, and you get adopted by Mom. So she’s been my second mom for 10 years, I’m practically family anyway.) They do family Christmas the day before driving down to York,PA to spend time with her family of origin. It was interesting to watch what another family has in terms of traditions. Theirs are calendars and ornaments for everyone, at least one toy, and at least one gag gift. I got a matchbox car Crown Vic taxi that said “Jarak’s Taxi Service” on it, because I didn’t have my car at that point.  I felt so welcomed and so loved it was amazing. And then we piled into the cars the next morning and drove 6 hours down to York to do Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas there with their big family. It was lovely. Overwhelming, but lovely. I discovered the joy of Red Beet Eggs.  We went to midnight service at the Lutheran Church that much of the family attends for Christmas Eve service with candles and carols. I was not prepared for Big Lutheran Service, coming from a combination New England Congregational and godless heathen background. Much more pomp and glitter than I’m used to in a Christmas eve service, but I got to hear Jarak sing for the first time and couldn’t stop giggling because his voice is so low it vibrates the church pews. The next morning,  I called my brothers and my parents and talked to them, which was a bit surreal, to not see them on Christmas. There was only one thing missing from my Christmas last year: Stockings.

Stockings are a big deal in my family. I don’t know if it’s the New England in us, or the British heritage, or what, but they’re a Big Deal. There are things that are always in stockings in my family: an orange or clementine, a chocolate orange (Whack and unwrap!) pens/pencils/art supplies, smoked fish or oysters in a can, some sort of toy and fantastically useful socks. A mix of useful and goofy usually. I realized last year that I really missed having a stocking. So I decided that this year I would make sure I got my stocking. I procured chocolate oranges before I moved because I didn’t know if I could get them out here. Three days before Christmas I spent far too much money on stocking stuffers for myself and Jarak, but I had so much fun getting them. The notable, very “us” addition to this year’s stockings? Punching pens. The pens with the little character that has two levers on the back to make the arms work. He got Santa, I got a Snowman. (Me bopping Jarak in the nose with a Gorilla punching pen after getting it with Skee-Ball tickets was the first big flirty thing I did that let him know I liked him.) I even bought him a stocking. It’s black. 😀 My hope is that we can continue this and have our own little Christmas tradition before going and re-joining the craziness that is his grandmother’s house on Christmas.

The other family tradition that I’ve pulled him into is going to Sheepdog Hill for Easter and then jumping in the ocean. When you can convince someone to jump into the North Atlantic in April, you know it’s love.

I got to be part of his family’s New Year’s day dinner of pork roast and sauerkraut. His dad does Big Meals and is an excellent cook. I certainly can’t complain.

We’ve also created our own traditions around gifts and birthdays. For Christmas we seem to have gotten into a pattern of giving each other something that the other really wants, but won’t spend the money on themselves. He got me a car adapter for my iPod, and I gave  him a book on Sacred and Healing Beers, which he has been tearing through since he got it.  We’d rather go somewhere together and eat a fantastic meal or have delicious beer or have an adventure for our birthdays and anniversary than give a gift that we then have to store. Two years ago we went to Burlington VT for a brewery tour for my birthday/valentine’s day. We’re talking Lake Placid this year.

What new traditions have you adopted/created?