When Paul and I got married, we both agreed we wanted a family long on traditions, especially when it came to major holidays like Christmas.
That first Christmas as a married couple sort of snuck up on us. We were new to Forsyth County.
My husband bought a little house in January, and I moved in during the honeymoon week in April 1990. All of the “newness” of moving away from Atlanta and adjusting to married life in general was amplified when I got pregnant with our first child after three months of marriage.
We couldn’t have been more thrilled, as both of us wanted a big family and hoped our children would be close in age. I always say God has a great sense of humor since our first two children are just 13 months apart, but I digress.
That first year when I finally began to think about Christmas, I realized we had absolutely no decorations. None.
That’s difficult for me to imagine as I think about the many containers we now have, carefully labeled with a ridiculous amount of ornaments, lights and such. Not only did we not have any decorations, we also had limited extra money.
My mother gave me this and that and I bought a few more things as I could. Our tree was on the small side, so that helped the ornaments not look so paltry. Of course, I bought a few baby ornaments for our soon-to-be firstborn.
Not having any ornaments that first year gave me an idea. I decided to buy an ornament or two each year for our children, and then when they moved into their own homes, I would give each child a box filled with them. The first of many new traditions was born.
Having four children in less than seven years means there was so much chaos in our early marriage it took a while to decide on and adopt various traditions.
One year I was at the emergency room with an asthmatic child on Christmas Eve. She was just a baby and had been so sick. I was a complete mess and am sure many of our traditions were skipped that year.
Another year I wasn’t feeling well and ended up having a fever Christmas Day.
Still, even with a few particularly rough years, we managed to keep certain traditions. One of our favorites has always been Christmas Eve dinner.
The first few years of marriage, we put the babies to bed and celebrated by cooking and eating one of our favorite foods, lobster. Of course, Paul had to add a steak to the meal. That gave us the idea to always let that meal be everybody’s choice of whatever they wanted.
Along the way there had to be a few rules added. We settled on four food items that could not be dessert, and they had to be things we could get within reason.
It was so cute when the older kids were finally old enough to participate. They chose hilarious combinations such as hot dog, sushi, French fries and ravioli.
As they got a little older, they would ask for a hamburger from one fast food place and sushi from a Japanese restaurant. On Christmas Eve, Paul would pile the kids into the car and drive all over Cumming fulfilling their orders, while I stayed home and did last-minute wrapping and cooking for our dinner.
As our children aged, their requests became more sophisticated. Filet mignon, chicken piccata, fettuccine Alfredo and chicken parmesan all made the menu at one time or another.
Then the older children began inquiring what we were going to make for our special dinner. It didn’t take long before they said, “We will just have what you and dad are having.”
This Thanksgiving Day, as we sat down to that enormous meal, we took time to discuss the Christmas Eve menu. After some discussion, we all agreed to king crab claws, Caesar salad, baked brie … and Paul added steak.
As always, having all of us together was the most special thing, and I am so thankful our older two will be home for Christmas.
What are some of your family’s special holiday traditions? It’s never too late to add new activities. Why not think of some fun things you can implement this holiday season?
Feel free to e-mail me. Just remember, the memories you make are truly priceless.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.