Yesterday, December 25th, has to mark one of the biggest days for tradition on my continent. Even this general time of year boasts countless holidays around the world.
A few weeks ago, I was talking about Christmas with my boss. She was telling me about her holiday traditions and asked me about mine. I brushed it off saying my family doesn’t do anything. We used to attend big, extended family dinners on my mom’s side, those shifted to Christmas parties which essentially waned. We haven’t had a big get together in years. There are reasons. I will spare you the details. On my dad’s side, we used to go to my grandparents’ house for dinner. We haven’t done that since I was little. Again, reasons.
As far as I was concerned, time had eroded our Christmas traditions, proving to me that the magic of Christmas can only be achieved during childhood.
On Monday, we were back on the holiday topic at the day job. I made a comment in passing about some chopped peppers a co-worker had given me, ones my mom was saving for our Christmas Eve nachos because we only ever have snack and finger food before the big meal on Christmas Day.
Can you spot the lightbulb moment?
Holidays, especially the granddaddy of them all, stress me out. I am an anxious soul who has seen too many Christmas dramas to sail through the season. Thankfully, this was one of the best Christmas’s I’ve had in a long time. Anyway, until the day was nearly upon me I didn’t think about the little things my mom always prepares.
My mom and I watch Scrooge every year. We can say the lines along with the cast, but that is irrelevant. We still howl with laughter at Marley, and we cringe at Scrooge when he flashes his maid trying to stand on his head.
This year we cracked open a bottle of wine, a true rarity in our house, but my brother, mother, and I drink out of the festive wineglasses each year even if they’re simply full of juice. They set the mood.
We always open our gifts together. Which means everyone has to be awake. I am notorious for being the last one out of bed and annoying the Christmas lovers who have been up for hours. Once everyone has had caffeine the presents are divvied and torn open. Stockings are done last.
Finally, after everyone has shown each other their goodies, thanks have been said, and the living room is returned to some semblance of order, my brother, my dad, and I get out of mom’s way as she gets dinner going. The cranberry sauce is traditionally my cooking addition. I help at the end with setting out food and whatever little thing I’m asked to do.
I’ll stop listing things now so I can actually get to a relevant point. All of these little things are foundational for my family’s Christmas celebration. They’re small but I couldn’t imagine the past two days without them. This, of course, got me thinking about characters. We talk about backstory all the time and I believe that traditions and rituals for every season mark people. I don’t know if I think about that when I’m learning about my characters.
Holidays are inevitably about family, either those you’re born with, those you assemble, or a mix of both. What my characters do on these days, and why, is an important question –a really revealing question– and one I will have to ponder into the New Year as I think about stories.