The other day I discovered that I mess with my children’s notions of Christmas traditions at my peril. That my children are all in their twenties does not seem to make a difference. They want Christmas as they remember it rather than allowing me to tweak or change things that I feel have become outmoded or past its sell by date. I had not realised that my actions as a young mother to make my life easier would have consequences for my older self!
My latest transgression involved the advent calendar. The calendar I use is the one my aunt gave me when my children were tiny. She sent it as a present from California as I had complained that UK advent calendars were not up to much (at the time they were very different to US ones and filled with cheap chocolate). My daughter who is now 26 was a babe in arms. It involves sticking Velcro backed musical instruments on to a tree of angels. When they were young, I put the instruments in the various pockets in a specific order to make it easier for me. Over the years about 5 have gone missing. This year, I decided as I was the person who would be doing the advent calendar, I would put them in random order and have the blank ones at the start. Cue outrage from my daughter who then texted my sons to complain — I had changed the tradition. Same advent calendar but it bothered her in a way I’d not anticipated. I am afraid she is going to have to deal with a new tradition as I find it fun and I am the one putting up most of the instruments, but I had not understood how important she felt the putting up in a specific order was.
I suspect that it is how traditions get started — people do things because it makes their life simpler at the time but then the reasoning behind the decision becomes forgotten and the action becomes written far larger than the originator intended.
As a historical romance author who has written about Christmas (the Victorian set A Christmas Wedding Wager and the Viking set Sent as the Viking’s Bride), I love investigating the traditions of Christmas — where they came from and what their first meaning were. It has long been my belief that one of the stronger parts of Christianity is its willingness to embrace different cultures and to allow them to celebrate in familiar ways. This certainly proved the case with the Vikings. We owe things like yule logs, wassailing, wreaths and the eating of ham/pork to them.
A Christmas Wedding Wager is set in early Victorian England just after Charles Dickens reinvented Christmas with A Christmas Carol and it was lovely to find out the why of certain British Christmas traditions. Having grown up near San Francisco, I used to go to the Dickens Christmas Fayre but the actual British Christmas I experienced when I first moved over here was very different. I will admit that at first I struggled because I thought (and sometimes still do) that Americans, particularly Northern Californians keep Christmas a more agreeable way. It took me a number of years to get my head around mince pies at every gathering, flaming Christmas puddings and iced Christmas cakes which are made months before as well as Christmas crackers with silly jokes and paper crowns. After 31 years of living here though, they have become part of my Christmas tradition, including the British way of wishing people a Merry Christmas.
I like to think the Christmas season is more enjoyable because of those long-standing traditions. And it is equally good that we are constantly adding new traditions or ways of celebrating as families grow and change.
However, you celebrate with traditions old, new and as yet undiscovered — may I wish you a Happy Christmas and a Joyous New Year.
More About Michelle
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods including Viking, Regency, early Victorian, and the Roman world. Born and raised near San Francisco, California, Michelle currently lives a few miles south of Hadrian's Wall with her husband, three children and menagerie of pets. An avid reader, she became hooked on historical romance when she discovered Georgette Heyer, Anya Seton and Victoria Holt in her school's library. Her website can be found at www.michellestyles.co.uk