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The good ol' days

The closer we get to Christmas, the more I find myself talking to people about their favourite memories and traditions.  Some are pretty standard: the presents, the tree, the food.

Every Christmas Eve, I’d watch It’s a Wonderful Life over and over.  Even with only a handful of stations available, you could pretty much watch it for nine hours straight if you kept changing the channel.

Meanwhile, my father immersed himself in every version of A Christmas Carol known to man.  From the Muppets to George C. Scott, Alaistair Sim to Bill Murray’s Scrooged, he watches it.

On the big day, Dad would come in and turn on that fire on the TV.  Meanwhile, our wood-burning fireplace remained unlit, filling up with wrapping paper.

Mom always made turnips which no one but she and I ate.  And every time the Christmas pudding was served, she’d relive the time my brother mistook the turkey gravy for the caramel sauce.

Today, the family now congregates at my house for the holiday.  I’m often busy all day on Christmas Eve and cook late into the evening.  Fortunately, I’ve discovered the joys of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir latenight specials while I peel potatoes.

But some people’s favourite traditions and memories seem to have little to do with Christmas.  I’ve heard about sloppy Joes, fondue parties and Scrabble marathons.  However, I was baffled that Die Hard could be a Christmas Day staple.  Those were thieves, not Santa’s helpers.

Bridget Jones’ Diary has become an annual network event too.  Add to that Love Actually, The Holiday, and The Last Holiday on various channels.  Yes, they’re certainly feel-good flicks set at this time of year.  But Christmas is barely an afterthought in these stories.

What happened to the holiday traditions we used to see touted on TV?  What would the Nelsons or the Beaver think?  And then I realized something.

We’re all so busy all the time.  Families are spread out across the country or further.  So on Christmas day, perhaps they like to curl up together in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa to extoll the sight of Bruce Willis.  Or maybe they try to kill each other on PlayStation 3 or their brand new Wii game.  Who am I to judge?

With a recent addition to my own household, Christmas morning will now include something new for me too:  a pee-run to the park and tossing a chew toy for half an hour before I mix the waffle batter for brunch.

The holidays are about family – in whatever form that may be.  And whatever activity brings them together is worth building into a tradition. 

This article originally appeared in December 2010.

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