Peggy Sanders
Oral, S.D.

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December 30, 2013
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Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles 12-28-13

How many times do you have to do something before it’s declared a tradition? Does the first year count as in The First Annual, Traditional whatever? If a year passes and the tradition is not observed is it dead?

Some years ago I started making cinnamon rolls when the first snowflakes fell on our farm. Although I make them at other times as well, the family began to appreciate the tradition, not because of custom but because they like the rolls. So they played along. It’s the only activity in our home that our boys ever seemed to recognize, and even call it, a tradition.

My birthday is December 12 and for as long as I can remember that was the day we went to my dad’s farm, cut a fresh cedar tree, and put it up. I always enjoyed the trek — picking out the “perfect” tree — which always had to be cut much shorter so it could fit in the house. My husband always complained about the same trek. So last year he talked me into buying an artificial tree. He said he felt bad about killing a tree every year, but really he just hated the search and seizure of the tree. Our daughter-in-law put up a very pretty artificial tree and that convinced my husband that would be the ticket. What he really meant was, he would not have to be bothered with putting up a tree as I could do the entire rigmarole by myself, and further, he said I could put it up as early as I wished or leave it as long as I wished. One year December 12 came and went with no tree assembly. For some reason, since we didn’t need to cut the tree, which was a huge part of the tradition, the date we put it up wasn’t such a focus. Between my birthday and Christmas, I had six book signing events for my new book and our younger son was married in Colorado. The tree never did get put up. On the bright side, the day after Christmas cleanup didn’t amount to much.

To me, Christmas is Christmas Eve, everyone together. That’s all. Christmas Day is just an afterthought. This was instilled in me as a tradition when I was a toddler. We had Christmas Eve at Gram’s house, a big dinner, and we got to open gifts, “As soon as we get the dishes done.” And that promise was kept.

My dad has two brothers and most years at least one of the brothers and his family, came to Gram’s for Christmas Eve. Sometimes we were all there. I still recall Gram and her three daughters-in-law crowded into her tiny kitchen, washing dishes by hand, laughing and enjoying Christmas. This tradition came to a screeching halt when my mom died when I was 10. Christmas has never been the same since because the adults in my life took it upon themselves to change it all. No longer was Christmas Eve the focus; suddenly it was Santa Claus and Christmas Day.

Now there are brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, married sons and daughters-in-law. This year we will have four “Christmases,” including Christmas dinners and gifts. We will have our fifth one on January 5. I don’t like it one bit but I doubt in my lifetime we will ever again have one Christmas, and have it on Christmas Eve. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Dec 26, 2013 01:25PM Published Jan 14, 2014 11:18AM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.