Now that we have the moping and whining out of the way, let’s talk about some actual family traditions, shall we?
Most of the Worley Family traditions are ones my Mom, Dad, and I cooked up ourselves. I can’t think of a single instance of any that were handed down from previous generations. But silly things we did sort of stuck and evolved some over the years, until we had our own little traditions. Some of them lingered on because they were fun. Others because they gave us comfort and continuity.
Halloween marked the start of “The Holidays” for us, so of course the first of our traditions involves the Jack O’ Lantern. I have carved one every year since forever. It didn’t really become important until I became a Pagan, though, because at that point, I started giving it a name and asking it to protect our home from mischief. My mother and I started letting off a smoke bomb in the Lantern every year prior to lighting when I was a teenager – and we would both look for different colored ones in July when the fireworks went on sale, and hoard those suckers until Halloween! After Halloween, my father would take my Lantern and place it in a special place at the top of his garden, where it could watch our home and where we could see it from the bathroom and kitchen windows. Even when I lived alone, I took my Jack O’Lantern home to Mom and Dad after Halloween. This year I was really sad to just throw him away.
My family didn’t have a particular style of decorating, really – we never had a theme or “colors” that I can recall. Mom would get on “kicks” of buying one thing for another that would last several years, and then she’d latch on to something else. For several years it was mostly things that we had painted; she started out buying kits that came with everything we needed, and then we just started looking for unpainted ceramics and buying different kinds of paint. At one point, it was it was nutcrackers and rocking/carousel horses that she loved – it seemed like someone bought her two or three every year. Then it was different kinds of Santas for a while – those were my favorite, and she built up quite a collection. Then it was angels. And then finally, snowmen. Of course, she never let go of any of her kicks completely and there are always pieces that make it out every year. Some of them found their way into our traditions, and we use them still. Others have been relegated to the far corners of the attic or given away to family members.
One of Mom’s favorite Santas was a floppy Santa doll dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans. He had a scruffy beard and scruffy hair, and held a tree in his arms that lit up with batteries. Because of his manner of dress, we referred to him as “Foley Claus,” since he reminded us a lot of Mick Foley, one of Mom’s favorite wrestlers. Mom still puts Foley Claus in a prominent place every year.
I talked about our love of DS9 in the last post, and included a photo where The Mad Ferengi Horse from Outer Space could be seen. I can’t for the life of me remember where he came from, but I suspect it was a little store in the mall called McCrory’s. I wish I had a close up photo of this guy to share! He was so hideously ugly it was kind of endearing. He was purchased as part of Mom’s short-lived obsession with rocking and carousel horses when I was a teenager. We call him the Mad Ferengi Horse because there are odd little ridges on his forehead and on the sides of his head that sort of make him look like a Ferengi from the Trek series we loved. It’s really too bad I don’t have a better photo of him. He became a much beloved fixture of our holiday decorations; when I was in college, I insisted he live on my computer desk because that’s where I spent the most time. When I moved out, I begged to be allowed to take him with me. He’s back at home now, where I hope Mom and Dad have set him out once again this year.
The white deer you can see in the last post sitting on my desk at work were another McCrory’s find from when I was younger. I love these deer. They sat either on my end table, my computer desk, or my office desk every year. Not only were they pretty, but they had special meaning to me as a Pagan; they were a small part of my new faith that blended in seamlessly with my family’s Christmas celebration.
Our tree was always way overfilled with ornaments. A lot of them were things that my siblings and I had made as children. My brother and sister, for instance, had painted a series of flat, wooden ornaments as part of – I think – a church project. Mom never failed to hang them. She always insisted on hanging the ugly lamb I pained in kindergarten, as well. I hated the thing because while I had painted it white (hello, it was a lamb) my teacher’s aid had come along and insisted I add some brown and yellow because otherwise, it didn’t wouldn’t look like I had painted it! We had several engraved ornaments from Wal-Mart. I had one that someone bought for me, and our dog Misty had one. There is a photo ornament of my sister and her family from the 1980s I think – her daughter is just a baby in the photo. I picked out kittens to hang on the tree, and an ornament I found at Wal-Mart of all places that’s a wizard and dragon in purple and gold. Then of course my dragons (there’s a photo in my last post) that Mom ordered for me. They’re all so different, yet each and every one has a story or a memory associated with it that makes them precious.
When I was a teenager I started buying my mother a new ornament every year. It began with a tiny porcelain doll that looked like a Victorian lady in a hooded cape. You can see her if you look closely at some of the photos. The following year I bought her a Coca Cola Polar Bear. And then after that, a series of ornaments with little white mice from Wal-Mart (I think there are three of them). The first year I worked full time, I snagged an entire set of snow-women online. Another year I was delighted to buy an adorable Rudolph ornament. Last year I found a store in New Orleans that sold nothing but Christmas decorations, so of course I bought her an ornament depicting Santa riding a big old crocodile! This year I chose a nutcracker and a gingerbread person from the Kennedy Center.
The first ornament to go on the tree, no matter what, was always Boo’s. Nothing else could go on until his had been placed. I tried to keep it near the bottom so he could see it and touch it with his head when he walked under the tree. I would always place it and then show him where it was.
If you’re as old as I am, you might remember when the fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Hardee’s, and Burger King would offer special stuffed animals at the holidays – Disney characters like Mickey, Minnie, Lady, and the dalmatians Pound Puppies and Purries; Muppet Babies; Crayola Bears; Hallmark Reindeer; the Purr-Tenders. I don’t think there were many of these I missed getting, to be perfectly honest. But only a handful made it into the Worley family’s Christmas tradition. In the above photo, you can see at least two of them: Baby Piggy came from McDonald’s (Kermit is close by somewhere for sure, though I can’t see him) and Rodney Reindeer came from Burger King. Maybe because I fondly remembered happy childhood Christmases shopping with my Mom and my aunt, playing with these toys in the backseat of the car with my cousin, they became part of our decorating each year.
Several times during the season my Mom and I would pile into the car and drive around looking at lights. Some of the families in our area would go completely overboard. There was one house in town that was so amazing, we made several trips to see it! The last was on Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget it, actually. We pulled over to the side of the road to sit and admire the house for probably the last time, when a little mint-green Cadillac pulls up beside us. And who do you think gets out and stands by the car to get a better view of the lights? Why Santa himself! I was fifteen or sixteen and I still thought this was the coolest thing ever.
When I was little Mom would let me open one present on Christmas Eve. I would get so excited about Santa coming, and opening one present helped to keep me from exploding. After my brother married and moved out, though, we started having the bulk of our holiday on Christmas Eve, and then he and my sister-in-law would spend Christmas Day with her family. At first, I’d still have to wait for Santa to deliver the gifts from Mom and Dad, but as I got older that stopped, too, and Christmas Eve became our major celebration. I did always leave my stocking til Christmas morning though. I enjoyed having something to look forward to, even if I was too old for Santa.
A tradition some folks might frown upon was my father’s doing. When I was a college student, and broke, and dating a deadbeat, he always, always went out and bought a carton of cigarettes for me. He knew it was the one thing I could always use, and as he was a smoker himself, he saw nothing wrong with buying them for his adult daughter. And he did enjoy wrapping them in neat ways. Usually with red velvet bows. He never wrapped each pack individually…but I think he might have eventually if I hadn’t quit smoking when I did.
At times, our Christmas Eves were really huge. My aunt and cousin would be there, along with my brother and either his wife or girlfriend at the time; for several years my fiance was a fixture. When Mom’s back issues got to be too much, my cousin took over the handing out of the gifts (it required a lot of sitting in the floor and reaching back under the tree). In later years, though, as my Mother’s health declined, it was a smaller affair.
So yeah, I might be Pagan and I might be somewhat gothy, but I have a lot of fond memories of Christmases and holiday seasons with my family. I hope you have enjoyed reading about them as much as I have reminiscing about them.
Also, thanks to Professor Z. Participating in Gothidays 2012 has made my season a little brighter.