Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Traditions, by Gloria Hannigan

Christmas with my grandfather always meant the perfect Christmas tree.  He would spend hours cutting off branches, drilling holes in the tree and repositioning each branch until the tree was perfect.  My brother, sister and I would sit and watch him, yawning frequently, sometimes falling asleep, and being poked awake by each other, waiting for Grandpa to get the tree perfect so we could decorate it. 

My Mother put on the lights and her prize ornaments from Germany.  We were then allowed to add a few plastic balls and hang the icicles which had to be hung one at a time.  When I would get up during the night I would find my Mother still in the living room repositioning each icicle until the tree was a work of art.

When I had my own family the Christmas tree lost much of its perfection.  We never quite got the knack of how to choose a tree.  One year we could only get it to stand straight by tying a string around the tree and attaching it to the wall with a tack.  The tack gave way and the tree ended up on the kitchen floor.  This was the end for many of my mother’s precious ornaments that I had inherited. The rest were broken the next year when one of my sons received a clown punching bag as a gift. 

Need I say more?  I started my own tradition listening to Dean Martin’s Christmas album while trimming the tree.  This caused a lot of moans and groans when the children became teenagers.  One thing remained of my mother’s traditions, I still insisted on the icicles being hung one at a time.  I often found myself doing this alone as everybody got bored quickly and disappeared until the next meal.

When the children were grown, one of my daughters invited me to come and help trim their Christmas tree.  When she opened the door, I was delighted to hear Dean Martin singing, “I'll Be Home For Christmas”.

After the tree was trimmed I was appalled to see my two grandsons, three and four years, throwing icicles on the tree.  When my oldest grandson handed me a bunch of icicles, I looked into his shining laughing eyes, said quietly to myself, “Forgive me Mother”, and threw the icicles at the tree.


  1. Sometimes we are forced to throw in the towel on tradition to either give up or give in, it just makes life easier. But oh, those beautiful ornaments, now just memories on beautiful trees of past tradition.

  2. This story made me chuckle. Family traditions are the glue that holds us together sometimes, even when they don't go as planned.

  3. Gloria, Gloria, I love how you handle life's slippery slopes. I enjoyed your story very much!!!

  4. From Charlotte:

    We too used to hang those icicles one at a time, but my children have abandonded the tradition all together. Your story brought back a memory I had forgotten, thanks.

  5. From Kacie:

    Gloria,Gloria, Gloria,
    I guess when there are similarities in our life stories it always makes for good reading. My Mother also loved the icicles. I also tried to carry that tradition on. I don't know exactly how you did it, but this little story was a complete movie for me; and you know how I just love movies. You brought tears to my eyes. I almost couldn't finish reading because of all the tears. Your story was so heart warming; especially the last line where you said, "Forgive me Mother" and threw the icicles at the tree. Classic Erma Bombeck!
    God bless, Kacie