We’ve had a number of Christmas traditions over the years. I remember my mom making a killer turkey and my dad teasingly asking if the potatoes were real (as opposed to instant). We’d open our gifts on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve because I believe that’s how Santa wants it. And while opening gifts, we’d nibble on the best brioche ever baked by our friend Kay Leclerc. The only gift we’d receive on Christmas Eve was a pair of pajamas. (I think that was because Mom wanted us looking good for any photos taken on Christmas morning.) We’d often put on our new jammies and then Dad would read “The Night Before Christmas” to us. In recent years, I’ve loved watching my children sing in the church choir during the Christmas Eve service. They’re dressed in their Christmas finest and sometimes they even let me comb their hair.
But the tradition that most stands out to me is something that my family started when I was probably a teenager and continued well into my adult years. It started with a trip out to the car. The five of us: Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother and me would pile into whatever Buick my dad owned at the time. We’d drive from neighborhood to neighborhood looking at the light displays. I remember some nights it was so cold that we had to keep wiping the windows to stop them from fogging up. The drive always ended with Dad’s favorite part, driving down the busiest streets in town to see how deserted they were. Looking at the parking lot of West Acres that, hours earlier, was filled with cars, now nearly empty. There’d always be a couple of cars left. We always speculated why. Were they stranded with dead batteries? Left behind because the driver got a ride with someone else? We always guessed but never knew.
As soon as our drive was over we’d go inside and put on our pajamas. Then we’d pop in our tape (yes, videotape) of “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times we’ve seen it. We know all of the songs by heart. I don’t remember ever getting bored. I didn’t love that song that Betty (Clooney) sings after she left Vermont to sing in New York City. She’s mad at Bob (Crosby) and she sings a song raking him over the coals. She frustrates me because poor Bing or Bob or whatever (I’m pretty sure Bing wasn’t acting much in this movie. Bob is pretty much Bing if you ask me) had no clue what he did to make her mad. But the rest of the music is out of this world good: “Sisters,” and “The Best Things Happen while you’re Dancing” are my personal favorites. Every year, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen’s dancing makes me happy. One of my Christmas joys for sure!
As the movie came to an end, some of us would have fallen asleep on the floor, usually my brother in law. But most of the time we savored every last minute. Then we’d be off to bed. In recent years, the tradition has waned a bit. Our family grew. Too many of us to ride in one car. We moved to different houses and had kids of our own, so it wasn’t easy for all of us to hunker down and watch a movie. But maybe this year, we’ll bring it back. I think we owe it to Bing, Rosemary, Danny and Vera.