Tag: Group Writing December 2017 Holiday Traditions

Lights in the Darkness


When I was a child and my grandfather was still living, he would go mad for Christmas. It was his favorite time of year, and he and my grandmother would bedeck the entire inside of the house with Christmas decor (no outside lights, though, save for a green bulb in the lamp post). There was a small tree on an end table in the living room upstairs, Perry Como and Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols on the turntable in the guest bedroom, softly wafting through the house, and the giant tree in the basement den by the electric fireplace, near the pool table. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, whenever we visited (which was often), my sister and I would run down to the basement and gawk at the tree with its growing mound of gifts underneath, all shimmering under the multi-colored lights from the tree, in the darkness of that basement den.

At home we would have up our tree with our own lights. Ours, unlike Grandpa’s, was a real tree in our living room — my grandmother forbade real trees after that one year (probably 1956 — Grandma could hold a grudge) where their tree had shed needles too quickly and too soon. But our own presents never appeared before Christmas morning. That tree was lit from morning until well after we all went to bed, in a room that was usually unlit as it was mostly “for special” (i.e., guests), and the glow from it was magical and quiet, holding the promise of Christmas day. It would stay lit at least through New Year’s and our return to school, after which it would just vanish when we departed.

Sunset on the Solstice

Festivus – A Family Tradition


I didn’t know until today that Festivus, celebrated Saturday, Dec. 23, wasn’t just made up for the TV show “Seinfeld,” but was an honest-to-goodness family tradition of one of the show’s writers, a tradition the other writers had to talk him into using in a television script.

According to O’Keefe family legend, the first Festivus occurred in 1966 to commemorate when Daniel Lawrence O’Keefe, the father of the Seinfeld writer (also named Daniel), took Deborah, the woman who would soon be his wife and mother of his children, out on their first date. Rather than busting out a Festivus pole (which was invented for the Seinfeld script), the O’Keefe family’s yearly celebration involved nailing a bagged clock to the wall – a ritual whose purpose, O’Keefe Sr. darkly told his children, was “not for you to know!” – and wearing silly decorated hats, including a Viking hat with Play-Doh horns.

Delivering the Treats


Photo from 1980.

As I read other people’s traditions, I realize that my family wasn’t original, but taking treats to others remains a significant part of our holiday celebration. When I was a kid, my mother was the giver. Here is a paragraph from an essay I wrote for her birthday one year: