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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Reese Kusza

New Traditions, Christmas Edition

I am guilty of watching far too many corny Christmas movies this month.


For years, they were broadcast as special television events (and one didn’t have to pay for them), but I cannot complain about the convenience of streaming sans commercials. 


It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas and as many Rankin/Bass productions as I can find.


A Christmas Story (including the most recent A Christmas Story Story), The Snowman, Love Actually, Elf.


Who can forget Alistair Sim in Scrooge or George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol? Both scared the bejesus out of me until I was well into adulthood.


The Waltons (of course) always had a Christmas episode as did most family dramas and sitcoms.


Gen Xers say Gremlins and Die Hard are Christmas movies, but I didn’t care for either, then or now.


My favorite Christmas movie is A Child’s Christmas in Wales, based on the Dylan Thomas poem. The mid-80s Welsh production wove the modern-day story of a grandfather reminiscing to his grandson about Christmas “when I was a boy” with depictions of Edwardian middle-class festivities in an idyllic seaside village.


It was the story of the sort of Christmas I wanted as a child, but never really had apart from a few similar traditions (carols and roasted potatoes, mostly) that survived migration to the United States over the course of 400 years.   


I tried to recreate what I imagined to be a proper Christmas with my own children and managed to do so, for a time, even though extended family dynamics required three separate celebrations. 


My own divorce resulted in the absurdity of children being shuffled from one house to another the week between Christmas and New Year’s.   


In spite of that, we continued to hang stockings, read The Nativity and The Night Before Christmas and watched many of the same films, including a DVD of A Child’s Christmas in Wales that has long since disappeared.


There were new, more politically correct “holiday specials” with Little Bear singing to trees and Frosty the Snowman pontificating about global warming, but, thankfully, Arthur and Veggie Tales still paid homage to the Reason for the Season.


Lack of funds prevented us from having particularly lavish Christmases and no one was spoiled with a PlayStation or iPhone.  However, there were, over the years, a few battery-operated puppies that barked and kittens that purred and, once, an animatronic pony. (What was I thinking?)


Santa only brought one present so, no matter how broke I was, he always came and anything above and beyond was from generous relatives.


The kids reassured me that it was ok.


“It’s not about the presents, Mum,” they said.  “It’s about the food.”


We ate meatballs and pierogies and shrimp cocktail and Wassail on Christmas Eve and then a somewhat traditional Christmas lunch of roast beef and potatoes and onions and carrots and sprouts and Yorkshire puddings.


I’ve done turkey and brisket as well, but always Yorkshire puddings.


Christmas night, I would have my one glass of port and the kids would make fun of me for getting a little weepy over A Child’s Christmas in Wales


I can’t help it. Dylan Thomas is brilliant.


This year, my younger daughter is cooking at her place Christmas Day and has asked me to bring only soda bread.  I am also supplying Christmas crackers (the party favors filled with paper hats and jokes, not the ones that go with cheese). 


I’ll visit my son in the nursing home on the way and, because of the driving, skip the port (too much sugar anyway).  


I will be a little nostalgic about the far too few Christmases I had with my children in our own house.


But, at the end of the night (to paraphrase Dylan Thomas), I will say some words to the close and holy darkness and sleep.



 

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