Sunday, December 04, 2011

Alternative Christmas Traditions in the San Francisco Bay Area

My mom was always very good about getting up early, turning holiday music on, and cleaning on those weekends that lead up to Christmas.  Today I was reminding myself of my mother.

I wiped down counters, dusted shelves, windexed mirrors and sang along to the radio station 92.1's non-stop holiday music mix.  With a Christmas Tree scented candle perfuming my apartment, a whisk of childhood memories came flooding up.
 
I only know Christmas how the Donahoe clan celebrates it.  As I would get older, I would see that other families from other areas had their own unique traditions and experiments.   I can only write about my own.
 
Donahoe rule #1:
 
"Santa are your parents, okay? Now what do you want for Christmas?"
 
That's right, the Donahoe children never believed in Santa Claus and don't feel sorry for us because we got stuff anyway.  When I asked my mother later on about why we never did the Santa thing, she replied, "it was the 70's and you didn't lie to your children."
 
I remember my dad opening up a department store catalog and telling me, "circle what you want."   Now, I didn't get everything that I circled, but I knew that at least my wants would be heard. Who has time to write a list when you can just circle the picture?  I want two magic sets please! Abracadabra!
 
Donahoe Rule #2:
 
"You don't always have to wrap the presents."
 
One year, my parents, who were raising four children, decided they would just number the presents instead of wrapping them.  I believe I was "number four" for fourth-born.  On Christmas morning, they made us kids stay away from the tree until all the gifts were numbered.  Then we simply grabbed the boxes that had our numbers on them and opened them.  Oh, who has time to wrap presents when you have four kids?
 
Donahoe Rule #3:
 
"Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes."
 
One year my mother decided she didn't want to get a big tree, so she bought a small Charlie Brown type tree and put it on this shelf that was to the left of the entry way as you entered our house.  I gotta tell you, that truly bummed me out.  Our presents were put under this tiny tree.  I preferred the traditional 6 footer that my sister and I could crawl under and stare up at the lights.  You know, the kind of tree the cat could get its claws on and knock down all the ornaments.  Those are the best.  Fortunately, there was only one year we had a small tree.
 
Donahoe Rule #4:
 
"Do you really want presents? Wouldn't you prefer money instead?"
 
As we got older, and became four teens who were difficult to shop for, my parents started having "Money Trees". They would put money in envelopes with our names on them, and then hang them on the tree.   We all got the same amount once our loot was collected.  All I could think about was heading for the mall the next day so I could buy a brand new pair of Jordache jeans.  Oh, I was so cool.
 
Donahoe Rule #5
 
"Once you turn 18, you are knocked off the "You-automatically-get-presents" list."
 
Yup, now that we are all grown ups, we only give presents to the kids, which means my two younger nieces. My oldest niece is now 20 and she got kicked off the list two years ago.  She's fine.  She knew it was coming.
 
So now I get to shop for two teen girls this Christmas.  What should I get them? Should I just cut them a check and call it a day?
 
Happy Holidays.  What are your family's quirky holiday traditions?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1 comment:

Green Goose said...

Fantastic post! Did your parents know my parents in the 70's?

We have a charlie brown tree for the first time this year, SORT of, and only because the kids are not home to be bummed. LOL

How lovely to recall your Mom's Christmas habits while you feather your apartment nest, candle perfuming included. Enjoy every day this season!

Merry Christmas from Oklahoma!