Somerville, Mass – The twins brought home a worksheet from school that we were supposed to fill out and return. Some of the questions included:
My family members come from these countries ____________________________________
During the holidays, we celebrate _______________________________________________
A special food that members of my family like to prepare is ___________________________
A special holiday tradition in my family is __________________________________________
I was sort of flummoxed by this assignment. In fact, at first I ignored it.
The twins are mutts–with roots in many different European countries, none of which we have any tangible connection to. My holiday pastimes (though beloved) are the same generic American traditions that are practiced at so many other households.
And even those traditions–Christmas trees and candlelight church services–are problematic for my children. The twins had never spent a Christmas at home, so they had never had a Christmas tree or gone to Christmas Eve service at our church. We have spent the last two Christmases in Costa Rica, where we partook of some great holiday rituals. But I’m not sure they are going to stick. We were unlikely to be roasting marshmallows on Christmas Eve or riding the Christmas train in Somerville this year.
Anyway, I tried to ignore the kids’ assignment from school, thinking that the twins could learn about other, more interesting and better established traditions from their classmates.
But then the worksheet was sent home again. I guess we were not going to get out of it.
So… we narrowed down our heritage down to three countries; we picked out a couple of traditions from years past, even though I’m not sure we will be repeating them any time soon; and we sent the worksheet back to school.
I never heard about what became of those worksheets in the classroom, but it got me thinking about how different it is to celebrate Christmas in another country. Not only because the traditions have to be re-imagined. But mostly because there is so much less hype. Less shopping. Less decorating. Less cooking. Less socializing. Less present-giving.
I love all that stuff, I really do. And because we have not done it in five years, we were really looking forward to Christmas in the pink house. We hung up lots of lights. We organized caroling outings. We made our own Christmas cards. We cooked a goose for Christmas dinner.
But I found myself thinking wistfully about last year in Costa Rica, which was still special, but so much simpler. I think we did all of our shopping, wrapping and cooking on Christmas Eve day. That was the same day that we casually mentioned to the twins that Santa would be coming that night. Imagine planning and executing Christmas in two days?
A few weeks ago, I posted about Somerville’s penchant for over-the-top Christmas lights. After reading the post, my dad reminded me that in Costa Rica, the twins would get equally excited when they spotted single strands of colorful lights strung along little cottages in Tico villages. No less joy, but so much less kilowattage.
Anyway, it’s been a great holiday in the pink house. It has been a thrill to share Christmas traditions–our Christmas traditions–with the twins, especially as they are now old enough to start appreciating them. But I hope that we are able to hang on to some of the simplicity from years past, too.
And if that means we have to go back to Costa Rica next year, well, so be it.