Archived Story

Welcome to Christmas in the empty nest

Published 9:48am Monday, December 12, 2011

Column: Something About Nothing

A tradition is a ritual or a belief passed down from generation to generation. We have family traditions, religious traditions, community traditions and national traditions. We are embroiled in the midst of the holiday season. Recently Yahoo finance had an article on holiday traditions that are fading away. That article brought back memories of the traditions we celebrated in my family. These faded traditions happened to be traditions that were part of my childhood memories.

It made me sad that some traditions are going by the wayside, but as I see my children developing new traditions that are meaningful to their family, I have had to accept that even old traditions fade with the newness of the world we live in today.

One of the six traditions that are fading is tinsel. Remember silver tinsel? All our live trees had tinsel. I loved to take a handful of tinsel and throw it into the air and see where it landed on the tree. I bet you guessed that the trees of my childhood after I decorated them did not look like the department store trees or the trees in the movies or on TV. The media trees were the trees where the tinsel was hung perfectly.

I do not think tinsel would have been the thing to use if you used an artificial tree. Tinsel has a life of its own and doesn’t remove from branches easily. What we didn’t know about tinsel was the fact that it contained lead and was flammable in its early years. In those days we weren’t so conscious of our pet’s stomachs either. Tinsel is very dangerous to pets. I do have to say I miss the sparkling tinsel of my childhood.

Another tradition that is leaving us is aluminum Christmas trees. I can’t say I am going to miss that tradition since I never was able to con my folks into buying one. One of the traditions of my family that holds wonderful memories was my uncle’s Christmas tree lot. A few weeks before Christmas we would pile into the car and drive to Mankato to my Uncle Dominic’s Christmas tree lot to find our perfect tree. It was a magical place for me because I would pretend I was in a magical forest. He had a large lot. It smelled of snow and pine and Christmas. To this day when I visit a Christmas tree lot I can see my uncle’s face and the joy he found in finding the right tree for his customers.

The real tree never found its niche in my home during my married life. We tried real trees. There seemed to always be a problem with the tree or should I say the tree straightener person that lived in my household. I would see straight one way and he would see straight another way. It took hours and a few choice words to agree. Arguing when putting up the tree seemed to be our Christmas tradition until we found the perfect artificial tree. The arguing tradition then turned to the correct way of attaching lights to that tree. We ended that tradition with buying an artificial tree that already has lights.

My husband, our children and I always spent Christmas and Christmas Eve with grandparents and relatives. We would attend church in the evening; have oyster stew and cheese, crackers and sausage for supper. Then mayhem would ensue as everyone opened their presents. We made sure everyone was in bed by 10 p.m. so Santa could arrive quietly.

As parents you wonder if any traditions would survive and be passed down to our family and our kids and I have to say, I don’t think any of them survived. At first it was hard to accept that possibly we had to share our children and their families with other outlaws like us. It is hard to meld traditions of two families so our kids created their own traditions.

Now my husband and I have settled in to a more quiet tradition. Most of our children spend their holidays with their family at their home. We are welcome to share their tradition if we choose. Usually we take turns each year at a different child’s house. There have been some years that we have spent Christmas alone.

I let my kids and spouses dictate when we are having family Christmas. It adjusts to their schedules and it works out well. I have a granddaughter that shares a birthday with Jesus on Dec. 25 so we always make sure we celebrate their birthdays, too.

I admit the first few times we spent Christmas without our kids I was a little blue but then I found the peace and beauty of Christmas Day quiet. It became a time to be thankful, a time to reflect and a time to rest and enjoy the quiet of the day. Some years we invite friends whose families could not be with them and some years are spent at friend’s homes. Once you throw out the expectations and embrace the change and accept new traditions there is peace.

Traditions are important. Traditions ground us and leave us with roots that go deep and leave lasting memories. Old traditions will fall by the wayside like the tinsel and silver trees, but new traditions will take their place and carry over to the next generation only to be replaced again by another generation wanting to forge their own tradition. We must respect that, rejoice in that, remember fondly the tinsel and silver trees and let them go so that we can move forward with peace and love and joy.


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at