Ahhh, Christmas Traditions by Angela Rieck

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Christmas is an intoxicating holiday because it appeals to all of our senses.

We are dazzled by the bright lights, decorations and colorful ornaments sprinkled on Christmas trees, wreaths, boughs and tabletops. Brightly wrapped, carefully selected presents remind us that we are loved. No longer limited to red and green, Christmas brings a myriad of bright colors to the winter’s gray landscape.

Our other senses are stimulated, as well, the mingling aromas of baking, evergreens and assorted spices. Christmas sweaters, scarves and hats and cackling fires surround us with warmth. In any store or home we can hear jingling bells, holiday music and sometimes carolers. Parties offer intoxication and laughter as a relief from daily routines. And, of course, delicious Christmas sweets and traditional meals are recreated to celebrate our memories of holidays past.

It is my favorite holiday.

Every year my nostalgic (which really means edited) memories of happy times are recreated. I cherish memories of how our home was filled sweet aromas, warm fires, music all celebrating the season of happiness.

When I married my Jewish husband, we added his traditions, Hanukkah. Our daughter was born on December 21st, so we had another reason to celebrate …and we went crazy. We realized that we had gone too far when one day our 3-year-old daughter woke up and just asked, do I get a present today?

So we scaled back Hanukkah, instead of a nightly present, she got a present on the first night and we lit the Menorah and said the blessing on the other nights. Hanukkah, I learned, is a much more civilized holiday, children love lighting the candles and giving children a single present each night allows them to enjoy it and anticipate the next one.

My husband was intrigued by Christmas, it was something that he had only imagined. Because he grew up in the 50’s, he had to sing Christmas carols at public schools, but other than that, his face was pressed against the glass at Christmas.

Bring in a Christmas fanatic. He was a good sport about it, he put up the Christmas lights (we used to joke about the Jew having the best Christmas lights). While he did it for me, I think that he secretly enjoyed it. He was perplexed by the constant activity, I baked and baked and decorated and we entertained and built our own traditions. But mostly he was bewildered by Christmas day, watching a child tear through so many presents looked like chaos.

Soon he learned about the other Christmas traditions. Using ladders under treacherous conditions to put up and take down Christmas lights. The annual fight over getting the Christmas tree straight. The extra pounds that we needed to lose in January. The Christmas day meltdown, as children were overwhelmed by a combination of lack of sleep and too many presents. The wailing about the first broken toy. (Only having one child, we missed the fight about which child got the most presents.)

And, because there wasn’t enough chaos, we created a new tradition, clean up, put everything away by 1 p.m. and rush, rush, rush to drive 4 hours (or fly to a warm destination) to visit family.

Ahhh, traditions.

I wish you the very best in celebrating yours.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories and held management jobs at AT&T, HP, and Medco. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Talbot County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and working in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.

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