Tradition can be broken

AT RANDOM: it occurred to us that maybe we don't need to uphold all traditions

The needles are dropping all over the floor, the turkey soup is in the deep freeze and the wrapping paper has been stuffed into those utterly useless blue recycling boxes.

The glow and warmth of Christmas has been replaced with grumbling and complaining, from the aforementioned boxes to January’s gloomy weather.

With my family visiting over the two weeks of the Christmas break, we found ourselves reflecting on holiday traditions.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, tradition is at the heart of all that we do. And those traditions must be upheld, regardless of whether we actually enjoy them.

This year, Christmas seemed to appear out of nowhere and I found myself ill-prepared. Of course, I say that every year, but every year it seems to get worse. This time last year I actually made a list of what went well at Christmas and what I could do to organize myself better. This year, the list made not one iota of difference.

I was blessed with wonderful childhood Christmases that were made that way because of my close, loving family. Of course, now that I’m an adult I realize that my mom worked her butt off to make sure the turkey got into the oven on time, the stuffing was made and everyone was having a good time. The rest of us were free to relax on Christmas Day, playing with our new toys, reading our new books, stuffing ourselves silly with chocolate.

This year, we tucked into our lovely, free-range, hormone-free turkey, which we had for the second year in a row spatchcocked (cutting it down the middle and roasting it flat so it cooks more quickly). The table groaned with my sister’s stuffing, my homemade cranberry sauce — both served in our grandmother’s china — the usual lousy gravy (because I have never learned to make it the way my mom made it, and oh how I wish she were still here to show me how, and for so many other reasons), and of course the obligatory Brussels sprouts.

It was the sprouts which got us talking. My mom loathed the things, but she would cook them every year, serve herself one and we’d eat the rest.

Every year, we come across yet another new treatment for the sprouts, thinking, “wow: bacon, pine nuts, parmesan cheese (pick one), this will really make a difference.” Instead, we carefully trim the leaves, cut off the bottom and lovingly cook them, only to have most of them still languishing in the pot long after dinner. Frankly, we have given them their last chance.

On Dec. 28, while enjoying the turkey soup my dad and I made together, it occurred to us that maybe we don’t need to uphold all traditions.

Most of us don’t love Brussels sprouts and yet we persist in serving them. In fact, by the time Christmas dinner is served, we are so exhausted from a day of gift-opening and cooking, and stuffed from a day of chocolate-eating that we don’t have much appetite at all. We decided then and there that there is really no law that says we have to have turkey at Christmas. Would our lives be any less meaningful if we decided to just have pasta instead. This would give us more time to enjoy our new Christmas books, read the papers, enjoy a nap, eat more chocolate and play endless games of Sorry, Monopoly and Life.

I’ll miss the turkey sandwiches and the soup, but I can live without them.

Because I’ll still have my family with me and we will enjoy each other’s company and we will enjoy our many other traditions, which includes eating my dad’s bucatini with homemade tomato sauce and watching A Christmas Story on Dec. 24.

But one thing I’m not willing to part with: Christmas crackers. The day isn’t complete without everyone sporting goofy paper hats, reading out the jokes contained in the crackers and discovering the amazing “treasures” within.