Traditional trouble

Stacy opening gifts underneath a tree that eventually got all its lights and ornaments hung, but probably not without the traditional family light fight.
Stacy opening gifts underneath a tree that eventually got all its lights and ornaments hung, but probably not without the traditional family light fight.

When you have a kid, you start kind of wanting to do Christmas right. (As opposed to continuing the ways of grownup childless couple Christmas, which, as I recall, involves sleeping 'til 11 and lingering over coffee and breakfast before bothering with opening gifts, which may or may not be under a tree, depending on whether you felt like going to a tree lot that year.)

And "right," if you believe what our society tells you, means traditions. Scads and scads of traditions.

Trouble is, I don't have a lot to draw from in my own childhood. Christmas was fun and all, and we did the basic stuff like decorating a tree, stringing lights along the front of the house, exchanging gifts, etc. But with just me and my parents, holiday enjoyment was pretty unstructured. About the closest thing we had to an annual Christmas tradition was the inevitable huffy argument between my mom and dad about how the lights were placed on the tree, which invariably ended with someone (usually me, by my teen years) stomping away and slamming a door somewhere, leaving the tree only partially dressed. I can laugh about it now, but it's not a tradition I wish to revive, if I can help it.

But nowadays, you're supposed to have elves on shelves and elaborate advent calendars and an annual holiday family portrait in which everyone wears matchy-matchy clothes and Santa hats. It's enough to turn anyone into a Grinch.

But I do appreciate the sentiment behind (some of) that, which is, presumably, to keep Christmas fun and stretch out the good cheer beyond just Christmas morning.  So I'm thinking of starting some traditions around here, now that Nora, at 2 1/2, is old enough to notice and take part.

But what to do? We own an Elf on the Shelf -- a gift from my mom a year or two ago -- but I'm kind of dreading digging him out of his box in the attic. Because you know what the Elf on the Shelf conjures up? Two things:

1) People posting daily pictures of their elf on Facebook, which is second in annoyingness only to daily pictures of the dinner they're eating.

2) People complaining about having to find a new place to put the elf every day, an easily forgotten task that I've heard folks -- real, actual, otherwise-not-crazy folks -- say compels them to set alerts on their smartphones or leap out of bed in the middle of the night when they realize they've forgotten to move [insert dopey elf name here] to a new creepy staring spot.

So yeah. I think I've just talked myself out of that one. So I'm on the lookout for some other Christmas tradition for our family. Something that won't add stress to the season (please!) and that speaks to the values and, uh, quirks of our family. The Annual Eating of Santa's Cookies by the Family Dog in an Unsupervised Moment? Protest-Song Caroling? The Washing of Santa's Sleigh, If Santa's Sleigh Happens to be a Blue Mazda 5 that Mama Drives When Santa's Not Using It?

We'll just have to try some things out and see what sticks, I suppose. And if anything causes anyone to stomp away and slam doors, maybe we'll endeavor to avoid making that a tradition.