Every night we read stories, put on pajamas, sing a song, brush teeth. We say a prayer together, have a group hug, then turn out the lights and say, “I love you, sleep well,” about a dozen times. We have a method of trying to decide who gets to pick the song. We have an order to the tooth-brushing ritual. There are many little things that have evolved to be part of our going-to-bed routine. So many traditions that we keep for the sake of comfort, for ease, for predictability, and for the stability it gives to what can be an unstable time: the end of day, a time to be alone, possibly lost, in sleep. A new day is coming, one with so many possibilities, and it is best to go into it as peacefully as possible.
I feel the same way about December. It is the end of the year. The days are dark and cold, and with the change in the calendar coming soon, a new beginning on the horizon, I always feel a little bit anxious about what lies ahead. Which is why it is nice that December is about traditions. It’s about peace and finding light in the dark days. It’s about embracing those dark, silent nights. It’s about spending as much time as possible with those you love so they can fill in the gap where the warm sunlight is during the rest of the year.
Right now our family is young and every year they are so different. Last year was the first year Manchild was really aware of the season, of Christmas, of giving and receiving, of Christmas trees and lights and music. And this year it feels as though we are finding out what some of the important traditions and rituals are to him. He’s been asking when we’ll get our Christmas tree, and when we’ll get to eat the snow and make snowmen and snow angels. We pulled our calendar off the wall so we could plan when we’re going to go look at window displays in Manhattan, and which day we’ll decorate sugar cookies, and what night will be the night we sing all the Christmas songs we know.
We are still auditioning possible traditions. We’re still trying to figure out what works best for our family and what brings us peace and light as the year is winding down. We’re leaving room for things to evolve and develop and to take us by surprise as they become part of our holiday season. So, with some things we are starting small. Yesterday we made a countdown-to-Christmas paper chain. Last night, after we read stories, sang a song, and brushed teeth, we tore off the bottom link. Then we went to the boys’ room for prayer, hug, and a dozen “I love you”s.
And tonight we’ll do it again.
(photos from last Christmas)