Thankfully, Mama's stepmother was very proud of the new hi-fi (stereo) my grandfather had recently bought for her. She was more than happy to give up her portable record player. Whether by design or default, she only included two 45 rpm records: "Big, Bad John" by Jimmy Dean, and "Silver Bells" by Bing Crosby. To this day, those songs are a couple of my favorites. Whenever I hear "Silver Bells", I stop what I am doing to remember. With just a few notes and lyrics, I'm transported back to that summer, enjoying having the bedroom to myself and lots of Mama's attention.
To Mama, "Silver Bells" had an entirely different meaning. For some reason, Mama called Hershey kisses 'silver bells'. Nobody else we knew called them that, but when Mama said she needed to get some 'silver bells' for her ceramic Christmas tree, we knew what she was talking about. The lady who cleaned Daddy's office gave Mama the tree, just like the one pictured above, one year. We never did figure out where Mama kept her stash of 'silver bells'. Even though no one seemed to go by the dish with getting one or two or a handful, the dish always seemed to be full.
I never was too fond of the ceramic tree filled with "silver bells" because that started after we moved up north, and after Mama had stopped making her signature chocolate-covered cherries. The combination seemed a poor replacement of a family project. I guess after years of being the one to make and take, Mama deserved to be the receiver and take life a little easier.
Pretty soon the grandkids came along. As soon as they came in the door during the holiday season, they went to the dining room table where the tree and bells sat in the middle. Once the grandkids came along, Mama decided the red and green wrapped Hershey kisses would look better than the "silver bells". So, one holiday tradition gave way to a new one.
I'm a big fan of traditions, I think they're important. I thought they were before I read a few articles written by family counselors/therapists/experts saying the same thing. After our family of five moved to Kansas, the holidays were kind of sad and lonely for several years. It wasn't until my older sister and her husband began their family that I realized sometimes you have to start traditions on purpose.
Shared traditions and shared memories seem to be the glue that hold families together. Whether it's a song that makes you look at each and smile, those special treats that trigger a mellow mood, that place or activity that's always on the holiday list, those memories and traditions seem to act as springboards to making new ones.
What are some of the unique ways your family celebrate each other and the holiday season? Have any of them changed over the years?