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Holding on to Holiday Traditions

I love holiday traditions. They are family-based and predictable. Year after year, these rituals are the rock against which I lean when the rest of my life borders on haywire. And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Granted, for those of us residing in the Midwest, I could say the same thing about snow. And as it follows, when it comes to traditions, there are only two things I do not have control over—the weather and my boys’ inevitable aging.

To this day, getting a good shot of all five boys is not unlike herding holiday-sweatered cats.

Reluctantly, there are some traditions that I’ve had to shelve until my family sprouts more wee ones. Not that I miss driving through slushy shopping mall parking lots so I can spend hours standing in line just to have my very-wet-diapered child’s picture taken with a fake Santa who is hoping his shift ends soon so he can meet his pals across the street at Hooters for some holiday spirit.

My boys, now ages 10 through 20, wouldn’t come to a shopping mall with me even if I begged them.

Nonetheless, the rest of our traditions are non-negotiable, no matter their age. As the season approaches, the first one to hit is posing for a Christmas card picture. When they were young, this was a breeze. I dressed them each in something red, green or white. They looked so adorable in their candy-cane-festooned outfits that their expressions were of little to no consequence. Getting them to pose was the photographer’s problem, not mine. To this day, getting a good shot of all five boys is not unlike herding holiday-sweatered cats.

Then there’s trimming the tree. Ever since my husband and I were married, it fell to me. With memories of my dad commandeering this task with breathtaking results, I did my best to emulate the way he would meticulously space the ornaments and drape the garland.

Then my boys started to help. Hanging their handmade, glittered creations on the lower branches, tangling the strands of lights, clumping the ornaments by color and dropping any number of breakable gems on our hardwood floor, their methods would make my dad cringe. Yet, no matter how old they get or how many of them happen to be home, we always have the best time ... especially now that we have a pre-lit tree.

One tradition is reserved for me and my oldest—setting out cookies for Santa. Ever since he was little, it’s been his job to place a small, round, ornately decorated table by the tree before he and his brothers head upstairs for my husband’s annual reading of The Polar Express.

While they likely have this story memorized by now, my guys still adhere to the one rule I put in place expressly so I could honor my own personal tradition of wrapping the presents and unwinding on Christmas Eve.

Santa won’t stop at a house if he knows kids are not asleep. Trust me, it works like a charm.

When they were younger, I’d put a plate full of cookies and a glass of milk on that little round table. Each Christmas morning, my boys would marvel at the half-eaten cookies and half-drunk milk. Evidence that Santa had indeed visited.

Now that he’s in college, my oldest still puts the table out, but in the morning, they are more likely to find crumpled up chocolate truffle wrappers and a half-drunk glass of merlot. Evidence that Santa is indeed mom. Besides, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

MORE: Think of Your Own Holiday Traditions With These Ideas

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