I recall decorating my grandma and grandpa Stranko’s Christmas tree each year as a young girl with all the women in our family, and that memory warms my heart to this day. My grandma would leave that tree up until Valentine’s Day nearly every year if she could! And, who could forget my father’s silly Christmas tapes he would unbury each holiday season that included carols that no one else on this earth has ever heard. My sister and I still twitch when we hear Barbara Streisand’s version of Jingle Bells!
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has also been a great family tradition that began when my family saw it in the theater on New Year’s Eve the year it came out – 1989! We would watch it on VHS (and later, DVD) at least a dozen times during the Christmas season every year, beginning with Thanksgiving weekend, and always culminating with a viewing during our Christmas Eve celebration with Dad’s side of the family, before heading to midnight mass. The one-liners from that movie are thrown out all year long in The Goodman Family! “Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.”
Special holiday traditions would certainly become a part of our Murray Family Christmas season. Some began before our boys were even born, like our Travel Tree. Some we incorporated into our household once the boys came along, like St. Nick and “Elfy.” And, others were just born this year – like our journey out to the tree farm for a real tree, and our Advent wreath centerpieces on the dining room table. The boys love this stuff, and all of it makes my soul smile from the inside out!
The Travel Tree
I brought home an ornament from Santa Cruz, CA during our honeymoon up and down the California Coast in July of 2000. I honestly didn’t think much about it, other than it being a cute little keepsake from our honeymoon that would adorn our family Christmas tree for years to come. Then, the following year we took several vacations, and I picked up an ornament from each locale – Key West & Key Largo, Cancun, etc. And, the following year we ventured down to Florida – Jacksonville and Amelia Island and then on over to Tampa, Clearwater and the like. At each destination, I picked up an ornament. By the time we built our new home in 2004, I had accumulated quite the collection of destination-based ornaments from our travels, and the idea occurred to me to buy a Christmas tree for our bedroom that holiday season. The Travel Tree was born!
memories from all our many travels since 2000.
My mother-in-law discovered The Elf on the Shelf in 2009 shortly after this holiday tradition hit the market. She was so excited to bring him and his book over to the house. I hid it that first night in late November on the shelf in our entry way, and my oldest, only four at the time, got such a kick out of this jolly little elf. At only 18-months-old, Owen was too small to really get the gist of it, but enjoyed the hunt every morning with his big brother.
Since then, “Elfy” has made his annual appearance the weekend our first tree of the house goes up – generally the weekend after Thanksgiving (this year he arrived a weekend late, since we were a bit delayed getting our trees up). He is a mischievous little character, hiding in places that are sometimes more obvious than others. The boys’ favorites include the toilet paper party he has every year in the bathroom, and when he ends up dragging out their toys for his own nighttime amusement. This year that silly little elf even took a little poo and left behind some remnants on the toilet bowl! “Elfy” always gets into the cookies when we bake our annual holiday batch, and the night before that this year, he was hanging from the oven door in great anticipation!
Shortly after Connor was born in November of 2005, Chris and I bought a beautiful 10’ artificial tree for our great room. We knew the next few years of having little ones toddling around would make for mayhem during the holidays, and an artificial would be far more practical. Me being the perfectionist that I am love to be able to mold and shape the branches of an artificial tree around each ornament. I also like being able to keep my tree up well into January if I wish. I can drag it up the basement steps on Thanksgiving weekend, and then back down whenever I please. I’m a Type A personality, and us Type A’s love an artificial tree! However, last year was the final year we could muster out of that beautiful artificial tree. We ditched it after the holidays.