In Pursuit of Christmas Traditions

This is Joss's third Christmas, and our holiday traditions are still in flux.

Diane Morrow-Kondos’s blog post “Christmas Traditions with Grandkids” and Betty Casey’s post on buying “experience” gifts got me thinking about our family’s holiday traditions–and whether or not we actually have any.

Of course, I’m not talking about extended family here: My mom’s family (she is one of ten children) has an annual get-together at my grandmother’s house in Wichita, KS, each year, which has been alternating between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year for as long as I’ve been alive. Each year, 70+ relatives descend upon her home, which is decked with decades-old, nostalgia-inducing decorations, eat a potluck-style meal (with plenty of dessert, thank goodness!) and exchange gifts. The gift exchange in itself is a feat of coordination, as each person gives a gift to one other person who has been chosen for them beforehand.

To further expand upon my childhood traditions, my siblings and I, several cousins, my mom, aunts and grandma used to perform as the Belles and Beau of Christmas, doing elaborate holiday shows for church groups, retirement homes and more. You can read about it and enjoy pictures of our matching Christmas outfits in this blog post one of my cousins wrote last year.

This all goes to prove that I have not led a deprived life when it comes to Christmas celebrations.

Since we’ve been married and living in Tulsa, we usually plan to spend one holiday in Wichita and the other in town. This means we often celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving and also that every year is a little different. If we’re in Wichita for Christmas, my mom plans plenty of holiday-themed activities; we know there will be a movie night, a stocking exchange, a gift exchange, and festive meals.

Last year, my dad visited for Christmas, and we ate at Jinya Ramen Bar on Christmas Eve, which was a non-traditional meal but most enjoyable! So there is nothing wrong with adding new elements to your holiday routine.

So Daniel, Joss and I have not established many Christmas traditions beyond giving each other gifts (of course!), walking around to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights, and doing an advent calendar (Word to the wise: Don’t wait until Nov. 30 to get your 99-cent advent calendar at Trader Joe’s!). I love stockings, but if I want to save money, we may not do them. I enjoy baking, so that is always a part of our life; this year, Joss and I have made pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and snickerdoodles together. Oh, and we put together a Trader Joe’s gingerbread house.

The Utica Square Santa told us that his favorite cookies are snickerdoodles, FYI.

There are so many fun things to do in Tulsa, and any number of them could become an annual tradition, as long as I don’t get scared away by pre-Christmas traffic. My unofficial, year-round catchphrase is, “I hate driving!” and December is just the worst!

This year, we’ve taken a typical spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to holiday traditions: Trying everything to see what sticks. So far, we have attended:

1. Lights On! at Utica Square

Not gonna lie, the main reason I wanted to attend Lights On! this year was to visit the new Glacier Confection store! 

2. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” at the Tulsa PAC

This probably won’t become an annual tradition because I doubt “Rudolph” will return to the PAC each year; but it was special because this was Joss’s first theater performance! And at 30 minutes per act, just the right length for an active two-year-old. 

3. The Santa Cottage at Utica Square

The Utica Square Santa is very nice, and they give out free cookies! It costs $10 to get your picture taken with Santa, even if you use your iPhone, but cookies and conversation are free. 

4. Philbrook Festival

Our Philbrook Festival trick (we went on the First Friday free admission night) was to show up an hour early–you still get to see the lights, LEGO village and other decorations, without having to walk for blocks! 

5. GLOW on the Green

We went to GLOW on the Green on First Friday, and wow–the Tulsa Arts District was PACKED! Joss was very excited to ride the Christmas train, but after waiting in line for 10 minutes and realizing it would be another hour before we got to ride, we left early. The lights at Guthrie Green are a treat, though! 

6. Carols and Crumpets, the Herbal Craft Fair organized by the Tulsa Herb Society

There are many holiday markets, but I especially enjoyed this one because it was located in the Tulsa Garden Center, which is just beautiful. 

7. River Lights

Although Joss was too distracted by the park equipment at 41st and Riverside to accompany me on the two-mile Ugly Christmas Sweater Fun Run, we did enjoy another visit with Santa, getting our picture taken and eating free Andolini’s pizza at this fun event sponsored by Williams.

8. The Alliday Show at Retro Den

Retro Den’s Alliday Show is a great place to shop local while supporting local artists. Plus, Retro Den is full of–of course–retro goodies like vintage coffee sets, ceramic animal sculptures, old-fashioned dinnerware and more. (Admittedly, my eye is always drawn to cute mugs and I am blind to most everything else, so I can’t give much more detail than that!) The Alliday Show is where, two years ago, Joss got his first picture taken with Santa! Sadly, we had to leave before Santa arrived this year, due to a UPS fiasco, but it was still fun to swing by.

Where is the “heart eyes” emoji when you need it?!

On Friday night, Dec. 1, driving between Philbrook Festival and GLOW on the Green, I found myself asking, “WHO AM I?!?”

A homebody at heart, my top-five list of Ideal Christmas Traditions would include: 1) Baking and leaving Christmas cookies for Santa 2) Christmas Eve movie night with hot chocolate and cookies 3) Reading night with hot chocolate and cookies 4) Getting new books for Christmas and 5) Card game night with hot chocolate and cookies. So it is with some bewilderment that I find myself driving around after dark in pursuit of holiday experiences.

I don’t know what we will do next year, which of our flurry of activities will become an annual tradition. But I do know that this year, Joss and I have enjoyed making many holiday memories. And eating our weight in cookies.

Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall