November 19, 2011

Flouring the Cat and Other Lutheran Holiday Traditions

A chapter from my new book due 2012, and a retread from 2009.  This version from ViewsHound.

Prior to the first Christmas of our married life, my husband and I baked traditional holiday cookies. We also made a batch of homemade sangria in our little Largo, Florida apartment over a gun shop. Then we made another batch of sangria.

Last Christmas, I learned a dirty little secret. Because I am naive about such things, I had no idea this behind-the-scenes activity existed. I am not talking about the alleged whereabouts and existence of one Jolly Old Elf.

This is much more insidious.

Some people actually hire designers to decorate their homes for the holidays.
That is the secret I learned when researching a story about Christmas decorations. Those who use a professional decorator want their secret intact. Therefore, I am not naming names.

To each her own.

My family enjoys certain strange and random traditions holidays. We prefer the old-fashioned way, an eclectic mix of decorations and gifts gathered from our personal history. In addition, I prefer complete chaos evidenced by old plastic tubs and random, miss-marked boxes scattered throughout the basement.

As our family grew, we obtained more holiday decorations. Sharpie in hand, one year I asked my husband what I should write on the outside of a new box.

He said, in an exasperated tone, “I don’t care, write whatever you want.”
I thought, I’ll show him, so I wrote “Happy Birthday Vince Lombardi.”

Some future grandchild will come across our holiday decorations and wonder, “What in the world?”

We treasure our ornaments given by friends and family. There is the “Light up the holidays with gas” from the Indiana Gas Company via our friend Rex. Or the Shell station Santa Claus from the best man in our wedding. That ornament was free with fill-up. (“Uncle” Jimmy might be a little on the cheap side. When taking us to lunch, he prefers the Dairy Queen Full Meal Deal, and will often order the Children’s Meal.)
Santa Gator is one of my favorites, and I love a beautiful red ornament from the Hotel de Coronado in San Diego. When we had our only child, friends and family were so thrilled they gave us about half a dozen “Baby’s First Christmas 1990” ornaments.

That baby is a man now, and we still hang all the identical 1990 ornaments.

A construction paper tiny red hand, made by our son in kindergarten, always has a prominent place on the tree.

Prior to the first Christmas of our married life, my husband and I baked traditional holiday cookies.

We also made a batch of homemade sangria in our little Largo, Florida apartment over a gun shop.

Then we made another batch of sangria.

After the routine mixing, dropping, baking, and cooling, we were up for some excitement. That it, after we had another batch of sangria.

We decided to put flour in our hair to see what the future held. (The future has arrived. Believe me, gray hair is not very exciting.)

That joy didn’t last long. Hmmm, what should we do next?

There sat our grey cat Mikhail Barysnikat.

We floured the cat. Before you call the animal rights people, please know that at no time was The Kat in danger. We just gently added some flour to his fur to see what he would look like when he was older. The Kat was not thrilled with his instant aging, and hid under the couch.

My family of origin also had its own strange traditions. On Christmas Eve, we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Gospel of Luke. Then a family member reads “Casey at the Bat”, which bears no relationship to the holiday season at all, but I like to tell people it is an old Lutheran tradition.

On that evening, there is joy in Mudville. Our family likes poetry. Poetry is best read aloud.

My brother and I share a favorite holiday sport that we have passed on to our children. For months, we saved the cardboard rolls that come with wrapping paper. During the Christmas holidays, these “conkers” stood like holiday sentries in the corner awaiting battle.

Christmas morning the conker battle began. My mother, father, brother, and I each took our place in the living room with our weapons and fought to the finish. The winner was the one with the last intact roll. Imagine my parent’s surprise when our Lutheran pastor dropped in right in the middle of battle. How to explain? Okay, Pastor was Norwegian and not German. Let’s just say we told him it was a German Lutheran holiday tradition, just like lebkuchen.

Now we are just weeks away from the special holidays. We no longer need to flour our hair; nature has taken care of that. The conkers stand ready in a corner, awaiting Christmas soldiers for battle. Soon the tree will stand with its eclectic ornaments, each a special memory.

Happy Birthday, Vince Lombardi, and to all a good night.