Holidays are now official. We’re chilling in Nana’s house. Presents are (mostly) wrapped and under the tree. Other family members and friends are dropping by for a visit.
One of the things and parenting in a culture that is different from the one in which I grew up is that I get to experience some of the Christmas traditions for the first time myself with my son. Today, for example, was actually the first time I ever read “The Night Before Christmas” poem. Sure, I’m familiar with the famous opening lines, and maybe I’ve heard recitations of it on radio or TV in the background when I wasn’t really paying attention, but I’ve never actually sat down to read it from beginning to end.
This was really brought home to me when Nana, watching me read the book from her customary chair, mentioned how she remembers her mother reading this during her own childhood. I have a lot of memories of the holiday season from my childhood. Although we always only ever marked the secular New Year in Russia rather than Christmas, many basic elements were the same – we put up and decorated a tree (a New Year’s tree), we exchanged presents, there is a Santa-like person, Дед Мороз (literally translating to “Grandfather Frost”), that visits kids. But many details are different. The food is different, or else there are no concrete hand-me-down traditions that translate similarly.
I like the discovery. I also like the idea of us making our own family traditions for the holidays. I like thinking of ways which some of my own childhood memories can be translated into my son’s experience, or mixed in with those of his father’s childhood.
I picked this book up second-hand in a charity shop many months ago because it was cheap and looked to be well illustrated, and immediately set it aside for Christmas so it was our first time for both of us reading it or today. I plan on making sure it won’t be the last.