On Yule­tide tra­di­tions

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - I

n the close and com­fort­able cra­dle of our im­me­di­ate fam­ily it had come to seem so nor­mal, so ter­ri­bly rea­son­able. Until we had to ex­plain it. Not just ex­plain it but sell it to them. For it was im­per­a­tive they were on board or noth­ing would be the same, noth­ing would be the same and ev­ery­thing, ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing, would be ru­ined. You see my par­ents have gone in on a bach with friends of my hus­band and me (yes, I know it’s a lit­tle un­usual) and it was sug­gested to mark their first Christ­mas as co-hol­i­day home own­ers we should all cel­e­brate it to­gether. My chil­dren were aghast. But what about…? Shush, I soothed. We’ll still stick to all our tra­di­tions. We’ll still leave out beer for Santa and car­rots for Rudolph. We’ll still have two kinds of gra­nola and mango and rasp­ber­ries and runny cream for break­fast. And the stock­ings, they cried, don’t for­get the stock­ings. Of course not, I said. We can’t for­get the stock­ings.

Early in Novem­ber I re­ceived an email from my ed­i­tor. “Just won­dered if you could do your Dec 8 col­umn with a Xmas theme, sug­arpie,” she wrote. She listed some ran­dom Yule­tidey thoughts. “Also,” she added, “when do we have to stop the Christ­mas stock­ing? Grow­ing up, I seem to re­call the stock­ings stopped at Zero Santa Con­scious­ness.” She spec­i­fied an age for this of 11.

I felt a lit­tle nau­seous. Kind of like the time my best friend’s big sis­ter sweep­ingly an­nounced that lace ted­dies were passe and I had just put my first one on lay-buy. Do you think they’ll go for it, I asked my hus­band. The stock­ings? Don’t worry, he said. I’ve al­ready told them. And it’s fine, they have them too. Re­ally, I said. Ev­ery­one gets a stock­ing? Not just the kids but the adults and the an­i­mals?

It was me who started it. For sev­eral years, my mother had broached the sub­ject. That was the last time, she’d say, as she packed away the lights. You’re too old. Nooo, my brother and I would wail. We’re agreed then, she’d say around Oc­to­ber, no stock­ings. Just one more Christ­mas, we’d whee­dle. Oh we love them so. Me­gan, she’d say with a de­feated sigh, you’re 21. See­ing my mother was at the end of her ma­ter­nal tether, I had a brain­wave. If we got them stock­ings, too, the par­ents, then the tra­di­tion would have to con­tinue. Twenty-ish years on, it’s still go­ing strong, a whole bedrock of rules an­chor­ing it firmly in place.

You’re okay, I said to our friends, with the stock­ings? Yes, they said. Our girls have stock­ings. We al­ways put an orange in the toe. No, no, no, I said, ev­ery­one has to have a stock­ing, both of you, the dog. Ev­ery­one! Right, they said. And what goes in them?

Well, I said. Some­thing to eat, some­thing to read, some­thing to wear, some­thing to play with, some scratchies (not for the chil­dren) and a bag of choco­late coins. Oh and “care” – some sort of beauty prod­uct. Scratchies, said my friend. That’s a bit tacky. (Not as tacky, I thought, as the fact that while my mother hand-made beau­ti­ful cor­duroy and vel­vet stock­ings for my brother and I and her grand­chil­dren as ba­bies and I bought them colour­ful felt ones, my hus­band gets the lurid satin stock­ing she whipped up for my boyfriend be­fore him.)

You’ll love it, I said.


You wrote with tales of mis­for­tune at your own hand and of ill done to you or a loved one, of those who stepped up, spoke out, came to the res­cue, and those who didn’t. Jo­hannes hopes his story will stir us all into ac­tion when­ever we see some­one in dis­tress. “I was at the start of my le­gal ca­reer and my wife and I had bought a house to ac­com­mo­date our grow­ing fam­ily. The re­al­tor who sold us the house lived nearby and we had be­come quite friendly. Af­ter a busy day in court I was on my way home and had to drop off some doc­u­ments at his house. His wife opened the door and said she needed to talk to me. I said I couldn’t. I was al­ready late and I still needed to go to my weekly Ro­tary meeting.” Jo­hannes gave her the doc­u­ments and left. Two days later the woman took her own life. “To say that I was dev­as­tated is an un­der­state­ment, and for the past 45 years I have asked my­self, over and over again, ‘What if… ?’”

We’re agreed then, she’d say around Oc­to­ber, no stock­ings. Just one more Christ­mas, we’d whee­dle. Oh we love them so.

Do write. megan­ni­col­[email protected]

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