I had a great time last week spending time with my parents and my brother, Ryan, hosting our family Thanksgiving. We all ate way too much food, watched way too much football, and had way too much fun enjoying each other’s company as we kicked off the Holidays. Even my sister, who was unable to be with us in body, was with us in spirit as she sent us a delicious spread of assorted nuts, fruit, and other tasty treats to have in her honor. Since my body is making it more and more difficult for me to make the long trip home, it really means a lot to me that my family is willing to come out here so we can be together for holidays. Not only does this dose of family rejuvenate and refresh me emotionally, but it also allows us to continue some of our family’s holiday traditions. These traditions have always been really important to me, and honestly I do not know if it would really feel like the Holiday Season without them. One of these Drotar Christmas customs is assembling the Christmas tree and hanging the lights the evening of Thanksgiving. This is something we have done for many years, and for me this ritual is what really puts me in the Holiday spirit. As we were having a great time together setting up my tree and fighting with strands of multicolored lights last week in my living room, I was reminded of the magic and power behind these family traditions.
My mom is a self-proclaimed Christmas crazy. I know there are a lot of people who love this time of year, but my mother takes it to a whole, new level. As a result of my Christmas crazed mother, one of our Drotar family traditions is that once Thanksgiving dinner is over and the last plate of pumpkin pie has been washed and put away, my mom goes into what I call “Christmas Elf Mode.” Over the next 24 to 48 hours, our house goes from a normally decorated, Midwestern home to a Christmas wonderland that even Buddy the Elf would approve. Every room has a different theme from gingerbread men in the kitchen to nutcrackers in the living room, and it is a multi-sensory experience with delightful, seasonal smells and Christmas carols floating throughout the house. It is really quite impressive how quickly and efficiently she can transform our entire home, and if Santa is ever short on workers he should definitely call my mom, as she would give any elf a run for his money. While my family has always lovingly teased her about her Christmas addiction, now that I am not able to make it home for the Holidays, much to my surprise, this is something I really miss.
I do not necessarily miss the process of her decorating and setting everything up exactly right, but I do miss the final product. I remember when I was younger, how I would go to bed Thanksgiving night with my mom usually still going strong in “Christmas Elf Mode,” and wake up the next morning in Santa’s Summer home. I would half asleep roll out to the kitchen to have breakfast expecting to see our house, but instead I would be greeted by Santas, snowmen, and sleigh bells everywhere I looked. Being transported to this Winter Wonderland overnight always made me smile and put me in the Christmas spirit. Even after I moved out here to Kansas, this family tradition has been an important part of Christmas for me. One year when I did not get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I remember how when I came home for Christmas a few weeks later how great it felt to enter the wonderful, Winter wonderland my mom had created. Upon entering my childhood home I was instantly filled with Holiday cheer and taken back to my childhood and the magic of Christmas, which is what this time of year is all about.
Now that my family consists of five adults living in four different cities, as well as the fact that traveling is getting harder and harder on my body, we now all meet at my home for our family, holiday gatherings. I am very thankful for this since it saves me from having to physically recover from the long drive home, and I actually like hosting my family, but I do miss getting to enjoy my mother’s “Northpolar Disorder.” That is why I was so happy on Thanksgiving when I woke up from my tryptophan induced, food coma to find that my mom had set up some of my Christmas decorations and had my tree out so we could put it up together. While it was on a much smaller scale than my parent’s house, waking up to Christmas decorations and stringing lights that night with my mom really meant a lot to me. It allowed us to still carry out one of my favorite Drotar family traditions even though I cannot make it home, and it put me in the spirit of the season. Now that she has gotten me started on creating a festive atmosphere for our family and put my Christmas cheer in gear, I am going to do my best to continue this tradition and create an environment that my mom can enter to instantly be transported to Christmastown. That way she can get a taste of the same magical Christmas experience that I have gotten to enjoy for so many years.
Especially now that we are spread across the country and it is getting increasingly difficult to all get together, maintaining these Drotar family traditions is extremely important. These little, holiday customs that only the five of us really appreciate are what make it feel like Christmas no matter where we are, so long as we are together. So while it may be a little extreme that my mom (and now me) turn our homes into a Christmas environment that rivals the display at Macy’s, I would not have it any other way. My mother’s overly exuberant love for the Holidays, which has now rubbed off on me (it must be contagious), is a big part of what Christmas means for my family. As long as we spend Christmas day together in a Drotar made Winter Wonderland, it does not matter what city we are in or who is hosting that year, it will feel like Christmas. That is what makes Christmas family traditions like this so special and memorable. They transcend time and space and allow you to enjoy the magic of Christmas no matter what else is going on. Make sure you remember to fully appreciate your own family customs this Holiday Season. Maybe you can start a new tradition that you can carry on with your loved ones for years to come. These rituals that are special to only your family will bring you all closer together and allow you to more fully enjoy each other and the magic of this wonderful time of year.