Traditions are tough to forget


Traditionally, this is a season of tradition.

We collectively share some of these traditions, such as singing carols, admiring a giant Santa Claus hat on top of the totem pole in Bethany Beach or just watching those time-tested television classics that somehow still fill us with a sense of warmth every year. We send cards, hang up the cards we receive and swallow aspirin by the handful.

Yet, we all have those little private traditions, don’t we? Those things we’ve done with our families or friends since we were little kids and grew up with the expectations that all families did the same things — only to find out at a socially awkward time later that’s not necessarily true.

More than one of you are nodding your heads, aren’t you?

But that’s fine. We cling to these things nonetheless, because the simple act of repeating these traditions from our youth, even as adults, brings a smile. We incorporate them into the things we do with our own families, and hope at least some of our traditions continue on through generations.

For the sake of openness, and because I went brain dead on coming up with an actual original thought this week, I’ve decided to open up the vault and share with you some of the McCann Christmas traditions (Editor’s Note: This is a family newspaper, so we’ll omit some of the profanity and gratuitous violence of the traditional McCann family Christmas).

Like many of you, we begin our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. I recall waking up as a child, rubbing the effects of a hangover out of my eyes (ah, the memories of a 6-year-old in an Irish Catholic family) and finding the other members of my family pouring through the newspaper to find the perfect family movie we could all enjoy. After a few hours of fighting, we’d ultimately go with whatever movie my mother would choose — a tradition that still lives on today.

Having decided on a movie, and nursing our wounds from the ensuing free-for-all steel cage match determining what time we’d see said movie, we’d load into the car, jockey for position in the back seat yet again and make our way to the theater.

Yeah, I know, not a lot of Noel so far, but it’s all part of the package. Trust me.

We’ll fast forward through the whole movie sequence because I earlier promised no profanity or violence as we were not, well, the most well-behaved children in the world. In fact, I distinctly remember one Christmas Eve movie that involved a plastic straw, an eye and ...

But I digress.

Next on the McCann family tradition list is the Christmas Eve dinner at a Chinese restaurant. First off, I’m not sure how this tradition even started. I have a theory that it’s at least loosely based on my mother’s adversion to cooking, but there’s also the possibility my father negotiated it in at some point because it’s one of the few times a year he gets his way and has Chinese food. But nobody complains, and we usually have a pretty good time at the restaurant.

Here’s where it gets strange.

After dinner, we’d hit Christmas Eve mass at the church and head home. There my mother would pass out matching pajamas for all of us to wear. Sounds harmless enough, right? Wrong. A few times these pajamas would in reality be dressing gowns. Long story short, I learned to cross my ankles when sitting on the couch in these particular Christmas Eve outfits, sipping a horrific punch my father would concoct each year made of 7-Up and green sherbert with Johnny Mathis singing carols on the stereo.

Christmas day does not come with as many traditions for my family. There’s a mass opening of gifts, and we used to travel to see my one set of grandparents in Newark, before heading to New York to see the other set. Distance and loss have ended that tradition.

As you read this, I’m in Denver with my family, preparing to maintain our grip on tradition, while sprinkling in a few new ones along the way — many of which are centered around red wine and black-label Bushmill’s. I’m hoping you all are celebrating your own.

Merry Christmas.