Merry Christmas! I’m here to share my favorite Christmas traditions. Sebastian, my Feline Paralegal, is still steamed I made him dress as Santa for the Faucher Law office Christmas party. I’ve not always had the jolly Christmas spirit in me; when I first met my now-wife, Karen, I was a bit of a Grinch. I’m not naturally attracted to huge festivities and gifts and holiday/family drama, so I wasn’t a big fan of Christmas when I was young. But Karen has performed her own bit of holiday magic over the years, by getting my Grinch’s heart to grow five sizes, to the point where I really enjoy the holidays now. A lot of my transformation from Scrooge to Happy Christmas Elf has had to do with all the holiday traditions Karen and I have started with our own family. In the spirit of the season, I share a story from when our daughters were young, and two long-standing traditions.

“Reindeer” Poop On Driveway

Karen and I agree one of our proudest parenting moments came Christmas Eve 2002. We lived in Houston and the girls were two and six years old, starry-eyed with Santa anticipation. A neighbor worked at the Houston Zoo, and Karen asked if she could get hold of some reindeer poop for us. The girls were planning on putting out not only milk and cookies for Santa, but also carrots on the driveway for Santa’s reindeer (so thoughtful). Karen thought poop on the driveway would convince our older daughter that Santa was real: Sophie’d been hearing rumors in her first grade classroom that the whole Santa/Sled/Reindeer thing was a hoax.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly given Houston’s hot and humid climate, there are no reindeer at the Zoo. Our friend suggested Kudu droppings instead, since they resemble that of reindeer (who knew?). On Christmas eve, once the girls were asleep, Karen and I got to work on the driveway, chewing and spitting carrots out left and right, and then scattering kudu scat on top. On Christmas morning, as the girls stared delightedly at the disgusting mess on our driveway (“Ick! Messy reindeer!”,” “Santa’s real!”), Karen and I were filled with the pride of parenting well done… and the smell of kudu droppings.

Christmas Tradition: Ornament Count & Favorites

While we haven’t scattered scat in a long time, we continue other traditions. One of my favorites is our annual hand-blown German (and Polish) Christmas ornament count.  Karen’s been collecting them since she was a teenager and they’re the only kind of ornaments that go on the main ChristmasTree. Each year, when we unpack the ornaments, we count them: overall total, and the specific number of Santas and bird ornaments (two favorites). We also give to our daughters at least one glass ornament annually, usually one that commemorates something that happened to her that year – a special trip, or activity or job. For example, Rose was a barista this year, so she’s getting an espresso machine ornament.

Since 2007, we’ve kept the annual totals on a large card, which also documents each of our top three favorite ornaments that year, as well as the main milestones for each one of us that year (high school graduation, first full-time job, Peace Corps service, starting my own law firm). It’s become a wonderful, very special tradition when we meet to announce that year’s favorite three ornaments, and commit this to the special card that has now recorded 17 years of shared Christmas memories.  It’s especially entertaining, as we reveal our favorites, to be challenged on our favorites (“Eew, you like that hen ornament? Why?”) and to hear the responses (“I love the eggs my hens give me, and I love the hens’ constancy – plus the face on this hen ornament is fetching.”). 

Christmas Tradition: Christmas Fowl

On Christmas Day, I like to cook exotic game birds. The more exotic the fowl, the better. I once mail-ordered a goose from South Dakota for the occasion. But this year I’m making my famous Cassoulet – a French peasant dish (not pheasant – get it?) of beans, sausage, vegetables and lots of duck! This combined with my wife’s Christmas Eve feast of German smoked hams, salmon, salamis, breads, and cheeses (also known as “Aufschnittsnacht” – gotta love those Germans for coming up with short, snappy names for things!) makes for a truly fantastic two days of eating. We get our Aufschnitt here – I highly recommend it!

Whatever your family’s holiday traditions, may you enjoy the time spent together. When New Year’s is over, and the IRS starts annoying you again with a bad audit result or threats to levy on your accounts, give me a call.

December 21, 2023

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