Sunday, May 27, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on December 23rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 42

A list of failed traditions

Sometimes the gift list is the only tradition that lasts


Christmastime has never been my favorite time of year. I love the joy of the season and all the extra time spent with my family, but it just never seems to live up to my expectations.

I’m not talking about gifts received either, but just the expectations I put on what the season should be like. I expect my house to be festively decorated—Martha Stewart festive. I expect to be able to bake goodies that I will deliver to all of my friends. Not just any goodies, but impressively creative and tasty goodies. I expect all of my gifts to be smartly wrapped and expertly tied with real ribbon.

What I get is a house full of old, mismatched ornaments and decorations made at school by my kids. Because of my hectic schedule only half of those go on display, making my house look like I gave up part way through and prompting visitors to ask, “When are you going to finish decorating?”

In my head I will take my family on a drive to see all the best Christmas lights as we sip cocoa in BPA-free travel mugs. Instead I get one excited child, two who would rather watch a Dr. Who marathon on television, and half-hearted support from my husband, who draws a definitive line at hot edibles in our brand new car. “Eh, they don’t need any cocoa. Especially not in the car.”

We’ve never really adopted any Christmas traditions either. We’ve tried “hide the Christmas pickle.” After my three boys stopped giggling, I told them to get their minds out of the gutter and then explained to them that it’s a tradition in which a pickle ornament is hidden in the tree and the first child to find it gets an extra gift. That lasted two seasons until someone broke the pickle.

For a couple of years I tried making tamales for Christmas. That is, until I realized: a) No one really appreciated my trendy, spicy mushroom and goat cheese tamales; b) It’s extremely boring work; and c) It’s way easier to buy them from the tamale lady.

One thing I do love about Christmastime is the television programming; I always get excited about the Christmas specials. The Rankin/Bass specials like Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jack Frost, and The Year without a Santa Claus were favorites of mine as a child, and A Christmas Story is a must-watch to this day, but no one but me seems to get as excited. Even my 5-year-old said, “Nah, I’m watching Spider-Man,” when I asked him to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with me.

I always imagine this year will be different; we’ll finally do something as a family that will make such a special Christmas memory it will create a lasting tradition. But nothing like that ever happens. Although there is one thing I can count on each year: Christmas list creation.

My extended family started a Secret Santa tradition (sure, that one has lasted) because we were getting so big as a family that no one could keep up with buying everyone gifts. So we draw names at Thanksgiving—that way everybody only has to buy one gift. To make things convenient and keep things secret, we compile a list of everyone’s Christmas wants, which gets posted on the refrigerator at my parents’ house. Usually, and thankfully, everyone lists low- to moderately priced wants: movie tickets, athletic socks, DVDs, a wool scarf, and the like. The situation has worked well, but has spilled over to my own immediate family.

Suddenly everyone is asking what the others want. We ask the kids, my husband asks me, and Sebastian asks his older brothers. We end up getting gifts that are spot on, in exchange for giving up the element of surprise and sincere sentiment.

Sure, I love that two-in-one ice cream and waffle maker, but it would be even better if someone had picked up on the fact that I love ice cream and I love waffles and thought of it themselves. Nope. I had to ask for it.

I live in a house full of guys and guys aren’t wired that way. They don’t pick up on subtle cues like the fact that I sleep in faded sweat pants and an oversized T-shirt, comment on that woman’s pretty nightgown in the movie, or complain about having to borrow my husband’s T-shirt to sleep in. (I WANT PRETTY PAJAMAS!) They also don’t pick up on understated hints, like that time I posted on Facebook a picture of that sea glass bracelet I want in the color Bali Blue from my favorite surf shop, along with the hours and address of the shop, and then tagged my husband so that he would be notified that I posted it. No, men don’t pick up on those vague suggestions.

Guys don’t play those games. They want clarity and to shop efficiently, preferably with a list. So, I think the Christmas list tradition in our house is here to stay.

I guess I might as well embrace the list. Next year I’ll post it on our refrigerator and they can merely pick what they want to give. Here are a few things that will be on my list:

Control of the TV remote for half a day.

A full day in which I can walk into the bathroom and not have to flush after the last person.

A Christmas puppy, because I’ve been waiting on that one since childhood.

A bathroom mirror free of toothpaste splatters.

That all-in-one ice cream and waffle maker, because it would be super awesome if that was a real thing.

Hopefully that’s pretty clear, and if all else fails, I guess I’ll take a gift card.

List or no list, cocoa or no cocoa, Shelly Cone is just glad to be able to spend lots of quality time with her family during the season. Contact her through the managing editor at

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