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Column: Adjusting traditions builds new practices


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I’ve always been protective of the people and things I hold dearest in life.

I’m protective of my wife. Protective of my daughter. Protective of my faith.

Now, with Christmas just around the corner, I’m reminded of another thing I’m protective of — childhood memories.

Take the white Christmas tree my family and I just put up in our living room. For all intents and purposes, it’s beautiful, glowing with white lights and adorned in strictly brown ornaments to create a classic meat-and-potatoes appearance.

I love it more than probably any of the other tree themes we’ve experimented with over the years. Those trees have included solid colors of green and blue and red, among others. Next year we’re talking about a rainbow tree, with bands of colors from top to bottom and matching ornaments.

But wait! What about my childhood? What about the tree my mother and father erected every single year that became as much a cornerstone of my Christmases as Santa Claus?

That tree was green. It had a hodgepodge of different color lights. It had everything from sloppily painted cardboard gizmos we kids made at school to twisty things made by Aunt Such-and-Such to commemorate such-and-such.

I can’t think of that Christmas tree without remembering the childhood thoughts I had staring at it, the adventures that happened around it and, of course, the best Christmas presents Santa ever made stuffed beneath and beside it.

Which brings me to the whole concept of compromise.

When my wife and I got married, it never occurred to me that anyone would dare challenge my memories of Christmas with their own memories of what the holiday should look like.

My wife grew up with white trees and car rides to see the decorations around Columbus. I grew up with green trees and Nativity sets.

My wife grew up listening to the 1960s Chipmunks Christmas album, featuring Alvin, Simon and Theodore. I grew up listening to Gene Autry sing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” because my dad grew up watching westerns and kept that song rotating constantly on the record player.

And now there’s a wildcard in the mix. My daughter, Ashlynn, will turn 7 soon and is beginning to develop her own preferences about how Christmas should look, feel and sound. She is the main driving force behind our decision to go with that rainbow theme next year.

What is this, a democracy or something?

Actually, it is. And it’s proved to be a valuable exercise in what it really means to be in a family — to be willing to give and take.

I’d wager that my mom and dad didn’t celebrate Christmas exactly the same way either. Yet somewhere along the line they compromised to create a new tradition for me and my three siblings that became our reality.

The real meaning of Christmas far transcends all of that anyway. It’s not supposed to be about nostalgia. It’s a living historical event meant to be celebrated in homes in as many diverse ways as the human minds behind them can conjure.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, though I have to admit I enjoy those years when it’s daddy’s turn to relive memories.

For me, that’s a green tree. With cardboard things. And twisty gizmos.

Paul Minnis is a senior reporter at The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5638 or pminnis@therepublic.com.

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