Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ellen Keener's Christmas

by Ellen Keener

It’s that time of year again. Ignore the fact that stores have been decorated since I was wearing tank tops and shorts. It’s the holiday season. Time for turkey, family, pie, presents, mashed potatoes, good cheer, bread, singing… You did hear that it’s a time for eating, right?

I love the holidays. And since you’re a captive audience, I’m going to tell you all about mine. My personal holiday season starts with Halloween, but then, I’m a little strange. I love being able to decorate the yard with skeletons and disembodied heads and the occasional zombie, only to turn around, put that away and put out angels and snowflakes and nativities. And there’s a turkey or two in between.

My family has a lot of traditions when it comes to the holidays. We eat. And eat. And EAT. Thankfully, since we now have Thanksgiving at my house, and I live in the middle of nowhere, we have given up on the Black Friday shopping. I despise shopping to begin with, and I hate getting up early. I’m not really sure why I ever went, other than Mom always wanted to go.

But now we eat in the relative peace of my house. You do have to stay out of the backyard unless you’re wearing hunter’s orange. The chances of getting grazed by a misguided hunter are slim, but I prefer not to take chances.

We watch movies, try not to let their cat and mine do too much damage to each other, and then they go home on Saturday, a little rounder than before.

Christmas starts as soon as Grandma gets into my car at the airport. That’s usually about two weeks after Thanksgiving. If I’m lucky, I have managed to keep the house relatively clean, so I don’t have to kill myself the night before she shows up. (Cause I’m the Queen of Procrastination) She spends a few days at my house, and then we head to my parent’s. I usually get there and stay for a couple weeks. One of the bonuses of being a teacher. My brother rolls in just before the holidays. Usually with all his shopping done. If not, he and I do a mad dash through the crowds and he picks up what he needs. I tag along and find something I don’t need, but buy to stick in a package “from the cats” or “From the underwear elf” to someone usually.

Now, as many of you who are “grown ups” and still visit your parents know, no matter how old you are, at Christmas time you aren’t ever old enough.

Every year, I try to convince my mother that the Christmas tree and subsequent packages need protection. We have two cats. One is evil incarnate. My cat is cute and adorable, but easily corrupted. They like ornaments. And bows, and shiny things. Sacrificing myself to a night spent in front of the big screen, with the tree, on the comfy couch seems like the noble thing to do.

She never goes for it.

Because, no matter how old we are, my parents refuse to let us downstairs until my mother rings the Christmas Bell. No lie. And then when we get downstairs, you have to do the last family advent service, which usually ends up in the family singing Joy to the World, while my brother plays with matches and lights the Christ candle and pretends to sing while I elbow him. I suppose saying we’re grown ups might be a stretch on occasion.

There are lots of other traditions. Many with food. My brother and I hunt for a glass pickle on the Christmas tree still. I’ve lost two years running. My pride is wounded. I may have to resort to trickery this year.

We burn bayberry candles for good luck on Christmas Eve. My brother gets his own this year since he moved out. He’s way less excited than I was. Must be a boy thing.

One other tradition, which isn’t so much a family thing as one I do myself, is that I make ornaments and give them to friends. This is where you come in. One lucky person will win an ornament. It isn’t fancy or huge, but I made it, and I hope you will take it and have a very Merry Christmas and New Year.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. And I hope you all have a happy, healthy (Well, eat a lot, holiday calories don’t count), and safe holiday season, and a fantastic New Year!

Find Ellen:


Twitter - ellenkeener




  1. I love holiday ornaments. I usually pick up a few different ones every year. I try not to even think about calories from Halloween on. All that candy followed by all those pies and then ending with cookies,pies and anything else we can shovel in.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  2. I remember the ornaments were a favorite part of putting up the Christmas tree. We all had our favorite ornament and some personal enough that when the folks quit putting up a tree of their own, we were all invited to take our favorites with us.

    It's been too long since I've put a tree...cats partly, small house partly. I now own a miniature bead tree and that is our tree. And the pink santa flamingo bobblehead goes right next to it.

  3. Your family sounds like fun and so do the cats. It's nice to have everyone together for the holidays, and the cats too.

  4. Hi Ellen, sounds like you've got a fantastic holiday ahead of you.
    And you're so right - cats and Christmas trees do not mix - or dogs for that matter. As for dogs and cats and Christmas trees...

  5. wow sounds like you have fantastic family traditions ( I admit I was giggling). I love ornaments. I have all the ones from my childhood still adn I dutifully dust them off and hang them on the tree every year

  6. This is year we have a three month old puppy that is slowly trying to chew everything on the tree. She has managed to break a few ornaments and started on the bead garland.

    I love handmade ornaments. It is sad that my son has never been the artsy type, oh well.

    Happy Holidays to all.

  7. I truly enjoyed hearing about your traditions. One of ours is that the ladies in the family exchange gifties(inexpensive)with each other; it is nice if they are homemade but bought is fine also. For years Mom and us girls made a Christmas ornament or wreath; it was fun being together and crafting.

  8. It's wonderful to read your families traditions. We have just a few in ours: listening to Dean Martin while decorating the tree and watching A Christmas Story every Christmas Eve. Not sure we do anything the kids will pass on through the generations. I'll have to pay better attention this year.

    And how great that you make ornaments each year. Homemade is the best. :) Happy Holidays!

  9. Loved your article here and the pickle ornament is so neat.wherever did your family find that. I had to look twice as I was sure I was seeing things. I hope YOU find it first this year. I have an ornament for each family member and every year they ornament is hung on the tree by whoever owns it. I think families should have a special year round tradition. susan Leech garysue@dejazzd.com

  10. Thanks everyone for posting! It is lovely to hear from you all!

    susan - We got it eons ago on a trip to Frankenmuth, MI to the big Christmas place up there (the name escapes me). But I've seen them lots of places recently!

    Thanks all! LadyDi and Nina - dogs and puppies and christmas trees? Oh no. Add cats to the mix? I think I'd invest in a nice plastic pyramid and draw the ornaments on!

  11. Thank you for allowing me to take a peeking at your family Christmas--sounds wonderful.

  12. Ellen, my boys and I make something "homemade" as a gift for the grandparents every year. I've been doing this with them since they were babies and it started off as plaster imprints of their baby hands/feet. Loved how you brought to life how "ungrown" you and your brother are when you're in your parents' house.

    Great blog and all the best of success with your book!


  13. Hi, Ellen! What wonderful holiday traditions you have! I love ornaments, too, especially the handmade ones--my kids each hang the ones they've made each year, and are thankfully still adding to the collection :) This is such a family time of year ;)

  14. That sounds wonderful. It is always great to stick to the traditions of your family. One of my favorite things about Christmas time is the ornaments. And I have to say that Halloween starts my holidays to, I like to decorate the yard and the house. Actually my big spider that I bought now decorates my bookshelf. I didn't have the heart to put him away.

  15. How cool that you make your own ornaments. I'll bet they are real collector's items for your family and friends.

    I totally know what you mean about the stores putting up decorations too early. I hate to see them pop up as soon as the 4th of July passes by! LOL

  16. I love special ornaments. I have a metal tree that all of my treasured ornaments go on.

  17. I love ornaments. theyall have thier own story to tell. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.
    debby236 at att dot net

  18. I love decorating, it's one of my favorite things. I love how bland things look at first but then get all sparkly and shiny once I decorate. It always gets me in the holiday mood no matter how bad my day has gone. I enjoy it so much that I'd decorate everyone's home if they let me.

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

  19. awww I love reading other peoples christmas stories ect Inever ever miss christmas with my folks i dont think you can ever be too old for that and for me its the one thing every year i thrive on even when i end up being anti christmas due to teh chaos and hustle and bustle of the year id be lost with out family on christmas my fiancee knows how i feel about christmas and even he refuses to let me miss christmas with family


  20. Congrats Jennifer! You're the lucky winner! I'll be in contact via email.

    Thanks to everyone for stopping by!