Hammer time: Looking for a new holiday tradition?

by Bill hammerstrom | Hudson Hub-Times Editor Published:

Have you noticed a fairly recent push to establish new holiday traditions, many involving elves?

Christopher Pop-In-Kins, a family's 50-year tradition shared with the world in 1984, seems to be peaking in popularity since his sister Christina Marie was introduced in a book in 2010.

"The Elf on the Shelf," self-published by mother and daughter Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell in 2005, has a strong following. The story tells of an elf who visits a home to watch a child during the day then returns to the North Pole at night to report the child's behavior to Santa Claus.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, parents around the world open their homes to these little elves. Children find the elves in a new hiding spot each day.

A pair of authors recently set out to create more faith-based Christmas traditions with their new books.

Jill Hardie's "Sparkle Box" encourages families to put a present under the tree and fill the box with the good deeds they have done to honor Jesus on his birthday.

Hudson High School graduate Jenny Shanahan of Kent recently wrote "Lost and Found: Jesus the Greatest Treasure." Instead of looking for an elf on a shelf, the book encourages children to find the Magi each day in their house as they journey to see Jesus.

"I feel that this book was guided by the Holy Spirit and I am a messenger," she told me. "It seems that once Christmas Day is over, that is it; there is a let down. However, in the church year, that is the beginning of the Christmas season.

"My goal was to create a fun setting where kids would want to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and truly find Jesus in their everyday lives."

In reading about the other authors, they also were inspired by a desire to share their own values and family traditions in the hopes that others would find the same joy.

My family follows several holiday traditions:

No singing Christmas carols until after Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe that's not a tradition, just a rule established after too much "Jingle Bells."

My mom hides a different elf somewhere in the house every day for the 24 days of December before Christmas. She was inspired by Danish stories about helper elves who do chores, like feed pets, when children forget. And her elf tradition pre-dates Christopher Pop-In-Kins 1984 world debut by many years. Maybe she should write a book...

My family annually made gingerbread houses together out of graham crackers, frosting, candy, cereal and any other colorful food items. We were not allowed to use anything that can't be eaten, and, as kids, we were allowed to eat our houses after the holidays. Only the M&M's were still edible after a few weeks on display, but it was still fun to play Godzilla and bite into the roofs.

My mom made cornish hens on Christmas Eve, and she and my dad made steak and eggs on Christmas morning.

Santa always delivered at least one extra large gift on Christmas Eve. Santa followed the same sensible spending habits of my parents when I was a kid, but he still managed to find one super-sized item for us, like a cardboard lemonade stand, a giant stuffed purple dog or a Little Tikes kitchen set. In my mind, our living room was filled with gifts on Christmas morning thanks to Santa's big presents.

My grandmother hid an almond in her rice pudding on Christmas Day. Whoever found it won a prize. My sister found it every year. My mom and I were surprised to learn this year that the whole thing was fixed. My sister, my dad and his mother-in-law kept that secret from us for almost 30 years.

Every member of my family hangs a pickle ornament on their Christmas tree. Whoever finds the pickle first on Christmas Day wins a prize.

My mom has assembled several Christmas tree ornament wedding gifts for newlyweds, inspired by a German tradition, so on the trees of her married family and friends, you're likely to find these 12 ornaments:

• A heart for true love;

• A pinecone for motherhood and fruitfulness;

• Santa for unselfishness and good will;

• A house for shelter and protection;

• A rabbit for hope and faith;

• An angel for God's guidance;

• A teapot for hospitality;

• A rose for beauty;

• A basket of fruit for generosity;

• A flower for good wishes; and

• A bird for happiness.

I'm not sure if any of these traditions are unique to my family, but if there's a void of holiday traditions in your family, you're welcome to follow them. And if not, I'd like to hear about your family's traditions. You can email them to me or post them on our Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/hudsonhubtimes ).

I'm sure my family wouldn't mind adding a couple more traditions. The more the merrier.

Email: bhammerstrom@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9427

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