The Traditional Christmas Blog

The Soapbox family, like your family, does not live in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Our Christmas traditions run the gamut from Dolly Parton Christmas carols (don’t ask) to an amazing Christmas dinner prepared to perfection by his nibs, Mr Soapbox.

We thought we had all our traditions down pat…and then we discovered Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe.

On Christmas Eve, we had our traditional dinner of pizza & wings, watched “Mini” rearrange the tiles on the Rummykub table to the point where none of us could remember where they went, and then popped The Vinyl Cafe into the CD player.

It was like a scene from the 1940’s.  Mr and Ms Soapbox, Mini and Missy huddled in front of the radio, Ziggy the dog conked out in front of the fire.  No one said a word while Stuart McLean weaved loopy stories about Dave and Morley, the kids and the Cat.  It was perfect.

In that instant The Vinyl Cafe became part of the Soapbox family’s traditional Christmas.

Christmas morning went off without a hitch—except for Ziggy the dog.  He found a bone the size of a dinosaur’s femur in his stocking and gnawed his lips raw leaving little flecks of blood on the Oriental rug.

Missy said the best way to get blood out of a carpet is to spit on it.  Ms Soapbox does not spit.   But she loves her carpets.  In a flash she and Missy were on their hands and knees spitting at the flecks and daubing them up.  Guess what…it works!   Nevertheless, spitting on the carpets will not become a part of the Soapbox family’s traditional Christmas.

What are your traditions?  Do you decorate palm trees?  Dig around in grab bags hoping not to pick the worst gag gift for once in your life?  Have a shot of pálinka before breakfast?   Whatever your traditions, I’m sure they bring you joy.

So let’s close with a Ziggy Christmas tradition.  In year one most of you couldn’t find him in the Christmas tree.  In year two he flopped into a tragic heap at the base of the tree.  But this year he’s majestic—proud as a peacock in his goofy paper hat.  I think that bodes well for the new year, don’t you?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Soapbox family.  We wish you and yours the very best for 2014!!!     

 photo fda8b74b-f21d-4446-bfc7-bf4075b05fcd_zps33c33682.jpg

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17 Responses to The Traditional Christmas Blog

  1. Roy Wright says:

    Ah…traditions. This blog definitely opened the flood gates of past Christmas’s and the evolution of the Soapbox clan traditions. Many, many years ago, when we were first married, university students and poor as church mice, Christmas was much simpler. We had a small tree with cheap ornaments and our standard presents numbered but two each: a book and a square frizbee (aka a LP album). Mrs. Soapbox was always excited and could not sleep the night before even though she had a pretty good idea what was under the tree. Christmas day was spent listening to music and reading a fun book as compared to ploughing through assigned readings. We did an apricot and sweet potato dish back in those days which became a signature dish.

    Kids came along and cranked Christmas up a notch or two. Both children were excited on Christmas Eve (genetic I am sure) and would be allowed to get up in the early hours and sneak into the others’ rooms with their stocking and entertain themselves until the “adults” woke up. Mrs. Soapbox would start poking Mr Soapbox at 3 am “Is it time to get up yet?” The apricot and sweet potato dish still appeared, although I tried to sneak other sweet potato dishes into our holiday food traditions, the complaints made me hesitant to break with tradition.

    The girls are adults now and as Mrs. Soapbox eloquently described, our traditions have evolved. Our decorations mostly have a story behind each one, gathered in our travels and the kids tend to sleep in a bit longer. Even Ms. Soapbox has stopped the poking. Instead, she introduced a new tradition this year, which I hope will last as long as some of my sweet potato substitute recipes. It started off with blood on the carpet. Mrs. Soapbox, upon the medical advice of her oldest daughter, proceeded to the floor on all fours, pyjama clad butt in the air and proceeded to start horking, apparently to deposit spit on the flecks. I was laughing so hard at the visual and sound effects, I neglected to grab the camera to capture the briefest of moments where Mrs. Soapbox let down her “Miss Manners” persona.

    Christmas is a time of year where our family can gather round and slow down, talk about past holidays and take joy in each others company…that tradition is the thread that keeps all the other evolving components, including Vinyl Cafe, sweet potatoes (same d…recipe this year) and horking that makes me love our Christmases. Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year to all.

    • For the record, I don’t believe it is anatomically possible to hork when one is incapable of spitting. You must have me confused with the Hallelujah Chorus.

      Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up, thank you for that a wonderful description of how our traditions evolved, including the one where the girls and I refused to let go of the traditional apricot and sweet potato casserole when Mr Soapbox tried to ease it out of his repertoire. Of course substituting Killer Pone and wiping out the family for a day didn’t help his case any.

      Some things are too good to mess with so we’re back on track with our traditional Christmas dinner, masterfully assembled under Mr Soapbox’s watchful eye. The dining room table is gleaming with “the good stuff”. Family friends will be here soon. It promises to be another great Christmas. Merry Christmas to you all.

  2. Hi Susan. Poor Ziggy. You asked about Christmas traditions, well with a name like Vander Vlugt, I have a Dutch Christmas tradition. Our girls are now 25 and 22. Since they were tiny, my husband has bought them, and me, a chocolate letter, J for Joanna, A for Ashley, etc. This is a tradition passed down from his parents. I learned from my oldest that it’s cultural. She was talking to her Dutch friend, who asked if she gets the chocolate letter in her stocking too? I’m curious if any of your readers are Dutch and do they do this?

    A new tradition we’ve started is the hiding of the green pickle ornament in the Christmas tree. Whoever finds the green pickle is supposed to have good luck and host Christmas the following year. I believe this might be a German tradition. Might.

    Have a Merry Christmas Ms. Soapbox and to all the other soapboxes. Joanna

    • A green pickle, what a clever idea. Whether it’s a German tradition or not doesn’t matter. Once it’s made its way into your Dutch/Hungarian household, it’s yours forever. I love chocolate so getting a chocolate letter simply for being me would be perfect. Remember the chocolate orange debacle of last year (every chocolate orange in the city vapourized before I had a chance to buy one). My good friend KJ wasn’t prepared to see that happen again and picked one up for me in the first week of December. She told me to save it until Christmas day (hah!) The company that makes chocolate oranges pulled out all the stops this year. They’re all over the place–dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mint, white chocolate…it’s amazing what a little hysteria in the market place will do!

      Have a Merry Christmas Ms Champs, all the best to you, Mr Champs and all the little champs too.

  3. Liane Sharkey says:

    Merry Christmas to all the Soapboxes, human and canine! Here’s my longtime Christmas ritual: what? you say I’m Jewish so could not possibly have one? Well, my friends Sheila and Lionel have always included our family in their Danish Christmas eve tradition. They’re not Danish, but long ago, Sheila adopted, and adapted, the Danish tradition of a Christmas eve fast. She serves a simple meal of fish with salad, followed by a scrumptious rice porridge (not pudding) served with raspberry sauce and cinnamon, into which has been hidden an almond (pronounce “ah-mond, Ms. Soapbox). Whoever gets the almond has a year of good luck (and we have to keep taking more servings till someone gets it!). Well, all very well, except due to our ice storm, Toronto had massive power failures for over 250,000 homes this week, including Sheila and Lionel’s home. So we offered to host our friends’ Christmas party in our house — our first Jewish Christmas party! In place of red and green decorations, we made do with yellow daisy napkins, blue plates, and smoked salmon appetizers. When the guest who was to bring the main course couldn’t come, we improvised with a quick pasta dish. I got to cook my first rice porridge as Sheila gallantly shared the secret family recipe, once I promised never to reveal the contents, of course. As we do every year, we sang the beautiful grace Sheila wrote 25 years ago, as well as a few carols after dinner, and had a fabulous party in what could certainly be labelled Judeo-Christian tradition if ever there was one! And as soon as they got home, their electricity came back on – now if that is not a Christmas miracle in this frozen city, I don’t know what is!! Merry Christmas to everyone!

    • Liane, thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition with us! It’s a remarkable story on so many levels. You put it best when you described it as a Judeo-Christian tradition that became a Christmas miracle in the heart of the frozen city. You’ve always had a remarkable ability to face down adversity and turn it into a celebration.

      I’m not surprised by my Jewish friend wishing us Merry Christmas. Years ago when Roy and I arrived in Toronto you made our first Christmas in the big city very special. You gave me a Christmas tree ornament, a little potpourri ball tied up with red ribbon, that you’d made yourself. It’s been lovingly displayed on the tree or the mantel in six different cities and two countries ever since.

      I’m so glad you and your family and friends are safe. We think of you often. All the very best of the season to you dear friend.
      Susan

  4. Liane Sharkey says:

    Thank you for such kind words! I always loved making Christmas decorations and am so honoured that you still have that one, which I so totally do not remember, due to my advanced age (not all that different from your own, mind you). I have so many wonderful Christmas memories, now to which I must add the picture of you, on all fours, pajama-clad, spitting and horking while singing the Hallelujah chorus on a bloody rug…..it tops everything!

    • Ahem…just for the record, it was a delicate little spit, there was no horking involved and it was the CD, not Ms Soapbox, singing the Hallelujah chorus! Ms Soapbox has the feeling that she will rue the day she ever mentioned this tiny blip on her otherwise unblemished lady-like reputation.

  5. Julie Ali says:

    Susan,

    I can’t imagine you all spitting on a carpet. It’s just too bad that there was no photographic record of the decision to salivate over the dog blood. But the description provided by Roy (so unromantic but vivid) of your pajama butt in the air was so funny that perhaps the photographic proof isn’t required.

    We have only one family tradition but this isn’t really a tradition but more of an enduring habit. When we were poor— just after we finished studies as graduate students–I used to go to the Salvation Army with older boy in his baby stroller. Older boy was adorable (and still is). He was much admired by everyone for his sweet, charming ways that pertain entirely from his genetic inheritance from the paternal side since I haven’t a lick of sweetness in me. The manager at the store, was fond of him and no doubt feeling sorry for the ragged infant and his equally poorly dressed mum–she gave us a plastic Christmas tree for half price. It was such a nice thing to do. Every time we put up that tree I think of the kindness of strangers. Often it is a citizen who is as poor as you are who will help you out more than anyone else.

    Now we are less poor. I still dress badly. The Christmas season is unattended by great pomp and diversity but the tree is still with us. Every year, I get hubby to put up the tree. He puts up the same plastic tree even though older boy is no longer a newborn and is now 18 years old. We have had to augment the failing timber with the discards of new trees that we have had to buy to prop up the fiction. The old tree is still vivid thanks to these tasteful augmentations of her frame. When the boys ask if we will ever — get a new tree before the old tree disintegrates into dust— we look at them as if it were a sacrilege being asked of us. That tree came into our home at the same time as the older child we tell them. It is part of our family (well it is until it can’t be put up any longer).

    We have long since given up on Christmas presents. I give the boys money. We have long since given up on the bad Christmas dinners since I was poisoning everyone and stick to finger food in massive quantities. But we haven’t given up on the half price plastic Christmas tree given to us by a kind woman at the Salvation Army thrift store. Some things just shriek the spirit of Christmas.

    All the best to your family in the interesting times we have in Alberta.

    Julie

    • Julie, what a lovely tradition (or enduring practice). That scruffy plastic tree stands for much more than Christmas–it’s a symbol of your journey as a family, starting as you said, with nothing and ending up with more (hopefully enough). I was touched by your comment about the kindness of strangers. That’s what our government fails to understand–we’re all in this together.

      These are indeed interesting times. 2014 and 2015 will be very intense as Redford blindly plunges ahead trying to impress those she thinks can help her (big business) and ignoring those who make her look bad due to her own ineptitude (public health, education, seniors’ files). She’s so far off the mark now that even people who don’t follow politics are beginning to see it.

      Have a good Christmas. We will have plenty of work to do over the next two years. All the best to you, hubby and older boy and his brother. The boys are fortunate to have you as parents. You’re teaching them what’s really important in life.

  6. Lunelle says:

    I must first say, I LOVE Christmas!!!!!!! Julie, like you, we have had a tree forever…Young,married, and poor. We happened upon a free artificial tree. It just had one little broken spot on the trunk, where one branch fit in. Not a problem!!! I tied that branch up, every year, for over 20 yrs. One day my husband threw this tree out. There is no Christmas without a tree….that was 3 years ago.

    This year, after a confrontation, and a huge discussion of the quality of artificial trees available, and my expectations, my husband bought a new tree, and OMG did he buy a tree! I now have a beautiful tree! It’s a good thing it came prelit!

    I don’t have the heart, I don’t have the gumption, and I don’t have the energy to “do” Christmas this year. I have established many Christmas traditions. This year, there is nothing……no traditional baking, no decorations (except for the prelit tree)…Christmas does not exist in my home.

    I am so, so scared, and so worried…..and I know that the “New Year” brings more hardship for normal Albertans….and the sad thing is that they don’t see it coming…..Christmas traditions…in my house, they are dead, ……….Thankyou Fred Horne, Thankyou Alison Redford. I thank all the back benchers who lack a spine! Thank you all so much!!!! And Merry Christmas to all you A-holes. And all of you know who you are….

    I should probably shut up now…..Christmas traditions…….

    • Lunelle, the Redford government hasn’t got a clue about the pain it’s causing you and the others impacted by its misguided decision to privatization lab services, let alone the callous message it’s sent to all unions by passing Bills 45 and 46. (I agree with you that the public hasn’t figured out what all this means yet, but it will–the hard way).

      It’s important to remember that it’s not over yet. The RFP process won’t be finished until June 1, 2014, the transition of lab services won’t be finished until Sept 30, 2015. This gives the opposition parties FOUR legislative sessions to bring up examples of mismanagement of the RFP process and the transition from AHS to the private company (Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015 and Fall 2015). That leads us right up to the Spring 2016 session which will likely be truncated because the PCs have to call an election by law. If the PCs totally botch this (and they will) this privatization will provide a great opportunity to discredit them in the election.

      The opposition parties will ask tough questions about this if they know it’s important to Albertans. That’s why we need to keep writing to them (with a cc to Redford/Horne) before and after the RFP is awarded to tell them that we strongly oppose this decision.

      We should also write to our own MLAs, especially if they’re spineless PCs, and say we’ll never vote them again as a result of this decision. I don’t think this will give them more courage but it will undermine the control Redford and Cabinet exert over them because they’ll see that as a result of Redford’s decisions they risk being defeated in the next election.

      Lunelle, I wish there was more I could say about how to get through until 2016. One thing I can say is this: Albertans are starting to get it–Redford’s focus is industry (energy, private healthcare, whatever), everything else fails to the bottom of the list. We will remember this in 2016.

      Sorry about the lengthy response, I hope you have a chance to rest over Christmas. Take care, Lunelle and Lunelle’s husband who found the perfect pre-lit tree. In the new year we’ll carry on the fight.

  7. Elaine Fleming says:

    When the kids were small, my husband built a wooden creche and I made little fabric figurines to go in it: the Holy Family, Wisemen, a Shepherd, an Angel and various animals. Our son, who was about seven, built a little manger for Baby Jesus. Every year we had our solemn little production on the first day of Advent, putting the creche together and the Baby in the manger as the last touch. It was our token gesture to the origins of Christmas before we got caught up in the mass consumption in the month to follow. The kids have grown and gone a long time ago, but I can’t get started on anything “Christmas” until I get that little Nativity scene up. A few years ago we got a new puppy whom, I found out, had a penchant for small, soft toys. Christmas came, and I put up the creche as usual. A little while later, I saw the dog on the floor by the creche munching on something and then realized, aghast, what he had. I let out a shriek, “Oh my God, he’s got Baby Jesus!” to which he responded by opening his jaws and dropping the poor little figure. He had irreverently mauled it, and although I kind of pushed and kneaded the features back together as best I could, to this day you can see the little halo has teeth marks all around it, and the face a few punctures (:
    Clued in that the dog needed a “baby” of his own, we gave him a little teddy bear and from then on he has left the creche alone at Christmas. However, he will not abide a party hat. I don’t think he could carry it off with Ziggy’s aplomb anyhow!
    Merry Christmas, Susan and the Soapbox Family. And, we are very much looking forward to the razzle-dazzle fireworks in your blogs of the New Year!

    • Elaine, what a delightful story! And what a good puppy. We had a dog once that would have swallowed Baby Jesus rather than give him up. These quirky twists in the story make the tradition our very own and we reinforce them every year when we retell the story. Ziggy was very patient when we put the hat on him and then the sun hit it just right so he ended up with a greenish blue halo. I’m sure that’s a good sign. Merry Christmas Elaine to you and your family. We’ll have lots to talk about in the New Year!
      PS Was the creche crasher Rico?

  8. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    Four calling birds, three husbands, two sons and a can of cranberry sauce, ah tradition. As a person who had hooked her horse to more than one cart, over the years, it was difficult to establish traditions that would be carried on through the ages but traditions can be more than just circumstances that define a moment.

    For me Christmas has always been family, immediate and extended family. With each new family came different things that made the holidays special. Some overlapped into the new family and some new family members just got thrown into the deep end and were accepted with open arms.

    Christmas is a time of loving, giving and caring and the slooshing sound of cranberries as they slide out of the can. Ah tradition.

    • Rose, what a warm hearted description of Christmas…old families and new families coming together, sometimes bringing their friends and all of them being wrapped up in our family celebrations. It makes Christmas special. The other thing I thought of when I read your note was that our traditions have evolved over time as our parents grew older. Mom used to get up at the crack of dawn to put a gigantic turkey in the oven and now her daughters and sons-in-law show up at the front door lugging turkey and all the fixings and whip up a fantastic meal (a tradition that applies to all visits, not just Christmas) while the rest of us sit at the kitchen table yakking and snacking for hours.
      Of course it wouldn’t be complete without your canned cranberries! Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. See you in the new year!

  9. Pingback: The Soapbox Family’s Christmas Tree | Susan on the Soapbox

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