True Traditions: New Year's Eve

I’m always up at midnight on January 1, but it’s not usually a night I choose to go out. I’ve done New Year’s Eve parties with my immediate family at home my whole life, but the only one that really sticks out to me was the turning of 1995 to 1996; my four-year-old self couldn’t stop crying at the thought of never seeing 1995 again. I felt so bad that its turn was over and done.

These days, the turn of the year has been a significant transition time for me in a different way. Like anyone, I set goals, resolutions, and unattainable levels of perfection for the upcoming year, but it’s more about the moment for me. That magical midnight o’clock when everything changes in a split second but nothing really happens.

I’ve carried on my family tradition of making pizza dip for my solo New Year’s Eve parties (layer cream cheese with pizza spices, sauce, and mozzarella in the oven for fifteen minutes if you’d like to taste perfection), but I’ve also set a new one. Music is at the top of the list of things I care most passionately for, so I like to set the mood and designate a song to be the first thing I listen to at midnight on January first.

I put maybe too much thought into the first thing my ears hear after the last day of the twelfth month, but after doing it for a few years, it’s really started to set the mood for my upcoming year. It’s a song I can listen to when I’m feeling content or powerful, discouraged or uninspired, or even torturously upset. It gives me a moment’s pause to remember where I was two or five or twelve months ago and what was significant to me then, and what is significant to me now.

2013’s Song of the Year was Mumford and Son’s Winter Winds. 2014’s was Keane’s Atlantic. 2015’s was American Hi-Fi’s Portland. In November, I began the bracket process for my 2016 selection, but I build it up so much these days that I overwhelm myself at the thought of narrowing my list of umpteen tunes. American Hi-Fi is still my all-time fave band of boys, but Rooney and Jim Croce have both played big parts in my life this year. Even little miss pop princess Ariana Grande (I'll never forget seeing her live in Chicago in October...all I'm going to say is Honeymoon Avenue), surprising as that may be. But then, Shakey Graves was the best show I've seen this year, so maybe he deserves the title.

But things always feel different day of. It's been a long one, and I'm feeling pretty moody and with no plans besides sitting by the fire sipping sparkling apple cider, we'll see what comes through my headphones after twelve. What sounds are you hearing tonight?

Happy New Year, and thank you a million times, as always, for doing life with me.

True Traditions: Christmas

Continuing talk about family traditions and starting your own…

Ever since I can remember, my mom and dad have bought one ornament for each of us kids every Christmas. I kept my collection in a shoebox I had decorated sometime in pre-school or kindergarten until I was in my teens and there were too many ornaments to fit. Notecards are tucked inside each of our boxes with a description of the ornament and the year we received it, along with a few other lines of information about any ornaments gifted from outside the family over the years.

This will be my twenty-fourth year of receiving an ornament from my parents, which just hit me as absolutely crazy. Twenty-four of the most special gifts I’ve received in my lifetime that they put endless thought into as December 25 draws near. It’s become a tradition to open them on Christmas Eve after all seven of us Lankfords pile back home from Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy house up the road. Our Christmas Eve ornament gifts probably top the list of my favorite holiday traditions.

Of course, all things can’t remain the same forever, and kids grow up and go away. My oldest sister is married now and I’m off on my own, and taking our ornaments with to decorate our own trees. I’ll admit it’s rather bittersweet, hanging old memories on new trees and knowing they won’t be waiting for me at home anymore. Plus, taking fifty ornaments away from our parents’ tree between the two of us leaves a sad and emptier sight behind, which inspired us to start a new tradition a few years ago: we reversed it on our parents.

All five of us kids consult each other before the big day finding the perfect ornaments; one for Mom and one for Dad. We’re old now, we have bank accounts and cars and Christmas shopping lists and are perfectly capable of finding something special for the two most important people in our lives. It’s fun to see my parents’ ornament collection grow along with ours as the years go by.

I love this tradition because it’s still family-oriented even though we don’t live together anymore.  The Lankford kids get to take on some responsibility: we’re spending our money and taking our time to make the ones who gave us life feel special. A lot changes when you get older, and one of those things is you become aware and conscious of what it means to be caring and thoughtful. It’s fun to see that develop in my younger siblings, even in as small a way as gifting our mother and dad the perfect Christmas ornament.  

I've been loving hearing about your holiday traditions with your families! Leave a comment or shoot me an email to share your thoughts on tradition or some special ones that your family has in place...doesn't have to be Christmas, I'd love to hear them all. I'll be posting a round-up of my favorites at the end of the year!

True Traditions: Thanksgiving

Traditions absolutely warm my heart. There’s so much pride and meaning that goes into them, even if it’s the goofiest tradition in the world. In fact, I almost want to contest that statement. A tradition can’t be silly if it means enough to you to be repeated.

I wanted to start a new series here on my little Internet diary, and traditions were at the top of my list since most everyone I know can relate to them. Additionally, I’m at an interesting point in my life where I’ve had time to set and develop some of my own, one of which I’m sharing with you now.

Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays when I was a kid, though you wouldn’t believe me now. When I was little, I think I ate black olives and white rolls, and maybe a scoop of my grandma’s Jell-O salad, and it was still the best meal of the year. As I got less picky I started liking only the white meat on the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and then when I became vegetarian, Thanksgiving dinner became a lot of squash and sweet potatoes, risottos, vegetarian stuffing (which my mom calls dressing…what does your family call it?), and of course, still plenty of rolls. And pie. Pie is life now.

But as my diet changed so much over the years, so did my attitude toward Thanksgiving. It’s cliché, but when I was a kid, I didn’t have much to care about. Thanksgiving meant seeing my favorite cousins and eating rolls (beginning to see how my need and love for carbs came about) and not much else. Then, it became a lot of concerned “Well, what’s Chelsea going to eat?” because feeding vegetarians was oh so challenging and everything was such a big deal and avoiding attention at dinner made things easier for me. Nobody eats vegetable Jell-O, Grandma.

Until now, the tradition was Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. These days, we rotate the responsibility between G&G’s, or my aunt and uncle’s thirty minutes outside the city, or my family’s home. Whoever is hosting is usually in charge of the turkey, but my other aunt and uncle always bring something of a backup turkey every year just because they love the task. We got in a routine. My older sister would return from college for the occasion, and we’d all drink way too much sparkling apple cider than could be good for us.

I do remember a couple years when the routine was thrown, like going to church for a Thanksgiving meal or when we moved away and some welcoming family invited us to spend Thanksgiving at their house. When I moved to Minneapolis myself, I spent a couple years up north with my sister’s in-laws for the holiday. While I can’t thank them enough for the generous invitation, being with someone else’s family on such a day made me miss my family even more.

This year, it’s new again. My older sister is going up to her husband’s northern Minnesota family for Thanksgiving, and I’m headed back to Seattle, although to a much different meal. My aunt and uncle are in Hawaii, and my other aunt and uncle are hosting the grandparents an hour away, so the table this year is going to be my parents, not quite all my siblings, and me.

I guess this post comes down to the fact that despite being such a deeply historic holiday, my family has no real Thanksgiving tradition, beyond Mom baking like four pies just to make sure each of us kids has our favorite kind (I’m pumpkin all the way). Something is new every year, whether it’s the food that is served or the location that we’re eating it, but here’s a real cliché for you: this is why it’s important to recognize the significance of the day. Be thankful. I’m not one to preach, but training myself to think gratefully on the one day each year Americans have designated to do exactly that has been critically important to making the Thanksgiving holiday a happy one.

Since I’ve left home, it’s been fun to figure out what’s truly important to me; traditions I can keep or new ones to brainstorm and adopt. I can’t wait to share more with you over the holiday season! I’d be happy to read comments or emails if you guys want to share your thoughts on tradition, or even some special ones that your family has in place.

*Full disclosure, Grandma never tried to feed me vegetable Jell-O. I think I saw that in a movie.