It’s December, so we’re sat here watching seasonal movies. (Mrs Dim watched “Sleepless in Seattle” while I was at work, so we’re rounding out the Nora Ephron canon with “You’ve got mail”). I don’t know that watching seasonal movies counts as a tradition, because everybody does it.
Anyway, we do have some traditions that we chose to make our own. Christmas Eve afternoon, we have a “picky tea” – food you can pile on a plate and eat with your fingers – and we watch two very special things – Muppet Christmas Carol, and Simon Callow reading extracts from Dickens.
Again, maybe not wildly original, but something we have come to love doing.
And then there’s this:
I know it looks like a collection of crazy toys, but it all started with a beautiful Christmas village set that a friend gave us soon after we arrived in Canada. For several years,we laid out the fake snow material and put out the houses and bought the odd small addition – streetlights, raccoons in a bin…And then one year, I forget why, we decided we were going to tell a story about what was happening in the village. We would write one short installment each day on Facebook, and include a photo. We’d start December the first and finish on Christmas Day
Most of the stories centre on Boots McGee (she’s the one in the hat, next to the Minion dressed as a Napoleonic soldier). She’s a brave orphan who usually has to struggle against great odds to solve a problem of some kind. Some years there are specific themes or running gags. One year I tried to work in a line from a Christmas carol into every day without disrupting the storyline. Last year, we hid titles from festive movies in every installment – Boots McGee had taken up with the criminal shorty Gnome Malone, for example.
Over time, the original inhabitants of the village have been joined by Lego figures, Star Wars figures, a T-Rex skeleton, toy cars, and even a model of the van I use for my day job.
If you look closely, you might just be able to see that Boots is wearing a false mustache in this picture. She was in disguise.
But the big issue this year is more of a logistical problem than a storytelling one. Part of our house renos during 2022 was removing the living room fireplace and, therefore, the mantelpiece that went over it. We’ve gone from this:
There isn’t room under the TV to assemble the village, so we’re probably going to be using the shelves…I don’t really know how it’s going to work this year, but we have to figure it out soon… The Nuns of St Frideswide have just set out from the niche in the hallway, intent on leading the donkey and camels they confiscated from the Three Kings with the aid of The Bad Batch from Star Wars back to Mantelpiece Village…
All this is a very roundabout way to say, keep only those traditions that bring you joy, or connect you to things or people you hold dear. Quite a few people seem to have found the phrase “Traditions are just peer pressure from the dead” this year, and I think that’s worth reflecting on. We’ve chosen traditions that bring our family together, that raise a smile. I hope we always will.