Monday, December 21, 2015

Maybe This Year I Will Win

Christmas traditions, Christmas Gift, family history, genealogy, Ancestors, biscuits and gravy, sliced oranges, traditions
Me beneath our Christmas tree
It happens every year and most years I lose. Maybe this year will be different, but somehow I doubt it.

Each year seems to be about the same. We pull up to my parent's home, quickly jump out of the car and make our way up the walk. My heart is pounding and I am ready. Has my mother been watching out the window? Is she perched at the door, her hand on the knob, ready to jerk it open and beat me at the game? If it is anything like past years, she is waiting, but I always think maybe this year will be different and I will be able to yell it out first.

And then it happens, with one swift motion, my mother yanks open the door while yelling "Christmas Gift." Once again, she's won. That too seems to be tradition.

I had to smile when I did a Google search to see if I could find anything about the origins of this tradition. The point is to yell Christmas gift first and the idea is you then get a gift from the other person. My family has done it as long as I can remember and my mother told me hers did it when she was growing up. But Googling it, I discovered our family isn't alone, in fact I found a discussion about that exact tradition here:  Christmas Eve Gift  and an article about it here:  Dealing With a Peculiar Family Tradition (see article #8).  I learned we certainly aren't the only ones that have that tradition and I discovered that by far the majority had southern roots which made perfect sense since both of my parents have a set of southern grandparents. It makes me wonder about some of our other traditions.

Many traditions morph and evolve over the years as families join and times change, but thankfully many traditions are preserved and passed down, generation after generation.  Sometimes the reason for the tradition may change or is lost, but even still, those traditions can provide continuity and stability to the many generations who share it. So while my mom may seem to win "Christmas Gift" most every year, in reality, continuing and participating in that family tradition makes us all winners.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's Under Your Christmas Tree?

It's that time of year and as I wander the toy aisles looking for that perfect gift for grandkids, I find myself feeling overwhelmed, not only by the sheer variety of toys, but also by the noise and flash of today's toys. Dolls call out to me as I pass by, furry stuffed animals bark and meow and toy trucks honk and flash their lights. Times have certainly changed, but I wonder, have kids?

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Karl Witkowski-Game of Marbles
Wikimedia Commons 
While I am not sure if kids have changed, I can't help but notice that when the grandkids come over, they choose the old board games from our shelves to play even though we actually do own a few video games. Is it possible that maybe they too see the value in some of the slower, simpler games?

When I was young we played board games such as Checkers and Life, in addition to games such as marbles, jacks, pick-up-sticks and hopscotch. Evenings with cousins often consisted of games of kick-the-can and red rover. The games we played required very little expense and could be played whether or not there was electricity or an internet connection.

The generation previous to mine also played very simple games. Among my most prized possessions are my dad's marbles from his childhood. I can almost imagine Dad and his buddies bent over a circle drawn in the smooth dirt, shooting to win.

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Dad's marble collection
I too played marbles when I was little. I remember having favorite marbles and that often there was a fair amount of marble trading that went on. While boys liked marbles that were good shooters, for me it was all about the color.

We live in a fast paced, noisy world so maybe it makes sense that the toys have become the same. Maybe simpler games were best suited for simpler times, but I can't help but notice that there were certain advantages to playing the games from the "olden days."

I don't ever remember anyone having to go to counseling to deal with a marble or hopscotch addiction. There were no concerns that playing our simple games would result in antisocial tendencies, anxiety or an inability to function in day-to-day life. Families weren't broken up because of anyone's obsession with non-stop rounds of pick-up-sticks and no one feared that we would play endless hours of hide and seek. High tech they were not, but in many ways, I wonder if some of the simple games of yesterday were better. But then again, isn't it typical of the older generation to think that the old ways were best?

While I seriously doubt Santa will get many requests for marbles or pick-up-sticks this year,  I am glad they were part of my childhood and equally glad they were part of my dad's. I keep the treasured jar of my dad's marbles sitting on a shelf in my office. There alongside some of my other genealogy treasures, they warm my heart and serve as a quiet reminder that in many ways, simple is good.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved