Friday, December 30, 2011

It’s been said many times, many ways* - Traditions updated

Blame the holidays for my lack of blog activity.  The run-up to the holidays is hectic, all in preparation for taking a break to focus on family and friends.  I love this time of year and when it comes to celebrating, I tend to be old fashioned – even if in other areas of my life I am a self-described geek.  And, with a blended Christian-Muslim family, we celebrate lots of holidays.

For Christmas I buy an 8’ Frasier fir – no fake trees for me.  I carefully wrap at least 12 strings of white lights around the branches.  Then it takes several hours, usually over a couple of days, to unpack my ornaments, collected over the years, and find the perfect spot for each on the tree.  My ornaments recall the places I have lived over the years, from the cable car my mother sent me when I moved to San Francisco to the glass balls from Hebron and olive wood items from Bethlehem that I brought back from Palestine. For the past several years, a trip to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago has been part of our family tradition.  My collection has grown and my boys have started their own, adding one German glass ornament a year.

Naturally, some traditions have been updated.  While trimming the tree we enjoy chestnuts roasted, not on an open fire, but in a gas oven.  I plug my iPhone into the stereo and put my Christmas playlist on shuffle. An early adopter of online tools, I’ve been eviting neighbors to our annual caroling party for close to ten years.

Until this year, I hung onto one tradition longer than most:  I stubbornly insisted on hand-addressing over 100 envelopes for my holiday cards. Sure, I prepare my card online using photos I took with the digital camera on my phone.  But I want recipients to know they are more than just a name on an electronic mailing list.  For several years, however, when Shutterfly asks for customer feedback I have urged them to pre-print the return address on envelopes.  This year they offered that and more:  I could upload a csv file and they would print the recipient names and addresses directly on the envelopes.  I took the bait.

Still, if you receive a card from me, there will be at least a few words scrawled in my semi-legible script.  To those with whom I’m in touch regularly, I may say simply, “see you next year”.  For those further away – from those years in San Fran, Italy and Palestine – I take more time and often don’t finish the cards till mid-January.

Whether snailmail or email, I thoroughly appreciate receiving greetings from friends far and near.  These days most send photos, but some prefer more traditional cards.  Some write a brief note while others enclose an annual holiday letter.  More and more are moving to the e-mail or video card, often with clever animation.  After the hustle and bustle of Christmas is past, I cherish a post-holiday tradition:  I take my card box and sit down to reread all of the messages that have arrived in the preceding weeks. 

Now, as I write this on my Nook I can’t help but wonder if the tradition won’t change soon too.  Maybe in the next year or two I won’t need that painted wooden box for my cards.  Maybe I’ll be reading them all on the Nook – or an even newer device.  In the meantime, although it’s been said many time, many ways, Happy New Year to you.*
*from The Christmas Song, one of the best known American Christmas carols, written by (as a dear Jewish friend reminded me) by two Jews, Mel Torme and Robert Wells.