If you’re going to break The Christmas Rules, don’t settle for a misdemeanor: go for a full-out felony.

So said my husband this morning, December 7, as I hung a few ornaments on the fake Christmas tree, thereby breaking at least three of my mother’s Christmas Rules:

  1. The tree must be fresh;
  2. You purchase the tree the Saturday before Christmas so it can soak in water overnight; and,
  3. You decorate the tree the Sunday before Christmas. Amendment One: If the Sunday before Christmas is less than three days before Christmas Eve (I know, it’s new math) then you can do 1-3 the prior weekend.


Only “ordinary people” do otherwise.

There wasn’t a rule about outdoor decorating because we usually didn’t: Italians, Colombians and Spaniards enjoy vendors’ lights and decorations. I don’t remember what we did during our 5 years in the Maryland suburbs; maybe some lights on the yews?

We were bending the rules before this year, purchasing the tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and decorating the outside of the house a week later, but we’ve gone whole “ordinary people” with a fake tree this year. It’s the little lit one we’ve had outside by the door, where this year we’ve moved other plants to make thing merry. I tucked it into a corner of the family room where it has gradually gained ornaments, family cards, the tree skirt and presents. It’s great. I feel OK about shattering tradition.

However, we’re breaking the Super Christmas Rule this year by celebrating Christmas early. On December 25th, our daughter will be in New York City with her boyfriend.  I was sad about that for about 5 minutes and then realized that my husband and I were free to do as we pleased that day.  On December 25, and for a few days before and after that, we will be on a Caribbean cruise.

Before that, we are celebrating what our daughter is calling Fakemas. On December 15 my community is doing caroling and cookie exchange, so we are making the 15th our Fakemas Eve and the 16th Fakemas Day.IMG_8106


IMG_8104All other traditions are intact. Using Mom’s spritz press and cookie cutters, I’m baking cookies and giving them away to friends — and to the hard working volunteers who serve on our Home Owner Association Board, a thankless and necessary job! I’m draping lights around the house, covering table tops with red, green and gold. I’m assembling the The Christmas Crèche  ,
IMG_5439around which Catholic countries base their traditions. Some of the figurines are as old as I am.  My Norwegian nisser have resumed cheery holiday oversight role on a cabinet in the living room.

It all starts to feel a whole lot like Christmas — until the air conditioning clicks on and I look out to the lanai and the palm trees that frame it. South Florida has colored my decorating: a mango sits in the “apple tree;” real ponsettias stand by the front door.


I think Mom would completely understand. She did what she could to keep herMidwestern traditions going through all our moves, such as carefully picking tinsel that her parents sent us off the tree and packing it away for next year, but evolved our habits as we went. Our Christmas Eve meal — tacos, before this was “a thing” — devolved from the Venezuelan hallacas that marked the first four Christmases in the Foreign Service. We’ll be downing tacos on Fakemas Eve.


It’s a festive time of year no matter what your traditions. Enjoy lighting candles against these dark days. We’ll be turning the corner toward longer days on December 22, and at least two of us will be celebrating that truth at sea!

Cheers! IMG_8043

5 thoughts on “Breaking Traditions at Christmas

  1. Haha – I have never had a real tree, and as long as it’s December I feel like it’s alright to decorate it! I cannot be doing with those people who have it up at the beginning of November though. Have fun on your cruise!!

  2. Enjoy any time you want; when you can be with your family is a wonderful choice. And please realize there were no birth certificates 2 millennia ago, the church changed the calendar in the 18th century and that, therefore, you are in no way being sacrilegious to celebrate early.

    1. Someday you’ll need to tell me about the calendar change in the 18th century (I could look it up but I’d rather hear it from my librarian friend). In the meantime, Nancy, hope you too enjoy family time over the holidays! ~ Kelly

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