OPINION COLUMNS

A super idea for a new kind of holiday tradition

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, January 7, 2017
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Family Photo

FAMILY PHOTO – This past Christmas, Anna Coker and her family all chose superhero pajamas to wear in a family photo that includes (from left) Betty Luttrull, Eric Gabbert, Judith and Colin Gabbert and Anna and Chad Coker. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

We’re ending a week where no doubt many of us completed the task of taking down Christmas decorations and packing up our ornaments and our memories for another 11 months or so.

But before we move on to the business of meeting our new year’s resolutions, I’d like to offer some thoughts shared by a friend who explained her unique holiday tradition so that perhaps we might resolve to come up with our own tradition for the next holiday season.

It never hurts to start planning early, right?

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

We hear a lot about the commercialization of Christmas and how we can easily get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday parties and shopping and baking and wrapping so that when it’s time to hang out with family, we’re exhausted.

Anna Coker recently explained how her family has come up with a tradition that acts as a kind of antidote for the Christmas rush.

For one, it doesn’t take place on Christmas, often closer to New Year’s Day.

The focus is not on presents but on spending time with family.

And it’s about having fun.

This year, for instance, the family decided everyone would get together for a family photo wearing superhero pajamas.

“My oldest son loves superheroes, so we all picked a superhero that resonated with us and it came together great,” she said. “They picked them out, and I bought them.”

Anna said she plans to take the photo and have a large canvass print made that will look like cells from a comic book and include the phrase “You don’t have to be a hero to be in our super family.”

The family got together on New Year’s Day, spending the day in their pajamas, watching silly movies, playing games and eating potluck snacks.

Last year, the family got together and played The Newlywed game with her son and daughter-in-law, Colin and Judith Gabbert. They received their gift – Lowe’s gift cards – for every answer they got right.

Her other son, Eric, received one boot as a gift, but he had to answer trivia questions correctly to receive the other boot.

The topic was family history, and much of it centered around Anna’s father and his life. That naturally led to him sharing stories about his life that many in the family hadn’t heard.

He passed away last year, making that time together even more precious than they might have known at the time.

Anna said the tradition moving away from gifts and toward more family fun time started after one Christmas that is probably familiar to many of us.

“When my kids were around 10 or 12, we were at my parents’ house opening presents, and I felt like my children were wild animals under the tree,” she recalled. “They were just opening as fast as they could. I didn’t feel like they were appreciative, and they were just kind of tossing this stuff off to the side.”

Something didn’t seem right, so she started looking into how to establish family traditions.

By the next Christmas, Anna had decided to make some changes, beginning with a $15 limit on spending on gifts for the other three family members.

She also arranged for the family to spend Christmas in a cabin in Turner Falls, Okla.

Anna brought a ham and turkey and gave her kids the choice of which they wanted to cook on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day.

“They saw that the cabin had a fireplace, and we didn’t have a fireplace at home, so they said, ‘We should have hot dogs,'” Anna said.

After a trip to a nearby gas station, the family roasted hot dogs for their Christmas Eve meal. (It was such a hit that hot dogs were featured in the Christmas Day meal as well.)

Presents were opened at midnight, and then they went for a hike in the cold, sleety weather conditions later that morning when the sun came up.

They came to a clearing where they had seen some deer earlier, so they spread out in a field to see if they could get the deer to come up to them.

“I could look and see my children’s breath as we were standing really still on Christmas morning on a hill in Turner Falls Park, waiting for the deer to come, and I realized I knew I was doing the right thing. This was exactly what my family needed,” she said.

Twenty years later, Anna and her family continue to carry on the family tradition that values making memories over getting presents.

And that suits her just fine.

“Wherever we are, whatever our financial situation is, the food will be really good, and we will all be laughing,” she said.

It certainly sounds like a recipe for a happy holiday.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

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