[su_note note_color=”#009dec”]Mommy Masters welcomes Doug Orcutt, who shares his perspective on parenting this holiday season. Doug’s late father taught him the importance of family traditions and inspired Doug to continue those traditions with his own family along with new ones he created.[/su_note]
My dad loved holiday traditions. I had to remind myself of this as I laced up my boots and zipped the ski jacket. I wasn’t enthused about heading out into sub-zero weather. “Hurry up. It’s time to light the outside tree,” my dad hollered up the stairs. You could protest, but it wouldn’t do you any good. If we had done it once, it was considered a “tradition”, and we had to do it every year. My father had this checklist of Christmas traditions. Like an activities director on a cruise ship, everything was lined up for “maximum family enjoyment” and we were expected to complete every last task.
The traditions were many and I couldn’t begin to list them all. Christmas Eve involved said tree lighting, a candle light service at the church, carol singing around the piano, watching the original Grinch on VHS, and dad’s special seafood soup served at midnight. Christmas day had its equal share of traditions. Stockings were always opened first. Though some contents varied year to year, you could always count on plastic army men or dinosaurs, a jar of olives, a can of peanuts, and at least one orange. After breakfast we would take turns opening gifts and if you ran out, dad had a grab bag of Dollar Store items you could open. He hated anyone to be without a present. Over 20 years ago dad started to buy my brother and I toy Hess trucks. Each year Hess gas stations release this limited addition holiday truck and dad always bought us one. It didn’t matter if we were married and had our own children. We could always count on one toy to unwrap.
And neither sleet nor chilled wind could cancel dad’s annual tree lighting ceremony. With a “Ta Da!” and a spark from the extension cord, dad would kick off his “grand illumination”. We grumbled a lot and cracked a few jokes at his expense, but we would always comply. He would run around passing out hot mulled wine and we would sip his concoction as we stared up at the tree. I’m sure dad would have loved it if we broke into song like the “Whos down in Whoville”, but the fact that we were all standing around that tree as a family was really all he asked. If I’m honest, I’m glad he made us do it. Those are the times I remember most. I couldn’t tell you what gifts I received that year, but I can tell you how big the smile was on my father’s face.
Like my dad, I have some holiday traditions of my own. Some are carry overs and some are brand new. I have adopted the Dollar Store grab bag of gifts, you’ll find plastic dinosaurs and peanuts in our stockings, and there is always a toy truck under the tree. Two years ago I rallied the family to watch the live nativity at our local zoo and now it’s an annual event. Year one it poured down rain and we buried our stroller up to the axles trying to find a seat. Year two it was bone chilling cold and we waited in line like a bad Black Friday expedition. If you asked my son, it was totally worth it. We were sitting so close you could smell the camels. The nativity adventure usually ends with a short tacky light tour on the way home and then homemade hot chocolate around the kitchen table.
I believe that it is our duty as fathers to carry on holiday traditions. It’s our legacy. My dad passed away a few years ago, but his memory lives on in so many of his traditions. I love to share them with my wife and children. It helps explain the tears when I unwrap that little green truck. Whenever I think it might be easier to buy instant hot chocolate or stay home rather than brave the cold for a live pageant, I remember Dad. I think it’s important as fathers that we don’t take the easy road or abandon plans if we get a little resistance. Spending time as a family no matter how crazy the tradition, is time well spent.
Doug Orcutt is a husband and father of two, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old daughter. A landscape architect by day and blogger by night, Doug recently began exploring his love of writing by launching a website. Bragonmydad.com started out as a tribute to his late father, but soon snowballed into a forum for everyone. Whether your dad is part of your life or has passed on, the website is a place to tell how much your dad means to you or share what he’s taught you.
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