Christmas has come and gone here at Fern Island Farm and while we are still working our way steadily through the buckets of Christmas cookies I made, everything else is quickly returning to normal. Not that it strays too far from the usual, even on Christmas someone has to milk the cows morning and night. It was my third Christmas here and now that our little family is about to grow I have been thinking a lot about family traditions. How they manifest themselves when we are far from home, family, and the context where those traditions have lived for years or even for generations.
For as long as I can remember, my parents, sisters and I have spent Christmas morning together as a family. When we were younger we would wake up early and wait impatiently for our parents to join us in the family room. We would wait in front of the Christmas tree and the fireplace where our quilted stockings bulged with candy and gifts from the North Pole. Mom and Dad would eventually arrive and put the cinnamon rolls in the oven. These we would eat while trying to pace ourselves as we each took a turn opening a gift.
This has always been one of my favorite times of the year and I know I want to create similar memories with our little boy one day. My dilemma this year was figuring out how that will work with a farmer’s schedule. This year on Christmas morning, the alarm went off at 7am like every other day. Fañch got up right away, ate a clementine, and went to the barn to get a head start on the chores before beginning the milking at 8 with his brother. During this time, I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven, turned the Christmas music on, and tried to wait patiently for when he would return. Nearly two and a half hours later, he returned home and we exchanged our gifts while eating the cinnamon rolls with plenty of cream cheese frosting.
As kids, that half hour or so between the time we sprinted out of our beds and the moment our parents finally joined us in front of the fire always felt like an eternity. How will this work a few years from now when our kids awake at dawn and have to wait several hours before we can celebrate together as a family? For now, I hope to use that time to make the cinnamon rolls with them, working together to set the table, put out the orange juice, and lick the spoon after mixing the frosting. Perhaps we will read a few of our favorite Christmas books or draw pictures to show dad when he returns. Hopefully I can make the ritual of preparing Christmas morning as interesting and special to them as the actual moment when dad gets back from morning chores and the gifts can finally leave the stockings. In any case, it will be good practice for instilling patience in our kids!