Christmas Pickles

I hope you make your own traditions this year

By Kellyn Brown

Each Christmas, my dad wraps a jar of pickles, writes one of his grandsons’ name on it, and sticks it under the tree. At first, I’m guessing he did this to see what kind of reaction he could prod out of unsuspecting children. At first, it worked.

One of the boys would eagerly tear open a beautifully wrapped gift only to be left with pickles in his hands. Not fancy pickles, either. These aren’t special. My dad simply buys a jar in the pickle aisle at the neighborhood grocery store.

Those first few Christmases, the ploy produced the desired reactions. Imagine a child opening a gift from his grandfather and pretending he really, really likes this jar of pickles. These are grateful kids. They were convincing. At first, anyway.

As the boys grew older, they were less gullible and the joke was less surprising. Nonetheless, each year the jar of pickles finds its way under the tree. It’s a family tradition, and what makes it great is I have no idea why my dad started it. I’ve never asked, “What made you decide to wrap a commonly found pantry item for your grandsons to open in between toys?”

To be honest, I don’t think he could provide a clear answer. He’s perfectly weird that way. I’m blessed with Christmas parents who follow and make up their own traditions around the holidays. The rest of the family is simply along for the yuletide ride.

My mom spends weeks planning for our Christmas Eve feast, which includes a menu of about a dozen different tapas, a handful of deserts and plenty of spirits. In the run-up to the festivities, she often says this will be the last year she makes “this amount of food.” None of us believe her. In fact, I would wager she’s added more items over the years.

Mom’s tradition is to make our Dec. 24 meal the best of the year, with cured meats and cheese balls and coconut shrimp. Considering the amount of food, I avoid eating earlier in the day so I can properly tackle the dinner on an empty stomach.

Some traditions last longer than they probably should. My sister and I, both grown adults with health insurance and steady paychecks, still get giant stockings from my parents each year. They are filled with candy, socks and enough bathroom items, from toothbrushes to deodorant, to last several months. Each year, my parents say we’re getting too old for these a la carte stockings. Each Christmas morning, I hear them stuffing those stocking with presents at 4 a.m.

Traditions don’t end until parents think they should. Often, that’s never.

I recently read about siblings who bundle up and sleep in the same room every Christmas Eve. This is adorable, except they’re not kids anymore. “We still do it, even though the youngest of us is in college and I have a baby now,” one of the siblings told Parenting magazine. “My mother claims that she’s going to make us do it for the rest of our lives.”

Sounds like my mom. Or my dad, and his pickles. Their annual rituals are only part of what make this time of year so special. Have a merry Christmas. I hope you make your own traditions this year, even if some of them make more sense than others.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.