Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Box

My family's Christmas is quite predictable. Christmas Eve, the Lesbians make VATS of pasta (usually fresh fettucine, with both meat and white sauces - Classico brand is preferred), and we all make the usual enough-to-feed-an-army jokes. After dinner we grab bottles and glasses and slip on whichever pair of Birkenstocks or slippers we can find by the back door, and nip out through the cold night to the studio in the backyard. The Studio used to be a way-too-small garage that was converted a while ago. It's now a cozy little cabin that houses a wood stove, a comfy futon, and, this time of year, the Christmas tree. Once we're all settled (wine poured, feet tucked under blankets, fire stoked), we open The Box.

I don't know when the tradition of The Box was started, but it has to be, oh, at least 15 years old. Sunny (one of the moms) gathers small presents all year, then wraps them up and ties coloured curly ribbon to each gift and puts them in a box. (I'm pretty sure she's been using the same box the whole time, too - it's giftwrapped itself, and 2 white stuffed bears sit on the top.) The curly ribbons are cut long and grouped by colour, and she has as many colours as there are people participating in the annual ritual. The numbers have ranged from 3 or 4 to as many as 6 or 7, depending on who's coupled on any given year. Each person chooses a colour (or is assigned one by the bossier members of the family). The rules are simple: You can trade, buy, sell, or give away any gift - provided you can negotiate an agreement.

Gifts range from a single sock, to a festively-decorated bathroom towel, to a little pouch (often hand-knitted by Sunny) containing 5 shiny Loonies (that's the Canadian equivalent of 5 bucks - sort of). Some of the presents are great - I have DLang and my wedding picture displayed in a silver flowery frame I scored from The Box last year. Some are of limited value (see: single sock) and require one to Buy! Sell! Trade! Most are gathered up at the end of the evening, occasionally one is left behind and I'm pretty sure I've seen a couple that have been recycled over the years.

With the first official Langenberg Family Christmas approaching, I've been thinking a lot about traditions, and I've realized that tradition is way more important to me than ever before. They are what make my memories of growing up really special, and I am excited about continuing old traditions, and starting new ones, with my new family.

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