Holiday season begins for me when the grandkids start planning their Halloween costumes. Those plans are usually made not long after school starts in the fall. I can remember a time when I complained about Christmas music playing everywhere before Thanksgiving, but my views on that have softened considerably as any family member or friend will tell you if they visit anytime between Halloween and New Year's Day.
When I was a kid in the 1940's and 50's, no matter how depressed things were in my house, and often that was the case, whenever I saw the bright Christmas decorations and the row upon row of holiday ornaments lined up at the dime store, my spirits lifted. I knew it wouldn't be long before my mother would come out of her downward spiral and rally for Christmas. Sometimes those Christmases were more manic than fun, but at least they weren't sad.
A tradition was born when we were newlyweds in 1970, and we were decorating our first Christmas tree as husband and wife. I made pea soup and cornbread, we crafted homemade ornaments, and watched The Bishop's Wife starring Cary Grant and Loretta Young. I have continued to make pea soup during the holidays, and we could probably recite all of the dialogue from The Bishop's Wife.
It rained last night and today is chilly and overcast, so perfect pea soup weather. I'm a little late with the soup, but since it is technically only the fifth day of Christmas for some, I think it still counts. Chopped onion, celery, carrots, ham, and a lovely little bay leaf fill the house with savory smells as they flavor the dried peas.
It makes me think of all the things we humans do to fill our need for tradition and connection. I am thankful that these small acts bind us closer whenever we repeat them or even just remember them. I think of Christmases past when we had Swedish Fruktsoppa, or fruit soup as we called it. It was the one thing my Swedish grandmother made that my Dad loved and looked forward to. But then he loved fruitcake, too, and that was something only he had a taste for. That tradition hasn't carried on, but remembering it still fills a little corner of my heart.
Remembrance of Christmas past, and the honoring of some of those old traditions in Christmas present are ways we honor our ancestors. Maybe we even consider some of our decorations to be an altar, as does one of my dearest friends. Certainly for me, they are sacred. Even the pea soup. Happy Holidays!
P.S. If you want the recipe for the pea soup, you can email me through the link at the very bottom of this page.