It’s December 24, 1991—my first Christmas Eve. Since I am only five months old, the day is all a fog to me, but I’m positive that I spend the evening in my grandparents’ basement.
Now it’s December 24, 1996. My family gathers together to celebrate Christmas Eve, as well as the eighth month of my aunt’s pregnancy and the presence of my out-of-town aunts and uncle. My grandfather sets up his train tracks and battery-operated bell choir for the occasion, filling my grandparents’ basement with an overwhelming warmth and sense of joy.
Five years later, it’s December 24, 2001. My grandmother pulls out all the stops when giving clues about her “Secret Santa”, as she beats on my aunt’s guitar with her arthritic hand while singing the Ave Maria. Her rendition of the song brings tears to my eyes—tears of laughter, that is. It’s not music to anyone’s ears, but the howls and cackles that fill what is now my basement after an inner-family house sale are the greatest song my grandma could have given us.
Another five years pass, and it’s now December 24, 2006. My sister premieres her first short film, which is meant to remind us all of how graceful my uncle’s fall from my garage roof was at Thanksgiving. My brother, sister, cousin, and I squirm with excitement and anticipation, for our favorite parts of the film in which we’re the stars. Everyone in my basement grins to themselves as my sister states that she has “won” Christmas.
The next year, as I help around the house to prepare for what will be my sixteenth Christmas Eve in the same basement, I think about how much the basement is a part of our Christmas Eve celebrations. It has been a part of my family’s warmth and togetherness, of our sounds of hysterical laughter, and of our unceasing grins. The basement stands as a symbol for all of the tradition and strength my family exudes, such strength that has held us together through many obstacles. Being able to recall all of these fond memories and feelings about my family while cleaning my basement shows what I believe to be the power of tradition.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.