Of course, one cannot be long involved in the international adoption community before one begins to contemplate one’s own cultural heritage, and wonder, perhaps, what rich cultural traditions and rites have been lost to time and the dreaded melting pot of America.
It was for this reason, I suppose, that I listened with rapt attention as a friend told me of his wife’s Christmas experiences while in the homeland of many of my forefathers and mothers, Sweden.
“Yeah,” he said, “according to my wife they leave their Christmas decorations up in the house, tree and all, until about Easter.”
Really?!? I have been deprived since birth of this little piece of knowledge and happy tradition. And it is, I might add, a little piece of knowledge and happy tradition that I quickly realized would mesh very, very nicely with my Appalachian heritage. You see, according to the Bard of Appalachia, Gretchen Wilson, we should be leaving our Christmas lights on on our front porch all year long. Just in case you don’t know of what I speak, take a moment for this quick tutorial:
Never in my life have I left Christmas decorations up until Easter, let alone all year long; so discovering this theft of culture and heritage, I decided to investigate further and find out what else I’ve been missing. Oh boy. Who should I sue? My parents? My various school districts? The Founding Fathers? I just don’t know.
I have never once cut stars or snowflakes from foil gum wrappers. Not once! Nobody ever sent me out with a cowbell and/or shotgun full of blanks so that I could sneak up on a neighbor’s house on Christmas Eve and scare the beejeezus out of them with my friends and noisemakers, all in the name of getting free cookies and cider. But do you know what is really chapping my hide on the Appalachian side (are you paying attention Dad, ’cause it was your kin what came from the hollers of West Virginia, so you bear the brunt of the responsibility here) I never, not once, not ever went anvil shooting. Didn’t even know I was supposed to be doing it all these years!
See, apparently what nobody told me is that anvils have square and round holes in them somewhere. I don’t know where, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that somebody, most likely one of the men folk, should have been packing these holes with gunpowder each Christmas, placing another anvil atop the powdered up one, then lighting the gunpowder (and, I’m assuming, run for their lives). You see, once the powder in the bottom anvil ignites, it apparently shoots the top anvil into the air, sometimes as high as a hundred feet, and lets off a deafening boom as the ground beneath the feet of the onlookers shakes and quakes (as do the onlookers, I’d imagine). AND I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS! I have not even one Christmas memory of my mother gently cupping her hands over my ears in a vain attempt to prevent permanent hearing loss and then leaning in close to say,
Look Elaine! Look how high that anvil is going! My word, did you ever see such a thing? Oh, now here it comes back down. Wait . . . here it comes! It’s . . . Oh! . . . Holy crap, it’s supposed to fall straight down! Run!!! Run!! Damnit, run!!!!! Wiiiiiiilllllllllburrrrr!!!!!
Probably more surprising to me, however, is the utter loss of Scandinavian traditions within my family. Did you know the Swedes teach their children that an elf (the “Tomte”) lives under their floorboards? I could get so much mileage out of that with my kids. I mean, sure, in Sweden the Tomte is a Christmas Elf who supposedly watches over the family and the livestock all year, but I much prefer the idea of just telling my children that some creature lives in the floor and watches them all year long. If that doesn’t straighten out some behavior problems around here, I don’t know what will. Anyway, we don’t have livestock.
Aside from the whole Tomte thing, I’m a little bitter that I never got to be a Lucia (Queen of Light) and dress in a white gown with glitter and candles in my hair (I think I’ve just discovered the leading cause of death for young Swedish girls) and deliver coffee, rolls, ginger biscuits and glogg (is that Tomte excrement?) to the other members of my family. Of course, being a predominantly Latter-day Saint family I’m really not sure what we would have done with all the coffee, but, you know, it’s my cultural heritage, so who cares?
Anyway, besides the lengthy displays of ornamentation, I can see other ways in which Scandinavian and Appalachian Christmas traditions could go hand in hand, so I may start a few new traditions with my children in an effort to pass along more of their culture than was passed along to me (of course this will all be optional for Tank Boy and Quinn since they are not genetically Sacappalachian.
First, we have to get two anvils, of course. We will have our girls mud wrestle to the death (or close to it, anyway) to decide who gets to be that year’s Lucia. After lighting the candles in her hair we will send all the children out with cowbells and shotguns to tick off the neighbors and deliver coffee and glogg (which really must be somewhat humiliating to the Tomte). When the children return from that festivity we will proceed with the anvil shooting. Assuming the Lucia hasn’t already burned to a crisp from those candles in her hair, we will use her to light the gunpowder. I figure all that running from the site of the impending explosion will finally put out the candles and she can rest in relative ease while watching the mass of steel rocket into the air and then accelerate back toward the earth, and us. More running will ensue, and when the children feel inclined to complain about the dangerous and irresponsible Christmas traditions in which they are forced to participate, I will remind them of the elf who lives in our floor and watches them, and remind them that said elf doesn’t like disobedient, disrespectful children; and, even if they run fast enough to survive this year’s anvil shooting, they will likely be eaten by the Tomte when they get home if they don’t just paste a smile on their face and appreciate their cultural heritage!
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt is too busy running from an anvil to say hello.