By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
Holiday traditions come in all shapes, sizes, and with varying degrees of emotion attached, ranging from appropriately serious and somber to the absolutely silly. Some treasured holiday traditions are observed at great cost from year to year, while others cost little more than a few minutes of your time and a willingness to share it-and possibly a small portion of your talents as well.
Nativity scenes, like the one depicted at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, are a typical, traditional sight in homes, churches, shopping centers and other areas during the Christmas season. Scenes can be static or living, featuring live actors and animals, and usually trigger memories of Christmases past.
The variety of Christmas and holiday traditions available today is endless and could even be considered a bit dizzying at times.
But not to worry. The real opportunities to celebrate the beauty and blessings of the season are most strongly attached to what time we can manage to spend with family and friends.
Christmas is, after all, about the beauty of sharing time and experiences with those you hold most dear: your family and friends.
Holiday traditions can be deeply heartfelt, and even serious in nature, or can be built on the memory of a hilarious moment-a shared gift of laughter each time it is recalled.
Traditions are often just that: gifts to share.
Too often, they are gifts which go very much unappreciated until they are suddenly and forever gone from reach thanks more often than not to the simple passage of time.
I grew up in a family of educators and musicians, meaning I had likely been in attendance at more Christmas and holiday concerts and programs by age 18 than most adults will in a lifetime-sometimes willingly and other times not so much.
Today I am blessed to enjoy being a parent and being able to sit in the audience when my daughter takes the stage singing as part of her high school chorus.
Sitting in the audience at her first concert in the school, I recalled standing on that same stage and singing a holiday selection my father had been asked to arrange particularly for the holiday concert. I had not thought of our school's concert and that specific musical celebration of the season for a long time.
Little did my daughter know she would be giving me one of the best Christmas presents I could get-connecting warm memories of years long gone to the joy of experiencing life as it unfolds today, all by sharing the gift of a school's holiday concert.
Once the fury of the crazed shopping and wrapping efforts were completed, it became my father's duty to gather all items needing transported to the post office, UPS or Fed Ex and get them officially en route to a respective final destination.
Somehow there were always a few renegades in the mix who steadfastly refused to willingly leave the confines of our family home for the unknown reception they would receive at the other end of their adventure through the postal and freight moving systems of this country. Consequently, last minute runs to those postal entities became somewhat of an almost celebratory ritual for him and a group of his closest friends.
All this lead me to the eventual conclusion that traditions grew around what some might look on these days as the Christmas holiday season's version of a tailgating party. After all, lines at the various postal office can be long, though always moving steadily forward.
Then there is the tradition of how each of us chooses to wrap and unwrap gift packages.
The best packaging tradition of today-bar none-came into popular view more than a decade ago: beautiful, seasonal gift bags packaged with pre-coordinated bows, ribbons and tissue wrapping paper, and many often even come complete with names tags already attached to the item's handle.
As time to dedicate to gift wrapping is increasingly stolen away from everyone's schedules as the holidays roll downhill on us, these items quickly move from the ridiculously frivolous to the absolutely essential supply column now likely kept at your fingertips in a favorite smart phone, cell phone or tablet.
While I was searching for the truth about holiday traditions, I consulted our teenage daughter who provided a teen's slant on the whole complex process. One thing she touched on was when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, it is best to stick with an artificial one, but it should look sufficiently like a perfectly manicured tree only hours before harvested from a local Christmas tree farm.
Why is the artificial tree coming out on top in the popularity pole?
Because most teens have grown up with a family tree which at season's end was dismantled, repacked in its original box and put in a specific spot to await next year's call to action.
A tradition in our house when I was growing up continues to be observed every once in a while in my home-whether I want it to do so or not.
My mother shopped for Christmas gifts year round, meaning there were various places throughout our house deemed sacred. They were never to be filled with any items other than Christmas gifts waiting to be wrapped and unwrapped at the appropriate time.
There was only one serious flaw in this system: Christmas gifts would occasionally go missing during the days of the season traditionally set aside as perfect gift giving opportunities.
These scenarios gave rise to shouts of joy announcing that the occasional "gone missing gift" had been found and was about to be placed in the hands of its intended recipient.
Above all, the most important tradition: remember to share time with those you love. Presents can wait!