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New traditions, joyful and triumphant
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There comes a time when your Christmas traditions need updating. Especially those revolving around toddlers believing a portly man draped in red polyester will enter your home while everyone sleeps. In our Leawood household, that time arrived a long time ago —seemingly when Nixon was President.
Some examples include these:
Then: “Have you’ve been nice?” Now: “Where’ve you been?”
Then: “Where’s your Christmas list?” Now: “Where’s my razor?”
Then: “Are you writing a note to Santa?” Now: “Do you write anymore?”
Then: “Dad, let’s watch ‘A Christmas Story.’ ” Now: “Dad, let’s watch ‘Bad Santa.’ ”
Then: “It’s the thought that counts!” Now: “What were you thinking?”
Then: “Don’t ruin Christmas for your sister.” Now: “Don’t ruin Christmas for your mother.”
Then: “Mom, did you leave reindeer food in the yard?” Now: “Who left the Bud Light cans in the yard?”
Then: “Boys, come look at the bluejay!” Now: “Please no more Angry Birds.”
Admittedly, there are some traditions I don’t miss. Like when my wife tells me, “Let’s not have any beer tonight. You have to assemble two bikes, a trampoline and find 10 AAA batteries.”
So last year we started a new tradition. Midnight Mass.
My dad has told me that in the early years for him, Midnight Mass was equal parts faith and fun. The priest kept the collection — sort of a Christmas bonus — and the parishioners turned out to show their affection for all his sacrifices in the preceding eleven months. “The place was packed and back then you had a three-hour fast before church – even water,” he told me.
So this has always been on my radar. And since we needed traditions that play to my son’s nocturnal leanings, we embraced it last year. It was snowing huge flakes well into the night and they could be seen through the church windows throughout the service. Quite memorable. But this year? Zero buzz.
By 10:30 p.m. I was trying out for the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” By 10:45, I was crashed on the couch. But somehow it all came together. We freshened up and off we went. A festive, adult-friendly, memorable evening reflective of the time my father had described to me.
We found an empty pew and filled it. Three sons, one daughter and a wife — all seemingly focused as the celebrant came up the aisle. Incredibly all of us on the same page, and maybe, just maybe, making a spiritual connection that may start with these words: “Remember me?”
And when the St. Michael’s choir launched into ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ there was no doubt — the angels were among us and I don’t just mean my daughter. The heart jumped, goosebumps appeared and it was one of those parental highs that sustain us in the occasional valleys of life.
“O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant ….”
Happy New Year!
Matt Keenan’s new book, Call me Dad, Not Dude. The Sequel, is available at Reach him at