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Tracy Briggs, Published December 15 2009

Parenting Perspectives: Holidays a time for traditions, and a list of Christmas truths

Christmas is a time for family traditions. So in the interest of telling my daughters how to live their lives, I’ve compiled a list of Christmas truths, wisdom which I hope will be passed on to their own children.

So, Girls, if you’re reading this yellowed newspaper clipping years from now, cut it out, post it on your fridge and don’t forget to call me once in a while.

Christmas truth No. 1: “White Christmas” is the greatest holiday movie of all time.

Sure, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a sentimental favorite and nothing is funnier than Ralphie trying not to “shoot his eye out” in “A Christmas Story.” But for sheer entertainment value, nothing beats Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as showbiz partners falling in love with singing sisters and saving an Army general’s ski lodge in a matter of days. Unlikely? Sure. But isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Christmas truth No. 2: Presents are to be opened on Christmas morning. Period.

I know a lot of you will disagree with me on this. But morning opening is clearly more logical. Santa works the overnight shift. That being said …

Christmas truth No. 3: It is acceptable for children to open precisely two gifts on Christmas Eve.

The first is a new pair of pajamas so they’ll look good for Christmas morning pictures. The second should be something they actually want.

Christmas truth No. 4: Don’t spend too much money on gifts for children.

We’ve all seen the kid who’d rather play with the box than the actual toy that came in it. I learned this years ago while watching my cousin’s young son. He used to run around his grandparent’s house carrying his grandma’s blouse on a hanger and pretending it was a kite. Who needs toys?

Christmas truth No. 5: Know when to say “when” with Santa.

It’s easy when kids are 3 or 4, but it’s tougher as they get older. Over the years, my father (“Papa”) has donned a Santa suit for the grandkids. One year, when “Santa” stopped for a visit at my sister’s house, my niece confided in me, “I don’t think Santa brought his sleigh. I heard car keys jingling in his pocket.” Busted. Fast forward 10 years to my kids. “Mom, Santa’s voice sounds a lot like Papa’s!” “Mom, have you ever noticed that Santa and Papa have the same glasses?” I’ve always felt that my sister and I should help reimburse dad for the money he spent on the Santa suit.

Christmas truth No. 6: Put a smile on someone’s face with your Christmas letter.

Every year, I look forward to getting a holiday card from some friends of ours right here in Fargo. It’s always creative and funny. One year, when the wife of the family was turning 40, they photoshopped Catherine Zeta-Jones in her place and proclaimed that “Jenny” looks great at 40! Like a brand new woman.” Talk about spreading holiday joy! Isn’t that better than those long-drawn out brag letters?

Christmas truth No. 7: There is no direct correlation between the amount of time you spend cooking Christmas dinner and your enjoyment of it.

One Christmas, to honor our heritage, my sister and I decided to make an authentic British dinner. Beef Wellington, Yorkshire Pudding, Plum Pudding. It was grueling work and in the end it just tasted OK. I couldn’t help but wish we were Italian or Chinese. British food just doesn’t measure up. Maybe that’s why Winston Churchill always looked so crabby. The next Christmas we decided to simplify. We made appetizers instead of dinner. We snacked on yummy food all day and still got to visit and play. It was great!

Christmas truth No. 8: Be willing to adopt your husband’s food traditions.

I’ll never forget the first holiday after I married my Iowa-bred husband. He was shocked that I had not made a Jell-O salad for dinner. I now know it is Iowa state law that Jell-O must adorn every Christmas table.

Christmas truth No. 9: A final word about food. You must serve brioche on Christmas morning.

A family friend has delivered the sweet, buttery bread to us every Christmas morning since I can remember. Last year, she decided, would be her last so she trained my sister and me to carry on the tradition. I’m giving it a shot. If it doesn’t turn out maybe Kellogg’s makes a Christmas Pop Tart.

Christmas truth No. 10: Savor every moment of this magical time of year with the people you love most.

You might not be a Norman Rockwell painting. You might be eating bad British food watching some kid run around the house with grandma’s blouse. But, really, life doesn’t get much sweeter. Have a blessed Christmas!

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and a personality for WDAY AM 970.