The Big Hat Tree

There are a lot of things that never change. Human relationships are important; we are driven to strive for happiness (but confused by what it is and how to find it); power is corrupting. By their very definition, traditions are supposedly unchangeable. But traditions are one of the things that historically have changed, ever so slowly, over time. Whether through marriage, death, cultural shifts, or other necessities; traditions are generally less stable than we would like to admit. Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a new Christmas tradition that is trying to take hold.


My son recently went over to grandma and grandpa’s house. After their children (my husband and his siblings) left the house grandma and grandpa decided to decorate a little more elaborately than they had in the past. Not only does the main level of their home have a real Christmas tree (and a large one), the basement level deserved a Christmas tree too. Out came the big box for the big faux tree. After it had been put up and plugged in, it needed to be decorated. This, in part, is where the new tradition is trying to take hold.
Part 1: Hats. Yes, hats. Those things you put on your head. For whatever reason the family has collected lots of holiday hats over the years: gnome hats, bah humbug hats, Santa hats, elf hats, Seuss-like sprigs with impossible physics, and more. It was decided at some point in the not-too-distant past to decorate the tree with hats and call it “the hat tree.”
Part 2: Decorating with the grandchildren. It was also decided that the grandchildren could help grandma and grandpa decorate the hat tree while dancing along to Christmas tunes. The reality, however, was a bit more mundane. Grandma and grandpa reminisced about the hats that they found while putting them on the tree (and occasionally on a grandchildren’s head), and the grandchildren drank chocolate milk, played with toys, and generally ignored the tree.
One might think that this tradition is, then, a failure; it was not. When we got home from a long drive last night our son looked up at me and said “I like that hat tree.” “You do?” “Yeah… I want a hat tree.” And there it was. Tradition cemented… for now.

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