Tonawanda News

November 30, 2012

The Christmas you won't forget

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — In the manner of dancers who can make every walking move a dance, or grumps who think every action, from buying a car to growing a beard, is a political statement, traditions, especially Christmas traditions, can bloom spontaneously, so watch out. Your customary way of doing things tends to get magnified by the holidays — not the things you do, the way you do them.

I watch for an event called the “Kissmas Bash,” a concert in the arena where the Sabres used to play. Underwritten by a local radio station too hip for me and directed at young pop culture enthusiasts, it is a revue presented by the hottest names offering what passes for music in certain circles. I understand the most recent ascendant to the position of American Idol will be performing this year.

Will I attend? Hell no, but if you’re going I hope you enjoy the show. I visit downtown Buffalo a lot, but not on that evening (the show starts at 6 p.m., the better to get all those white kids back to the suburbs at a decent hour), because the Elm Street offramp of the I-190 will be clogged with lost moms in cars, hauling suburban kids who’ve never seen downtown to the show, and that exit is the only one they know. 

Sellers of counterfeit T-shirts will be lining the streets to the arena, whatever it’s called these days, and I’m thinking of setting up an Excedrin stand for the moms.

See? The show, the drive, the traffic jam and me, avoiding it all. That’s tradition!

Do you shop on Black Friday? Shop in the final hours of Christmas Eve, maybe? Tradition!

I’m among those who are not religious by nature but nonetheless enjoy Christmas (you’re allowed to be that way in this country). The celebration of Christmas has a long tradition, manifested well in music, and that’s what I seek during the holidays, so I attend concerts of unfamiliar Christmas songs composed between 100 and 600 years ago. (Those “new holiday classics” you hear on the radio are calculated devices written for profit. It’s why artists, notably country music artists, who stick around for at least four albums of material tend to make their fifth a Christmas album; it sells reliably and in perpetuity, and the artist can treat it like an annuity.)

So, it’s classical Christmas music for me, the cheapest form of live music out there.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Village of Kenmore opens its Municipal Building to Santa Claus, who arrives in a Kenmore fire truck and sits in art moderne splendor to hear the entreaties and requests of Kenmore kids who are accompanied by parents and grandparents who did the same thing not many years ago. Tradition! 

This year the line snaked out the building, down the stairs and looped back on itself around the Village Green, which was artfully decorated in ribbons and plywood candy canes by the elves and artists of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society. Theirs is a new tradition, but if it ever stops, you’ll miss it, badly, and you’ll wonder what happened.

Christmas promotes accommodation in its tradition. A family Christmas dinner, for example, typically expands and contracts according to whose been born, who died, who’s divorced, who’s having dinner with another family, who’s in combat this year and the like. These memories endure because every year it’s not the same and yet the same, a touchstone in the procession of life that encourages variation. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, as they say in Montreal (where I once spent a spectacular and memorable Christmas holiday, a long time ago, but never mind).

I’ll gripe like Clark W. Griswold about the ball of tree lights I’ll find in the attic and unwind before they get installed, go places to meet up with friends like I’m in a Michelob commercial, write notes, tidings of comfort and joy, to the faraway friends. In line at the post office, I’ll chat with strangers and learn about their faraway friends.

If you lack tradition, start some. Watch some bad Lifetime movies, make eggnog from scratch, invite your unknown neighbors over, go see a pageant by kids who aren’t yours. Mooch a ride on a toboggan, visit an unfamiliar church service, see how saloonkeepers decorate the place for the holidays. Donate to a friend’s favorite cause, and don’t brag about it.

You don’t have to be a starry-eyed 8-year-old to wring some impact out of this time of year. The upcoming holiday season can be memorable, so make memories. Then do it next Christmas. That’s called tradition.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at