When I think of Christmas traditions, I think of an old, red woolen scarf that hangs in our front closet. The scarf belonged to my dad, Ted Kingsbury, lover of all things Christmas and creator of our family holiday traditions.
Dad bought the red scarf and a Charles Dickens’ type top hat the winter of 1971, after a group of carolers came by our house. The group sang a number of songs while tears glistened in my father’s eyes.
“That’s what we’re going to do!” he declared, a smile stretched across his face. “Our family is going to carol!”
And so we did.
Every year after that, my family would spend a day baking Christmas cookies and arranging them on festive red and green plates. We would cover the plates in plastic and place bows at the center and stack a dozen of them in the back of our station wagon. Then we would head out to the houses of friends.
The recipients of our caroling were always surprised—new friends, new locations each Christmas. But always the same song. We would take a plate of cookies to the door, whispering as we found our positions on the front porch. And as soon as our friends opened the door, we would start to sing: “We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas . . .”
We’d hand off a plate of cookies and be off to the next house.
No one sang with more gusto than my dad, decked in his hat and that red woolen scarf.
The tradition of caroling led to other traditions. In the days before Christmas, my dad would read us the old classic, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” And on Christmas Eve, he would track the radar reading of reindeer in the sky. Something that always delighted us kids.
My dad went home to Heaven the fall of 2007—a loss I will carry with me until I draw my last breath.
That year, when the December day came to do our caroling, our oldest son, Tyler, 14 at the time, found his Papa’s red woolen scarf in the front closet and slipped it around his neck. “Because Papa cared about Christmas traditions,” Tyler told me.
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