We are a family full of Christmas traditions.

It begins each year with a trip to The Optimist Club’s lot on Virginia and Ann streets, where we painstakingly pick out our Frasier fir and visit with the Mobile Police Department’s horses, who happen to reside nearby. We blare holiday tunes as we decorate it and break as many glass ornaments as we can (apparently).

We make cookies for Santa, though I will say ours always come out looking more like amoebas than Christmas trees, but as I tell the kids, Santa is in a hurry, so he probably doesn’t even notice.

I always make a big pot of gumbo some time over the holiday and we go to the Christmas Eve service at our church and have a Christmas morning breakfast after we find out what Santa has delivered.

Of course, we do the Elf, though I would say ours, named “Kernel,” is quite lazy, as he just moves from night to night and does not make any messes or engage in other typical elf shenanigans, like fishing in the toilet for Goldfish crackers, which I just find gross on so many levels, but that’s another story.

Kernel’s seeming lack of enthusiasm doesn’t seem to bother our 6-year-old son, who comes up with an imaginative set of circumstances for him no matter what mundane place he lands. “Aww, Kernel is hanging out on top of the stove. He must have been freezing from his journey back up to the North Pole and needed to warm up. That Kernel.”

My 3-year-old daughter is not so easily impressed. “Dat’s boring,” she says. But she really only finds him exciting if money and/or chocolate are involved, so location may not be the issue.

My favorite tradition, though, is our Christmas letter. The Trices of 2014 write The Trices of 2015 (or whatever the current year is … obviously) a note detailing all of that year’s happenings — a completely honest and unvarnished account — the good, the bad and the ugly. Mostly it’s good, though. We talk about the kids’ teachers and how their school years are going and where they had their birthday parties and what vacations we went on and such. Frank and I talk about what’s going on at our workplaces and with our family and friends. And the last page of the letter outlines hopes for the next-year Trices or tasks we hope to accomplish around the house (many of which have remained in the letter for years) or trips we hope to take, that kind of thing.

Yes, it’s hokey. It sort of became a tradition by accident. The first year I did it I was pregnant with Anders and much of the letter was written to the “blueberry” inside of my stomach. We didn’t know if said “berry” was going to be a boy or a girl yet, and we weren’t sure how our lives were going to change, so it just expressed the excitement and fear we were experiencing at the time. I tucked it into the box with Christmas decorations and forgot about it. The next year, as we decorated with a four-month-old baby boy sitting in his bouncy seat, we found it, and it has now become an important part of our holiday.

It’s good to look back at the different things that were absolutely consuming you one year and realize by the next they hardly bother you at all or are off your radar entirely.  When we go back and read the letters from several years earlier, we often say, “Gosh, I had almost forgotten all about that.”

This book of letters has helped me firmly believe in the validity of the statement, “This too shall pass.”

But like I said, between cooking and churching and elf moving and family history letter writing, we’re all pretty full up on Trice traditions.

But then some old fat guy at the mall decided to add another one.

One of my girlfriends and I decided to take our kids to see Santa at the Eastern Shore Centre a couple of weekends ago for our annual picture with him (another tradition, I guess). We had been there several Christmases, as they always have a great Santa and backdrop. This year’s St. Nick was no exception. He looked as if he had stepped right out of his house at the North Pole, and he really spent time with each kid, asking what they wanted and if they had been naughty or nice. He really was awesome.

But then he went a step further. One step too many.

His story went something like this: His good buddy The Tooth Fairy also liked traveling around the world with him on Christmas Eve to give the boys and girls presents. He then pulled a pouch out of his pocket and gave the kids a shiny, plastic coin out of it. He told them if they put this magic coin under their pillow on Christmas Eve they would also get a toy from his tooth-collecting BFF. The kids, of course, were elated. Me, not so much.

Said kids promptly lost said coins, even though they swore they wouldn’t, which resulted in tears and an unsuccessful search-and-rescue mission all over the Eastern Shore Centre, followed by yours truly going back up to Santa’s helpers and begging them to grab replacement coins out of the old man’s sack, which they kindly did. Crisis averted.

On the way home, Anders was speculating with great excitement what the Tooth Fairy would be leaving under his pillow, as I added (with no excitement) yet another task to my “Christmas Eve To-Do” list. Thanks, Eastern Shore Santa.

I suggested perhaps the Tooth Fairy would just leave a dollar under his pillow like she has done when he loses a tooth, but Anders reminded me Santa had specifically said, “a toy.”

Why oh why did the jolly old man have to get another mythical gift-giving creature involved in this holiday? Wasn’t he concerned this nasty tooth-gathering freak of a fairy was going to steal his thunder?  

And really, this was just too much. The “real Santa” was going to be bringing way too many toys as it was. And this would involve sneaking into the kids’ rooms and possibly waking them up, which would disrupt the other tradition, which requires sound sleeping, as you know the elves are busy doing last-minute construction projects in the garage and master bedroom.

Grrrrrr. This mall Santa tradition shall not and will not stand! But how oh how could I kill it without crushing the hopes and dreams of a child who is intoxicated by Christmas magic?

As I was doing last-minute shopping the next week, the answer came from the commercial Christmas and perhaps even the dental gods and fairies from above. As I turned onto the toothpaste aisle and wandered through bottles of Listerine and boxes of Crest Whitening strips, I knew what I had to do. Cruel? Perhaps. But it was necessary.

I tossed new Star Wars and Minnie Mouse toothbrushes into my buggy, along with brand-spanking-new tubes of kiddie toothpaste. Oh yes, these would fit nicely under their pillows — quite nicely.

“Well, I’m sure to the Tooth Fairy thinks toothbrushes are cool toys,” I will say.

Muhahahahahahahaha!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, just became the lamest tradition ever. And probably the last year the coin is left under the pillow.

Merry Christmas, everyone!