Special Christmas Traditions? Share Yours...

SilverVista(z8OR)December 22, 2004

When I was growing up, we had both of my parents' families to deal with at Christmas. Dad's family always had Christmas breakfast at his brother's house. About 60 people. We were the first to leave every year, because my Mom's parents arrived at our house at 2:00 with the turkey, and we had to have everything else ready and waiting. At precisely 5:00 every year we called my aunt in Boston so Grandma and Grandpa could wish her a happy Christmas birthday.

So our immediate family -- Mom, Dad, my sister and me -- exchanged our gifts on Christmas Eve. Dinner was always shrimp cocktail, chicken breasts and a baked potato and peas served at the card table in front of the fireplace. Later, we would walk around the block to see all the neighbors' lights. Dad would always forget his sweater, and we would walk slow while he ran back to the house to get it. Of course, when we came back home, Santa had filled the stockings and piled presents under the tree, and we sat up late opening them.

Raising my own girls on the farm, there were usually just the four of us, miles from any other family. It often seemed hectic with the livestock and last-minute gift wrapping, so I began a tradition about 10 years ago of having Christmas Eve dinner late -- 8:00 or so, and I serve some kind of seafood that takes FOREVER to eat. Like a big Ceasar salad with whole crab and garlic bread. And by candlelight, too. It can take an hour for each of us to crack the shells and pick all the meat out of all those legs before we get to eat the salad! It forces everybody to relax, forget about everything else, and just enjoy one another for a long, slow meal. It's one of the few times all year that we all actually sit down to the kitchen table together.

This year, DD2 is in Michigan visiting her grandmother, and then her BF's family for the holidays, and DD1 will be coming Christmas Eve with her husband and daughter. I don't think 19-month-old Anna will sit for an hour of candlelit dinner, so perhaps this year it will just be shrimp. Then we'll open gifts. Christmas Day they will be with SIL's family, so DH and I will have the day alone together for the first time in our 26-1/2 years of married life. I'm thinking maybe it would be fun to drive up to Silver Falls in the afternoon and take a walk if it's not raining. Otherwise, it will be barn chores at both ends of the day with a welcome nap in between!

What are your traditions and special plans?


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Jamie_in_Missouri(SW Missouri)

Since getting married 13 years ago my tradition is to make at least one 6 plus hour drive along with at least 2 other trips lasting anywhere from 1-3 hours visiting various relatives, sleeping in strange beds, and being generally miserable for the most part (bah-humbug). Since my wife's folks are divorced my kids get like 3 different "Christmas" celebrations (including ours) where they get to open gifts, they of course love this time of year. Two of the last four years our trip home has resulted in us being caught in a blizzard making the usual 5-6 hour drive last up to 13 hours.

My wife begins telling me when and where we are going sometime either in October or November (I think) but usually I begin to start paying attention about 3-5 day's before we actually have to go somewhere and then I complain that she did not ever tell me what we were doing, where we were going, and how long we would be staying so I then begin a frantic search for someone to watch the farm and a place to kennel the dog/dogs depending on the year but usually the kennels are booked since I waited till the week before Christmas and the dog/dogs either stay home or goes along depending on the weather conditions which really puts a "smile" on the faces of relatives when we show up with a farm dog in tow.

The only real "tradition" my wife and I have is since having children we always get out the Bible and read them about the birth of Christ on Christmas eve, afterall it should be the reason for the season.

This year our gas furnace broke (no Don, I did not sabotage it!) so we will be staying home so I can feed the wood furnace. Hopefully it will be the most relaxing Christmas in years.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 3:48PM
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poodleranch(Bellevue, WA)

My husbands family always drove around with the kids on Christmas eve looking for Santa and enjoying the lights--then, when they got back discovered that he had come to the house and left some presents and they had missed seeing him because they were out driving around....I'm not sure how you explain that somehow the next morning there are even MORE presents from Santa- we are doing it for the first time this year- we will see how it goes........Have a great Holiday!


    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 5:40PM
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basilmom(z5 IN)

I miss the traditions from childhood. We were raised in So. CA and my mom was really good at Mexican cooking (plus our neighbors were from Mexico and they were best friends)...so every year on Christmas Eve we had authentic Mexican foods like corn tamales, beef enchiladas, moles, and aroz con pollo ----yum!. We always had tons of people over and it seemed like there was always someone who had nowhere else to go (my mom has a very kind heart). My older sisters always had a new boyfriend, so there were always new cute guys at the table...heck, there was no table big enough for everyone and anyway it held all of that Mexican food! We ate where we stood, or sat, whether it was the sofa or the porch or whatever. It was casual and fun.

I miss that loud chaotic house on Christmas Eve tremendously. Nowadays, we go to my in-laws for dinner who live 10 minutes away, every Christmas Eve. We sit at the same table, everybody sits in the same chair, eat the same food (I mean, the exact same menu every single solitary holiday! Your basic turkey/ham-loaf which I HATE, bean cassarole, pumpkin pie, blah, blah, blah...). The only thing that has changed in 5 years is SIL's 4th husband and his kid(s), and her teenager had a baby last year, and in fact is due any day with another one. DH got mad at me the other day and he said griping about how boring it is at his folks' has become "your" holiday tradition (talking to moi, of course, and he didn't use the word "gripe" LOL).

Christmas morning is quiet and subdued at our house, since we have only one child. On Christmas morning I always experience a twinge of regret for having just one; later, that feeling goes away when I start cleaning up ;)

I suppose the traditions that are evolving in our own small family are that we always get the tree the Fri after Thankgiving, and dd and I decorate it while DH is out hunting. We listen to Christmas music (the BEach Boys and Harry Connick Jr!) and drink hot cocoa. I really enjoy that time with her.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 6:17PM
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cheribelle(Z5 IA)

Back when I was a kid, Christmas eve meant going to Grandma's farm. We had simple soups and stuff for the meal. The family back then played the piano, fiddle, banjo, etc. for Christmas carols. Wow, don't think I'll tell you how many years ago that was. Nowdays, I like to just relax with DH and 8 yr old DS, watch a movie, cuddle up on the couch. I love to watch my son open his presents, and the rest of the family... we squeeze all that in, in various chaotic visits, but none far from home.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 2:35AM
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One tradition that my family has had since I was a child was to open 1 present on christmas eve.The rest Christmas morning.I always loved the excitement of my Christmas eve gift and now my son does too.
Also since meeting my husband I have adopted thier tradition of having a big Christmas eve seafood feast.We used to have this at my sister inlaws every year followed by a poker game for spare change(LOTS of change!)But every year I end up having to be the only sober one.And have always had to drive home in a storm.So last year we stayed home and I made the seafood feast.This year is the first year that my mother and father inlaw will be coming to the farm for christmas.The freezer is full of seafood!
Also another tradition for me is to do a huge amount of baking,sending some home to my parents in Nova-Scotia.And baskets to my whole bunch of inlaws.This year I haven't been able to bake as much because of a broken finger.It's time someone in mine and my inlaws family to learn to bake! No just kidding I love to do it!
Merry Christmas!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 9:18AM
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We usually start off the season watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles right after Thanksgiving, then watch Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and some other classics. Eventually the house gets decorated, and we find a special ornament each year for the tree. We visit a Christmas Village (usually Kozier's) and Peddler's Village for the light displays. I take the kids downtown to see A Christmas Carol-Charles Dickens animated town.
We help with the local toy and food drive for needy families, and we donate our service to others in some way. This year it is giving free piano lessons to children who have such things out of reach to them. Last year, it was free dog grooming and repairing books/reading to kids. We remember to keep the reason in the season.
I end up hosting Christmas Eve at my house each year only because I have more room than anyone else, which really isn't a lot of room. I don't go overboard with food, although Jewish Apple Cake is a must, and we have a great time. My brother and I will play some carols on the piano, then recite Twas the Night Before Christmas. Unfortunately, the dog has to miss the action and she gets locked up because she's, well, a protective German Shepherd.
On Christmas Day, I bake a ham and let the house get trashed. No work gets done, except to care for the animals. Santa makes sure they get special treats! I do visit relatives and dear friends while the kids are off from school, and we always go to the movies and out to eat one day. Oh, and I sleep in late until 9 am...!
Merry Christmas :)

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 11:56PM
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paulyn(z 8 NW OR)

DH and I keep it simple. We call our kids and wish them Merry Xmas and we stay home and waltz. We have a great little music box with rotating discs that plunk out tunes.

We start dancing about 2 weeks before Xmas. (We turn down the lights and pretend we're still young.) It's great. Then we put on our work clothes and go back outside to farm.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 11:49PM
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Ah, just noticed this one, and thought I'd add ours, albeit too late...

We have a tradition of inviting everyone around for a big feast on Christmas eve. Normally 12 or so people. We do a special kind of present swap, where everyone brings a gift (for no one in particular) and we all draw a number. The first person gets to choose whatever gift they want and unwrap it. The next person gets to either take the unwrapped gift or select a wrapped one. If an unwrapped gift is taken, then that person gets to go back to the tree to select a new wrapped one, and so it goes. Until all the presents are unwrapped. Finally, #1 gets to select whatever gift they want! It can be very funny with some popular gifts changing hands several times. And it is better than Secret Santa, imo. Our Belgian friends have been coming every year we've been here, and it's our tradition now.

We also tend to take in strays. So, this year we had a full house, with friends (and some strangers). 9 people in all when there are normally only 3 of us living here. It was a great Christmas. Hope yours was too.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 7:49AM
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Wow, you brought back memories! My Dad's family still plays that gift-swap game every year! There would always be some really well-thought-out gifts, and some duds. My Mom absolutely hated it because certain family members would "collude" together to make sure the right people got the right gifts. My aunt, her two daughters and their kids would "steal" on behalf of each other and then trade among themselves afterwards. One time Mom came out in possession of something everybody wanted, and the day after Christmas she took it to my aunt because knowing how much my aunt wanted it spoiled her own enjoyment. Funny, I don't even remember what the gift was now. I haven't been home for the extended family gathering in about 25 years now, and from what Dad tells me, the mad competition has eased off quite a bit. Played in the right spirit, it can be hillarious, but Mom and I often talked afterwards about how our family's version did more to divide us than to unite us.

What fun to have so many people over, as you do!


    Bookmark   January 10, 2005 at 1:25PM
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Susan, it is strange how sometimes you forget something and then someone mentions the topic. I know I've had a few "wow, that brings back memories" of mine on in other posts. I know what you mean though, some years doing the swap are much funnier than others - like the year our friend sulked when her partner didn't choose the gift she wanted (it was so funny!), and last year when a 13 year old ended up with a CD of French-singing crooners! One of our friends sang him some selections from the CD - on his knee - in front of him. The kid could have died!!! This year was ho-hum, mainly because the Australians hadn't done it before, so their gifts were... curious... We have a rule of 15 - 20 only for the gift, which means there can be some really good ones in there (like gin or whiskey and chocolates - very popular!).

Another tradition we have every year is to drive 6 hours to a small town in Germany - Rothenburg ob der Tauber - and spend two nights there the weekend before Christmas. They have a magical Christmas store, Christmas market, and a character that does the Night Watchman Tour. It gets us into the mood of the season, and has become a pilgrammage for us. I must say, I really enjoy our new "traditions".

I guess if I were more organised and wanted to be better prepared, I should start thinking about what we do this year... but I'm not that organised!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2005 at 5:07AM
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For many years, my family did the following:

- My children and I went as a family to choose our tree on the first weekend in December and brought it home and decorated it. I did lights and tinsel and then the kids hung up the ornaments. Each child hung any ornaments that had been given to them or made by them in previous years and they shared hanging the "family" ones. I also hung a couple ornaments myself that were particular favorites and had been gifts. (In the earliest years, I also "re-dispersed" the ornaments hung by the children so that there were at least a few near the top!!)

- Christmas Eve was spent with extended family (usually 60+ strong) at someone's home or eventually a clubhouse we rented due to the growth of our family. We had a pot-luck dinner and exchanged gifts from names drawn earlier. Lately, with economic times being tougher, we started doing smaller token gifts like ornaments.
- After the extended family Christmas Eve, we went to the Candlelight Sevice at church.
- Presents were opened on Christmas morning as soon as daylight appeared ("dawn" rule was made because Mom is a procrastinator and tended to wrap until the wee hours of Christmas Eve and I needed some sleep!). I always did stockings for each child - even when the were grown and those were opened first (each item individually wrapped to draw it out a bit!!). We tried to open the gifts one at a time, but were not always successful! So Santa's gifts were always wrapped in solid red paper with white bows and the kids were allowed to "tear into" them and we slowed it down a bit when it came to the others.

- After presents, Mom cooked a big breakfast and then everyone tended to drift back to their beds to catch up on missed sleep. When my parents were alive, we went to their house Christmas afternoon.

My children are now grown, and there are many pulls for their time on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. So I have changed my traditions accordingly. So for the past few years:
- Any of us who can will go to the extended family celebration on Christmas Eve (some of the children have spouses or significant others with similar family events, so they are alternating years with ours).

- Afterward, anyone who is available goes together to the Candlelight Church Service.

- Christmas morning is left to be celebrated at each individual home if desired. When my children eventually have their own kids, they will have this time to celebrate at home with them so that Santa can come to the children's own home and they will be tucked up in their own beds. This allows the parents to come up with their own traditions, ie cookies for Santa, reading of books, etc. For now, with no grandbabies, my children can still come to our house Christmas Eve night and be there for the morning if they choose... but we are doing it differently!

- We are no longer doing the dawn rush for presents as there are no small children waiting eagerly for Santa. Instead, we allow everyone to sleep alittle later and I still do the big Christmas breakfast about 9am for anyone staying here or joining us.

- In years past, Christmas evening tended to be somewhat of a "let-down" with the presents already opened and all the holiday merry-making coming to an end...and I was so exhausted from getting up at dawn and wrapping till whenever that I did not do a real "Christmas Dinner". So now Christmas evening is when we have our family Christmas celebration. In late afternoon (3p-4p) we have a big Christmas dinner with the best china and all the trimmings. This time-frame allows time for anyone needing to be other places in the morning or midday for other celebrations. Anyone staying home can help decorate cookies or assist with dinner or just watch football etc! I have asked the children to dress up for our Christmas Dinner and make it a bit more formal now that they are grown and I think they actually enjoy it! I asked for "nicer clothes" but now I see even suits and party dresses... and I love it since we rarely have dressy occassions and it makes for wonderful photos!!

- After dinner, we open some wine, snack on desserts and goodies, take photos, talk, and play games...just be together till about 8pm. I like to wait till dark because the tree and lights and candles are so much more beautiful. Where my focus used to be on piles of morning gifts, I now spend my energy on the food and decorations...making it a warm, loving evening with lots of old fashioned, traditional charm. Tons of candles, a fire in the fireplace, soft Christmas music, and way too many sweets (I love to bake!)

- Finally, we exchange gifts. Having changed the focus of our Christmas celebration, and also the "quantity" of gifts we give, we open them one at a time with everyone watching to make each one more special. I feel it returns us to the days when people selected one or two gifts for a person and they were very special with alot of thought put into each gift and maybe even doing some special wrapping...rather than the flood of gifts I gave the kids each year. We sat down a few years ago and discussed it as a family, so no one was disappointed on Christmas(well not too much!!). It was at first an economic decision, but I think it has challenged everyone to make more of an effort to choose special gifts with real meaning for each other.

- After gifts, we continue the wine and goodies and games until people need to go home (only if they skipped the wine!) or retire here for the night.

- The other side of our family celebrates the first Sunday AFTER Christmas, so this allows the holiday to flow alittle smoother!

I am please with the new changes we have made and hope that it allows my children (and eventually their families) to celebrate Christmas together yet not feel stressed by being pulled in so many directions at the same time!
Merry Christmas!!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 12:33PM
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The 12 days of Christmas tradition started in our neighbourhood when a devout gentleman questioned the lack of the true spirit and meaning of Christmas in our community. In order to restore some of the magic, fun, and random acts of kindness in the neighbourhood, we started the Twelve Days of Christmas tradition. Every year our family picks a house in our neighbourhood that we feel could use some holiday magic. Perhaps it's a neighbour we know has had a rough year, or even a stranger we haven't met.

Each of the 12 nights before Christmas, we leave a small gift anonymously at their door. While the first few gifts are easy to deliver unnoticed, it is sometimes difficult to avoid detection by determined night-owls. The gifts vary, home-made or store-bought. If there are children in the house we'll leave small toys, otherwise ornaments, candles and other more generic gifts are left instead. The gifts need not be expensive - it's the thought behind them that counts here.

Each gift is labelled with "On the 1st Day of Christmas..." through to the "12th Day" and signed simply "Santa's Elves." When the 1st gift is delivered, we leave a letter explaining our desire to remain anonymous and to spread holiday spirit, urging the recipient to continue the tradition the following year.

Random acts of kindness epitomize the Spirit of Christmas. We hope that others may be inspired to join us in this tradition, as it adds a little magic to the lives of everyone involved.

~ Cheery the Elf.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 2:04AM
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I like some ideas on what looks like a new blog I joined. I particularly like the Christmas Star Game and Advent book suggestions. It is at www.prayathomemom.blogspot.com

    Bookmark   December 1, 2011 at 12:05PM
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