One interesting thing about Christmas traditions is how variable the experience is. Thanksgiving is pretty standardized: Everyone meets someplace and has a big meal. But Christmas is all over the place with regard to how its observed. It’s like Linux in the 90’s: Everyone has their own homebrew version of the thing.
Our Christmas decorations usually go up the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is “decoration day” for us. The kids help. I’m a huge fan of steady lights. I’m less of a fan of big plastic figures in the yard, of flashing lights, and of trees. It’s not that I hate those things or are offended by them, they’re just not the sorts of things I like to put up. My wife and I have similar tastes, so that’s how we decorate.
After the decorations are done, my wife usually bakes a huge supply of cookies and chocolates, and we distribute them to various friends and family before Christmas.
On Christmas morning, no presents are opened until mom and dad are awake. Then we open presents one at a time, so everyone can see what everyone else got. The youngest always goes first. The oldest always goes last.
In years past, Heather and I have been frustrated at just how much stuff the kids would get. There were just too many dang toys, and half of them would be neglected. We tried to encourage relatives to go easy on the toys (particularly the big stuff) but nobody wants to be the boring uncle who gives socks and underwear to the kids. Right now my kids are the only grandkids on both sides. My siblings (and my wife’s siblings) are all taking their sweet time at having kids, which means our kids must bear the brunt of everyone’s generosity. We’ve got three kids to absorb the gift-giving for over twenty adults with no young children of their own.
We finally realized that a good solution is to just buy them less toys ourselves. So Christmas morning isn’t a toy-spewing vortex of paper and ribbon around here. The kids get the practical stuff from us, and then the relatives show up later and bury them in fun stuff. We’ve also begun a tradition of “cleaning out” the toy supply in November. We round up all the crap that hasn’t been touched in six months and get rid of it. The kids actually enjoy this process, although not as much as they enjoy the Christmas resupply.
For those of you who observe: What are your traditions?
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