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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60 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions”
Hey shamus, season’s greetings from the Netherlands!
I’ll tell you about some dutch traditions (although here the traditions are as varied from family to family of course) In the Netherlands not everyone gives presents at christmas. You see we have a different way to spoil our children. 5 December is the birthday of Sinterklaas (from Sint Nicolaas, which translates roughly to Saint Nicholas. See a pattern?) And most gift-giving for children is done then. We usually write short to medium length poems together with our gifts. Our family has upheld this tradition, so lacking in presents Christmas is all about the family dinner on the 25th. Everyone prepares one of the courses, and everyone has a great time catching up with all the family. I guess since we dont celebrate thanksgiving here in europe, our big family dinners tend to be at christmas. As for decorations, there are loads and loads of candles. Really. Even the tree is decorated with old-fashioned, fire-hazard candles. The candles are what makes the house all Christmassy for me. I guess I’m just a bit of a pyromaniac that way.
A very merry christmas to all who read this, and best wishes from across the ocean
Decorations usually go up a week after Thanksgiving, mostly just a standard string of lights around the house and a tree with lights/ornaments in the living room.
Presents stay out of the way until a few days before Christmas eve, when they go under the tree. This is to avoid the cat destroying them before my and my brother can.
On Christmas morning we all get up early and have breakfast together before opening presents. Typically one of us will pass out the presents to ensure everyone is opening something pretty much constantly until they’re gone.
After that we all tend to find a movie to go watch together, and then spend the rest of the day playing with our new stuff.
Actually, that’s how it was for our family. Now that us kids are grown up-ish, we just throw up the lights and hang out on Christmas day. Presents are in the form of cash and usually arrive a week or so before the 25th.
Here in Chile, things aren’t too different.
Being a Catholic country though, decorations are not complete without a nativity scene, that is, a representation of Jesus’ birth with little figures. In addition, most people go to church on Christmas Eve and have the big dinner and present opening at night.
I’m boring, in that I don’t, per se, observe the rituals of the mid-winter celebrations. At the most, I cook a nice meal and eat, thinking I’m happy to have survived another half-winter. It’s the time of the year, when work (oddly enough) thinks I should be home mid-week instead of in the office. It’d possibly make more sense doing this in the summer, but I guess it means they can keep the heat off for a few days and save some money that way (or, more likely, most other people actually WANT to be off at this time of the year and they feel as if they should accomodate the majority’s celebratory schedule).
Since i am a jewish in a jewish country, we don’t celebrate christmas or feel the need to buy gifts, at this particular time of year. However, if we realy want to feel the christmas spirit, there are some places in Israel where christmas is celebrated and you can see decorated shops and houses, which is kind of nice.
Also, my wife and I, are anxiously waiting for the “Doctor who” christmas special.
So this is christmas for us.
We don’t have a Thanksgiving.
We go to my grandparent’s in Sherbrook on the 24th. Everybody but me, my father and my sister go to the church and comes back at 1h. We have a nice little cheese/wine/pate fest in the middle of the night. We used to unwrap the gifts at this hour, but we decided a few years ago to have it in the morning.
On the 25th, we now unwrap the gifts one at the time. We have Chinese Fondue during the evening.
On the 26th, we go see a movie all together. And we have Chocolat Fondue in the evening.
We all go back to our places on the 27th.
This is actually my first Christmas overseas, so I am a little curious as to how it will be different. We did celebrate Thanksgiving, but it was at night. Funny enough though, it was about the same time as my family has it in the US though. My brother in law’s family really doesn’t decorate much. We had a live Christmas tree, which was nice, as it has been about 8 years since we had a live one. Although the year my mother tried to make the tree more festive with pine scented air freshener was pretty memorable.
But here, we open presents on the 25th, and I am used to the 24th. And lucky me, I get to stay up until 1 am to call my family for Christmas Eve!
I celebrate Hanukkah a week before, then take advantage of the massive sales the day after. Might as well capitalize off this ridiculous consumerism (which is a rather redundant statement now that I think about it…)
Here in Spain tradition mandates that people go to church the night of the 24th, along with big family meals on that night or next day (or both, one with each side of the family). Presents are not given that night but on the night of the 5th January, which represents the day the three wise men gave their presents to the infant Jesus. The main decoration for the house is a Nativity scene somewhere prominent.
Of course, that is tradition, and nowadays presents are often given the 24th night or the 25th in the morning by a culturally imported Santa. It’s of course more fun for the kids since they can enjoy their presents during all the Christmas holidays instead of just the last day before going back to school.
Our tradition used to be that we would start decorating sometime after Thanksgiving. Us kids would put the presents we bought under the tree, but Mom and Dad would wait until Christmas Eve night (yes, even after we all stopped believing in Santa–it was just more fun that way). Then we’d read the Night Before Christmas and go to bed.
Christmas morning the tradition was to wake up Mom and Dad, and then go through our stockings (we were allowed to go through them before parents got up, but not unwrap anything. Candy was fair game, though). Then after stockings were opened, we’d take turns opening one present at a time (one of them always being a christmas ornament for when we have trees of our own to decorate) until everyone was done, which usually took quite awhile. Then we’d watch a movie, eat some kolachi, and hang out until it was time to go to Grandma’s and eat/get more presents from relatives.
The fact that I don’t live in the same house (or state, for that matter) has changed things a bit, but the important parts are the same.
There’s always Hanukkah to look forward to every year!
Here in Austria, there are as many Christmas traditions as there are families. But usually the family meets at Christmas Eve, lights the candles on the Christmas tree, sings some songs (“Silent Night, Holy Night” is originally an Austrian song ;o) and then they have some kind of traditional dinner and everyone opens their presents.
The 25th and the 26th are there for hanging around, playing with the stuff you’ve got and for meeting friends and other relatives for big meals. :o)
My family tradition, for everyone over the age of eight or so, is that we take turns opening gifts (usually going in a circle around the room, though we’ve tried the age-based thing once or twice) and before we can open the gift, we have to try to guess what it is. So there’s a lot of rattling and poking and sniffing and hefting, etc — which leads to a lot of wrapping shenanigans. My grandfather once gave my mother a pair of earrings… taped to the lid of a refrigerator box. My brother gave my grandfather a gift one year (I don’t even recall what it was) and disguised it by loosely taping a bunch of coins to the lid of the box so they’d jingle and rattle when he shook it. Et cetera.
And then, once we’ve made our guess, it’s a bit of a game to attempt to unwrap the gift without damaging any of the ribbons or paper. We’re very serious about this: we use pocketknives and all the precision and care of a demolitions expert defusing a bomb. Which is hysterical, because once we’re done, it all gets crumpled up and stuffed in the trash. Why do we do it? Mostly because it frustrates my mother, who didn’t grow up with this tradition, so she sits there glaring and demanding that we just “rip the damn thing!” (All in fun, obviously.)
Other traditions: My mom doesn’t go in for breakfast much, so when I was growing up, Christmas was the only day of the year that we’d get “traditional” breakfast, with eggs and bacon and such. My husband’s childhood tradition was to eat cookies for breakfast on Christmas morning. It took us a while to reconcile those two.
I’ve got pretty standard traditions this time of year. We’ve got the decorated tree, complete with pine needles all over the floor, absolutely covered in decorations and with the star threatening to poke a hole in our ceiling.
Christmas eve normally consists of a huge dinner with assorted family at my Aunt and Uncles house, which is always a pretty good time. Christmas morning involves waking up far too early for my liking and opening gifts.
Oh, and of course the old tradition of trying not freeze to death due to an extreme case of living in Canada.
First off, we have 2 days of Christmas. To my knowledge, Holland is pretty much the only country doing that, but that may well be wrong.
As Kasper (no. 1) already said, we also celebrate Sinterklaas. My family holds a tradition of Secret Santa (ironically named for us, since we don’t do that during Christmas), with a gift price of 3-5 euro. My oldest sister has 2 kids, the only kids we are related to, so they get a few Sinterklaas gifts.
On the 6th of December, the day after Sinterklaas, we put up most Christmas decorations, and sometimes a few more decorations follow the week after. It’s not a lot, and the garden only ever gets decorated with a snowman at most :P Plenty for our relatively small home, though.
This year, we’re upwrapping gifts today, starting around 10 in the evening. With well over 100 gifts (Mom and dad have 5 kids, and my oldest sister has two, youngest sister has her boyfriend coming over.. Adds up quickly) this usually takes a couple of hours at the least.
The gifts never seem to fit under the tree properly ^^
On the first day of Christmas we get together and have dinner, eating everything we don’t normally have for dinner (Fondue this year for example).
This year we have a fake tree, to not have a green floor after Christmas, but years past we had real trees. On new years eve, we burn it on the middle of the street, along with a few others from people living in our street. I’ll miss that.
That’s about it, I think.
Every year, on Christmas Eve, there’s one present we get to open. That present is always a set pajamas that we wear that night. Even after my sister went to college, it still remains this way. That’s really the only Christmas tradition I can think of.
I won’t go into all our traditions, but I have to say I really like the gathering around for presents so everyone can see what everyone got from everyone else tradition you mention. We’ve always done it that way, and it’s great. We don’t open presents until everyone coming is present (extended family and all) and then the youngest person there hands out all the presents, one at a time, in whatever order they feel like.
I really think that thats the main feature of my upbringing that has caused me to be so generous. After a while you realised that the most fun bit of christmas wasn’t opening your presents, it was watching other people open the things you gave them. I think it is as a direct result of that that me and my siblings are all very generous people. It also helped that I was a youngest child until I was 9, so I spent a lot of my formative years learning how fun it was to hand things out, not just receive them.
My Christmas is kind of crappy, I don’t celebrate it myself, but everyone else in my family does, which leads to problems, firstly they buy me gifts even though I ask every year that they don’t, this then means I have to buy them something in return, otherwise I look bad. I’m pretty much forced to attend Christmas eve dinner at my parents, that tends to be a horrible event, my parents singing Christmas carols and myself objecting to them(Silent night? In a manger with a child, yeah right. The Holly and the Ivy? What, you’re pagan now? Jingle Bells? Winter related, but not really Christmas related now is it…), then there’s the 1 gift you open on Christmas eve, which is never any good for anyone, but everyone has to pretend they enjoy it. Then there’s drinking(I don’t drink), inevitably someone winds up in a fight, everyone goes home around 2AM Christmas morning, wake up later on Christmas morning to open the rest of your gifts, go back to my parents for Christmas dinner, more carols, more drinking, more fighting, usually this ends with me leaving early, if I do I get called every half hour until they forget about me asking why I left.
Boxing day I write thank you letters for the gifts I didn’t want, and a letter to my parents for dinners I didn’t want to attend, send those out and try to forget about Christmas till next year.
I forget which came first, my negative attitude to Christmas or the horrible Christmases, I assume the later.
Atlanta Christmas is just about how you expect it to be. It won’t snow until March, so “white Christmas” is out, there’s still a ridiculous amount of traffic, and the plastic light-up reindeer and “icicles” are overpopulating exponentially. Our family’s atheist, but Christmas is still on the holiday list for now.
1. Christmas decorations go up at the end of November, usually the last day of the month. Only if the grandparents are here, because they’re the ones who care :-P
2. Plastic tree gets decorated with a ridiculous assortment of ornaments from baby pictures to Buzz Lightyear to bulldozers.
3. Christmas eve dinner with the family. Usually a dish called “shipwreck” made with tomato soup, potatoes, ground beef, onions, beans. Makes me glad I’m working today, it’s not my favorite.
4. Children open new pajamas after Christmas Eve’s shipwreck. I’m 23 and I still get pajamas. Last year they were fuzzy and had Mario on them. Thanks, Mom.
5. Once the kiddies go to bed, put the presents under the tree (the youngest child is 13 this year… we could probably stop doing this so late at night)
6. Counter-Strike matches ALL NIGHT LONG among the older kids (Christmas headshots are like little personal presents to your enemies).
7. Breakfast, presents, playtime, and my usual drive around the neighborhood sneaking cigarettes.
We hang some lights in the front yard and then my sister decorates the living room with our 150+ tiny yulelads figures that have been gathered one or two at a time over the years.
The kids in the family get visited by the 13 yulelads (Icelandic santas but also trolls/sons and brothers of trolls) one at a time. The first arrives the 12. and the last on the 24. each leaving a small present for the kid in his/her shoes (or a potato if it has been naughty)
We don’t decorate the tree until the 23. (known as àžorlà¡ksmessa (mass of Thorlak the saint of Iceland)) and eat either stingray that’s been pissed on and left to fester in ammonia for a few days or smoked and hanged meat (depending on your taste).
And finally like everyone else in Iceland we eat at 18:00 on the 24. and open our presents as soon as we are done eating. None of this waiting to the 25. here since the holidays here are as directly related to the old sun festival as you can get without having the sun festival.
Thank you everyone for sharing your traditions. We may adopt one or two.
Decorations go up shortly after Thanksgiving. Austin had some particularly wet weather, so we were into December before they went up this year. White lights on the eaves, reindeer in the yard, stockings on the loft (no fireplace), and a big indoor tree. Due to the 18-month old daughter, we skipped the garland on the banister this year.
My wife’s Catholic, and I’m ‘relaxed Protestant’, so we’re usually in negotiations about our own traditions. Since our daughter is not about to go to midnight mass, we’re going to have an early dinner tonight, go to early evening mass, and go home to watch “A Christmas Story”.
My own family has a “one present on Christmas Eve” policy, but my wife’s opened all their presents after midnight mass. I’m not too keen on staying up till the wee hours on Christmas Eve to open presents, so this is still in negotiations.
My own family would wake at a decent hour, and depending on the ages of the children, would either open presents while Mom & Dad brought in a quick breakfast, or would have a quick breakfast (stollen, quiche, and hot drinks) and then open the presents.
I agree with the “one present at a time” policy. It makes every gift important, and teaches the young’uns (and some of the allegedly mature) the values of patience and consideration of others.
Christmas dinner is always a production to rival Thanksgiving. It’s held early, usually late afternoon/early evening, and as many people as possible are invited.
One tradition I’d like to continue is the Christmas Eve party my grandmother used to give for everyone who didn’t have somewhere to go. It gradually turned into a social event, but she would always invite those who didn’t have family to be with. Another tradition I’ve considered is to invite a soldier or two who are stationed locally, far away from their own families.
@15, Legendary Bard:
We do the exact same thing, took me till I was ~7-8 to figure out that the special present I got to open on christmas eve was PJ’s, and my youngest siblings have figured it out as well now, so they give snarky comments (“woo, pajamas! exciting.”) All in good fun I suppose.
Because my parents are divorced, we always spend christmas eve at my mothers house, then that night return to my dad’s. It feels just like Thanksgiving, except colder and with more family. Interesting that we have this many foreign folks reading this blog; I’d like to see numbers if Shamus ever got around to it.
for the first twenty years of my life christmas trraditions was as follows; Christmas eve, dinner and presents with dad’s side of the family,only an aunt and uncle, a unitarian and a buddist so one doesn’t observe and the other over observes so it’s an interesting evening. usually it’s just for funs and presents, but a couple of times it led to holiday debates.
Christmas day, go to grandmother’s house (until she died but my aunt kept the house so we kept going there) anyway dinner and presents with significantly larger mom’s side of the family. big dinner. then new year’s eve do that again with yet more of mom’s side of the family.
now i don’t know i moved far far away and i’m not gonna be able to go back for a couple of months. So i’ll just have to see what happens.
For me, it’s all about Christmas breakfast.
Cheesy omelets, bacon, OJ, cinnamon rolls.
Accompanied by classical religious carols.
We haven’t been a family long enough to really have a *tradition* (married coming up to two years, another couple of years to go until our first anniversary, and no kids to solidify Christmas routines), but we’ve been having parents (my in-laws, since my parents can’t possibly make it all the way from England to California) come over on Christmas Eve, and we’ll head over to their place for Christmas Day. We don’t do much by way of music, but we put up a tree, and then spend days telling the cat not to climb it. This year, it’s covered with bells, which the cat loves to ring…
My old Family Christmas traditions were we put up the tree and all decorations up on the 15th of December (my older brothers birthday) We would sometimes wrapping code presents (each person pick out a wrapping paper and all their gifts are in that paper) The last day for shopping was the 22nd for us which of course was the day my father would buy everyone’s gifts. On the 23rd we would start cooking mainly chopping everything and while we were doing it we watched White Christmas which strangely enough wasn’t supposed to be a tradition but it just always happened. The 24th we cook all the things that end up being cold (potato salad, cranberry sauce, etc) and mix up the pies and put them in the freezer before cooking. When we were kids we always got to open just one gift of Christmas eve pretty much to shut us up… it was always pajamas but some strange twist of fate (like right) The one gift was either before or after Christmas Eve Mass usually after. We all went to bed and the first one up after me since i usually couldn’t fall asleep the next day woke everyone else up. When we were kids the only standard thing was stocking first which was always filled with half raisins nuts and an orange 45% filled with little tiny cheap toys that break after 4 uses and 5% candy. I would always take my brother and sisters raisins and the walnuts sometimes con them out of the orange. My mom and dad would sit on the couch and we would all grab the presents we got for them give them to each of them and then just attack the tree. If you grabbed a present that wasn’t yours you threw it to the owner then proceeded to dig for your own. By the end we were all half buried beneath the wrappings trying to play with all our toys at once. We had maybe till 1 before everything had to be cleaned up and we all finished cooking. Christmas tree was taken down on the 28th (my sisters birthday) along with the outside decorations and everything was put back up in the attic for next year.
Now I live on my own…no traditions have been formed yet.
There is more stuff then that but I’m being too wordy >.<
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays All.
The biggest tradition around The Olde Home Pond has always been a genuine Polish meal on Xmas Eve, full of kielbasa, kapusta, pierogi, golumpki and ending with the annual sharing of the oplatki. Once Ph.Duck, a Swede, joined the family, we added korv and lingonberry to the menu.
Then we’d settle in to watch A Christmas Story, despite the fact that Ph.Duck and I can’t stand the film, and then another movie of my choice. Two years ago it was Galaxy Quest, the year before that was Men In Black.
On Xmas Day, a big fire would be in the fireplace, the cats would get their presents first (catnip, toys, and fine foods, such as caviar… yes, caviar), then a leisurely opening of the human’s presents. For decades, the one gift I could always count on was a can of cashews, and I always gave Ph.Duck and Momzerduck a quarter-pound of high-end coffee (Kona Gold for him, Jamaican Blue Mountain for her).
With Momzerduck’s passing in September, though, Ph.Duck and I are completely at a loss… none of these traditions are happening. We might not even have a tree.
My family’s Christmas schedule goes like this:
December 24th, Lessons and Carols, hosted by my mother. Both my parents are former professional musicians, so we have the best Christmas carols in town. ;-)
December 25th, grab some cinnamon rolls from the local bakery, and gather ’round to open presents in random order with everyone watching. Then, we all head over to my grandfather’s place for heated religious debate and catered sandwiches.
December 26th, LAN party hosted by my brother.
Our traditions are pretty simple. Everyone gets up, everyone goes down en masse, we wait for pictures to get taken, then we get stuck in.
For the rest of the day, we generally do whatever the hell we want. Want to install your new games? Go ahead. Read your new book? Read away. Watch a new movie? Sounds like a plan. Make some nachos? Has happened on multiple occasions.
It’s a laid-back day, which is what I like about it.
I do as Shamus does: Black Friday (day after US Thanksgiving) is not for shopping – I won’t set foot in a store on that day – it’s for getting the holiday deco done.
Downgraded to a small, prelit fake tree to fit in my front window. I’m not much on flashing lights either, but I’m all about sparkle, twinkle and shiny things that make the place warm and special at this time of year.
Then I put out my Mens: nutcracker soldier army indoors, family of lighted snowmen outdoors. The presents pile up on the sill under the tree as they’re gotten and wrapped. I have no room for them anywhere else!
As families age they split out the traditional get togethers. I’ve been doing dinner on the 25th for about 15 years now for immediate family. We lost my grandma and my dad this past year; newly adult family members and their SOs are joining us this year…we’ll get together, eat, drink, laugh, and spoil the grandbaby who will be two in the spring…
My focus is warmth and fun and comfort during the holiday gatherings. Some years it’s a true pain in the ass to get there, but somehow we always do.
I wish the same for you! :)
Decorations in our house go up the day after Thanksgiving. That includes far too many Christmas trees. I, um, have one in every room of the house including the bathroom. We don’t usually do much for outdoor decorations beyond a big wreath on the front of the house and I usually paint something festive on our large picture window. That’s mostly been because our house of 11 years had no outdoor electrical outlets. We finally got around to rectifying that this year but I never made it up the ladder to hang any lights. Next year maybe.
I bake absurd amounts of sweets beginning around Thanksgiving, most of which are distributed to various friends, neighbors, charities (loads of my cookies go out to the troops the past several years), public buildings (sweets trays for the local hospital staff, nursing homes, schools, etc). My girls lend a hand in the baking binge and package up a fair bit of their efforts for under the tree to family and friends. Then a week or two before Christmas the focus of my baking shifts to things to bring to the family Christmas gatherings.
Because we’ve all had turkey for Thanksgiving both my family and my husband’s family tend to do something different for Christmas gatherings. My husband’s family always does a snack and hors d’oeuvre potluck. We spend the day watching Christmas movies, opening gifts, doing a “Chinese gift exchange” (draw numbers, each picks an unknown gift and the next person can either take a gift already opened or open a new gift), and eating sinful amounts of food. This usually takes place on Christmas Eve day or somewhere around in there. It just depends on when the guys can get out of the field (cotton farmers run in his family). My family varies more. Sometimes we do the hors d’oeuvre potluck, sometimes an alternative meal (which in the past frequently involved wild game like quail or venison). We usually get together the weekend following Christmas with them. It’s a day of eating, opening gifts, and playing canasta (a family favorite game) into the wee hours of morning.
Christmas eve night and Christmas day are reserved for our own family. It kicks off with a last rehearsal and then the performance of our church’s Christmas program (sometimes a play, sometimes a musical service). Afterward we drive around town looking at Christmas lights and eating a fast food dinner. Then it’s home for hot chocolate by the fire (even on years when it’s 75-80 degrees outside), singing Christmas carols, reading Christmas stories/poems, and opening ONE gift (always new pj’s). Then the kiddos leave treats out for Santa and head for bed. Christmas morning kicks off with rifling through stockings then eating the Christmas cake. Whoever finds the pecan half in the Christmas cake gets to “play Santa” and hand out gifts to be opened. Gifts are opened one at a time and thank you’s are voiced before the next present is given. Then it’s off to church for a Christmas carol service and back home to laze, play with gifts, and eat ourselves into a stupor.
The kids are getting old enough that Santa doesn’t really factor into our Christmas traditions much but he was never that big of a deal. Call me selfish but I’ve always refused to have the best gifts given to my kids by a fat guy they’ve never seen.
Merry Christmas, Shamus! Many happy returns of the season to you and yours.
On Christmas I continue to not procreate and i replace that emptiness inside by buying your children extravagant gifts
Our family’s traditions start on Thanksgiving day, with an eggnog tasting (this year: 12 varieties). So far, this has been mostly disorganized and unscientific, but next year, we’re going to do a double blind taste test to find out the true winner.
We don’t have a set day for decorations – it’s more just trying to find time in everyone’s schedule to do it together. My dad’s allergic to christmas trees (or something like that), so we end up with a fake tree, piled high with lights and ornaments. Exterior decorations are relatively sparse, but there.
On a personal level, I actually don’t get a tree, opting instead to decorate my giant cactus. Er, yeah, it’s fun, but sometimes painful.
We’re Italian, so on Christmas Eve we do the 7 Fishes, though there are definitely years where we don’t have 7 (This year, we might have more than 7).
Since we’re all growned up, Christmas day traditions have changed a bit. It used to be kinda like yours, with the wake up time being as early as possible (like 6:30 am) and set ahead of time. As we’ve gotten older, this changed to be meeting at my parents at 10 or 11 (and at this point, I’m kinda annoyed that I have to get up by 9 or 10, because I like to sleep in when I get the chance).
The other big tradition, probably the most important, is that my Uncle, who is a priest, says mass for us (and a bunch of other local family members) in our living room. It’s probably the most special tradition we have, and it really helps Christmas be what it’s supposed to be for us:)
Merry Christmas Shamus!
@Scragar I have a friend that is Jewish Agnostic so he refuses to celebrate Christmas or Hannukah since they have no deep meaning for him. He tends to buy Christmas gifts for other people that do celebrate, but he doesn’t like it when people buy stuff for him. Not his holiday he says. My response to that: Christmas isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about GETTING, it’s about GIVING and acknowledging people that are important to you.
So I wouldn’t feel obligated to get anyone else something (unless they only do it because, well, that’s just what you do, and it’s rude not to give something in return! Which is not the spirit of the season).
As for my own celebrations, they’ve been pretty chaotic as us kids got older, plus moving into a new house modified things. Typically we put the Christmas tree up when we felt like we procrastinated long enough, but now that my niece is 4 we didn’t have that option. She was really, REALLY unhappy when we didn’t have our stuff up when her Pre-School did. So the tradition now is probably first weekend of December.
I always have a tradition of watching Christmas movies during the month of December. Muppet Christmas Carol with my sister, Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas and The Ref with my mom (and brother before he went off to South Korea), then Scrooged and Die Hard with my friends. I plan on adding Gremlins to that list soon.
Christmas Eve we all go to the evening service for Church, and now that my niece is old enough we’ll be continuing a childhood tradition of driving around to look at Christmas Decorations in different neighborhoods before heading home. We used to procrastinate on gift-wrapping and just stuff things under the tree when all was said and done, but we CANNOT do that with my niece. She gets CRAZY. So instead we have been waiting until tonight. I’m actually pretty excited because the size of the loot drop is a mystery this year.
As kids, we weren’t allowed out of our rooms until the parents gave the OK. One year, I was about 8 or 9, I snuck out to get a drink of water. However, my parents screwed up that year, so as us kids were all in our rooms with doors shut they moved all the gifts marked Santa under the tree. After hearing all the noise in the hallway and seeing the tree with more gifts than it had after getting a drink of water, I suddenly realized that Santa, shall we say, wasn’t making any deliveries after all.
Everyone sits down and tries to open gifts one at a time, but that can be tough. My parents are more interested in seeing the kids open stuff and naturally the kids have trouble going one at a time. The order was always curious, too. I was the youngest, but my older brother went first, me second, my sister the middle child third, then my mom and Dad. I don’t know why, but that’s the order. My old man always put on Jon Anderson’s Three Ships as Christmas music, but I’m hoping to expand that library a bit.
Then my mom would get started on Christmas dinner while we awaited my the arrival of my mom’s parents. Ever since we moved and my grandpop died this has extended to my mom’s Aunt and Uncle, her brother and sister-in-law and my cousin/her nephew. That’s pretty much when any sense of order goes out the window. My grandmom tries to get things moving, can’t just relax and go with the flow. My Uncle goes to another dinner with his wife’s family as well. So in the end Christmas “dinner” happens at about 2p.m., and we stuff our faces.
After that some of the family hangs around and there’s some movie watching, but every once in a while we’ll head out to visit some of my Dad’s extended family. I’d like to do that this year, but they’re…very weird. You sort of need to be invited first. Don’t know why.
This year is going to have a bit of a twist. As stated, my brother is in South Korea and he couldn’t join in last year. This has had everyone depressed again this year, but I came up with a plan to use our webcams on my laptop. So even though it’ll be 10p.m. for him, he’ll be opening presents with us.
The future is awesome.
Also, sorry for the verbosity of this post. I love Christmas and can say a lot about the celebrations, even though none of it is interesting.
This Christmas is going to be a screwed one, my grandmother died today. The funeral’s being held on Christmas day at 2 PM… ;(
“It's like Linux in the 90's: Everyone has their own homebrew version of the thing.”
Ah. That explains all the penguins, then.
Tradition here starts first thing in the morning, we haul out “santa sacks” – a variety of stocking fillers and small-ish items (books, dvds etc) for me and my siblings from our parents, and have a play around for a while with anything thats shiny or makes interesting sounds. (Er… the youngest of us is 17, btw).
Then a family breakfast around the dining table, and pop some xmas crackers.
Then back to the presents, and we take it in turns handing out our gifts to each other.
Then we take a break to regroup, and head out to one side of the extended family for a huge lunch, consisting of either about 10 different roast meats and assorted roast vegetables, or a giant barbeque and salad, depending on the weather (It’ll either be rainy, or swelteringly hot. [104F or greater, sometimes])
Then more crowding around a xmas tree and giving out of gifts.
Then repeat the process for dinner with the other side of the extended family. And, if the weather at lunch was hot, possibly add a spectacular thunderstorm afterwards.
Although this year both sides of the family are having lunch, and my mother has decided she wants to skip that and do a lunch for immediate family, so I’ll be trying to fit all three lunches into the space of a few hours. And today’s weather is the rainy xmas variant.
Funny, in our family it seems EVERYONE wants to be the relative who gives socks and underwear (and deodorant for some reason). Including the grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Even when I’ve specifically said I would love something else (like this year, money for textbooks). It doesn’t help that for some reason everyone in the family has ascribed to a $15-20 limit on gifts, and we draw for names rather than just giving to whom we want.
Anyway, tradition-wise we’re really random; For the longest time we would always have potato soup and rumagrut on Christmas Eve, and some meat dish on Christmas Day. Now, we have Oyster Stew and French Onion soup on Christmas Eve, and the 25th is crazy. For example, this year we’re having homemade pizza and Reuben dip.
One tradition my family has is the fun we have labeling gifts. Instead of the usual “From Jane to John”, we try to creatively incorporate the gift in the tag. Example: this year I got my dad a framed fish fossil. The tag reads “To Dr. Alan Grant From Dennis Nedry” (I’m a computer geek). Of course, this practice can lead to amusing misunderstandings, when the giver can’t remember what the gift is or to whom it actually belongs.
As I am from Sweden, we have the tradition of celebrating every holiday on the day before. So the Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas eve and all the other holidays follow this pattern.
If I’m not incorrect, it comes from an old belief that the next day starts at 8 in the evening.
As for other traditions, we always decorate the tree on the day before the 24:th for some reason. It’s what we usually do, so we have seen no reason not to do it.
Also, a majority of the other decorations go up in time for the first of advent.
Also, plastic figures in the yard are very rare in Sweden. Front yard decorations mostly consist of lights in the trees.
I take advantage of everyone *else* having ritual observations to enjoy a couple of quiet nights with my love and a bottle of Drambuie. Presents are minimal between us and we ask others to leave us out of their machinations unless they want to drop us a note or a mixtape or something equivalent that is personal, thoughtful, and free.
No decorations, no fancy dinner. Just two people in their happy place, free from distraction.
Our traditions are pretty simple. :D
Firstly, the decorations go up. This is usually done on the week directly before Christmas. If Christmas is on a Wednesday, it’s done on a Wednesday. Decorations include: special room decorations across the ceiling of the living room, and a Christmas tree adorned with decorations, both old and new. That’s all we have, and all we really want.
Then, we all go out and buy presents. We usually buy one thing that the person has asked for (if anything) and then a little something that we ourselves decide on. We also purchase for each family member, a secret Santa gift – no more than Â£5. All presents are wrapped to save the Christmas from being a total bummer. The main presents go under the tree, while the secret Santa gifts go in special bags for each person.
Come Christmas day, we all make sure we’re all awake (or, if you’re like me and actually enjoy sleeping, you’ll get prodded by three eager family members until you get up), then we all sit on the parent’s bed and immediately go for the secret Santa bags. I cannot stress the word “immediately” enough. These little bags of fun are great, as they not only get everyone ready for a daysworth of Christmas wrapping genocide, but keep everyone’s present-hunger satiated until the main present opening.
We eat breakfast, then do the main present opening. Yeah, okay, so it doesn’t quite satiate it enough.
The present-under-the-tree doling even has its own tradition. Either dad or I sit by the tree, take a present, read out the present tag, then dole the present out as required. I believe there may have been a tradition of “wait until everyone gets their presents before opening any”, but that may have gone when my parents had my older sister – DEFINITELY after I was born. We all open presents, coo a lot, and mum goes nuts trying to make a list of who-got-who-what in order so we can write thank-you cards that nobody becomes bothered enough to actually do. All cards addressed to specific people are given here, and are thoroughly shaked after opening to check for hidden cash prizes. Any card that does not deliver said prize, is prodded fun at.
After that, the relatives come. Given how we only have two grandmothers and four aunts, the Christmas Relatives Invasion is as small as it is girly. Usually only one grandmother, and their respectful children, come at a time, given how the fur usually flies between the two grandmothers and their tribes. We go see the other grandmother for New Years. The Christmas Grandmother brings presents, which are quickly assimilated.
Then comes lunch. I’d like to note here that my mother is a fantastic gourmet, and has raised me as her own. We both agree that Turkey is a dreadful meat compared to the alternatives, which dad and sister thankfully agree with. Mum works her gourmet magic, and produces a seam-busting Christmas meal for everyone. This year, she’s taking the plunge and including two main meats for dinner – ham, and beef. This will be an indigestion attack that I will enjoy.
After this is the ceremonial “crash on sofa and play with whatever presents we got, in front of the Christmas episode of Doctor Who”. Hopefully this year’s beats that cruddy “Titanic” one they did once.
After that, it generally boils down. Mum, who still has gourmet magic stored in the Greater Wand Of Facestuffing, constantly brings in snacks to keep everyone on bursting point. Relatives go home, everyone comments on what a nice Christmas it was, then go count their Christmas money to see what they can blow it on on Boxing Day.
I love the season. :D
Growing up, us kids we had one year spent with Mom and ‘Big Papa’, and the Next year spent with Dad and his wife. (im just trying to not use names thats all, we always called our step-parents by thier first names :). Even though we alternated between the two homes each year, the simple traditions for chirstmas were pretty well the same.
The decorations and the tree had to wait until December 1st. Older now I still hold true to that. The tree is almost never late unless its a day or two at most. On christmass eve we would play games and carry on, or watch White Christmas, as My mom never missed a year to watch that show. Make snowmen if there was snow. Just be kids. Christmas day when we awoke, we were allowed to open the stockings and eat the candy, and play with the toys in them untill the parents woke up.
The tree gifts started as soon as all were awake (and had a cup of coffee in the hand for the parents). We would share playing ‘santa’ and one of us would then pass out the gifts one at a time to each person so that each person present would be opening a present. YAY! we would oogle each others, and if we were shy about one, we then had the oportunity to tuck it away under the excitment of the other people. didnt always work that way, but we were raised to appreciate anything that we recieved, as we might as well not have anything if we couldnt be thankful that we at least recieved something. Love that value, I hold it very dear.
Once the gifts were open, any we werent playing with or wearing, we would keep under the tree to keep them from getting stepped on and so that company could see what we got, and dinner was started. We usually ate in the afternoon, or early evening. Around 3-5 mostly. so that others could get back to there own familys I suppose.
That all said and done, the tree stays up till new years, and comes down the first week of the new year. We were never as strict about taking it down, but never longer than a week or so.
I enjoy the Christmas traditions I have grown up with even though my personal beliefs differ. Christmas time has always been fun and exciting to me, so I celebrate the joy and traditions. I just make my own twists on it now. Cause im an adult. I can eat Ice cream for breakfast if I want. So there! ;P
Up until this year, my non-extended family would gather at my grandparents’ house for an early dinner similar to Thanksgiving dinner, the opening of a large number of presents, and then we’d go our separate ways. However, I’m not sure how this year is going to go, since my grandmother passed away in July. I’m having a difficult time believing that this year will be the same as the past 23 for me. Everything’s changing, and I don’t think I’ll be keeping this new tradition. If it were up to me, I’d sit at home, watch TV, and eat pizza all day. And if I had friends who weren’t tied down with family obligations, I’d invite them over. But they’re all expected to be with family, so I never see them.
I just don’t like the holidays. I’m betting I’m in the minority opinion there.
The only real solid tradition that my family has… is that we open the presents on Christmas eve, slowly one at a time, in some preconceived manner. like youngest to oldest, or the reverse.
Red copic marker… how many pieces of paper will I draw blood on…
For us: Decorations go up late. As in, we start decorating a week or two before Christmas. Normally the tree will be up for maybe four or five days before Christmas, but we’ve been repainting that room this year, so this year it went up yesterday. Decorations are dug out of old white plastic boxes in the cellar, where they have rested for untold decades. We put up a clay Nativity scene on the hall table, but most decorations are confined to the front room. (We used to decorate most of the house, but have become more reserved with age.)
On Christmas Day, my sister and I wake up our parents by jumpng on the bed. Stocking presents are opened there and then. Tree presents are opened at a more civilised hour, sometime before lunch, usually with visiting relatives in attendance.
After lunch, everyone walks the dogs. Every year, without fail.
I’m single, and won’t fly during the holidays, so I try to make my Christmas as pathetic as possible.
I outlined a tree-shape on my apartment wall with lights. Got myself a gift. Ate a turkey-based frozen dinner. Tra-la-la!
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we get a tree, decorate it, etc. We always have fresh hot wassail, and pour a bit for our trees.
For Hannukah, I make Latkes and we do the candle lighting every night. We don’t bother to give each other gifts, since we do that on Christmas.
When Solstice comes, we have some sort of party involving a lot of fire (yes!!).
For Christmas eve we have a big meal (not turkey!), then a scripture reading / re-enactment depending on how many little kids are present. Then, the youngest gets to pick one present to open. It doesn’t have to be their own present. There is usually one present that is really weird shaped, and everyone has been dying to know what it is – that’s the one that usually gets picked.
Then, the willing go to midnight mass.
In the morning … we take turns picking presents to open. :-)
Funny, “Black Friday” is decoration day for us as well. Well, “us” as in my parents; now that I’m off in bachelor land I don’t really have much Christmas tradition besides travelling to the ancestral homestead whenever grad school will let me go.
Christmas eve is always celebration with my father’s family; we eat, exchange gifts, and then make our way to midnight church. Well, not so much on the latter these past few years. Stupid jet lag.
Christmas day we start breakfast (an old-fashioned egg casserole . . . yum), which bakes while we exchange presents. When it’s done, we whip up a quick cranberry compote to go with it, and then spend the rest of the day in a holiday coma: Camping out on the couches in our pajamas, watching endless movies (gifts, Mom’s ever growing collection of Christmas movies, or the daylong marathon of Christmas Story), and generally being lazy. In years past I tended to skip out once everyone else started napping to tear into whatever video game I’d procured that year, although that hasn’t been the case these past two years. With the WoW-monkey still on my back, I haven’t really desired much else.
It’s not much, but that’s my family’s Christmas tradition.
Here in Greece the customs are a little different, and some variance exists too. January 1st is our gift-giving day, and we have Saint Basil giving the gifts instead of Santa Claus. The traditional Christmas decoration is a ship and not a tree, but nowadays this is constricted mostly to islands and some coastal areas. Globalisation seems to have won the decoration war. And in the old days of yore, children used to go door to door in the neihgbourhood and sing Christmas carols, but that’s another tradition that has declined. I haven’t seen a single kid doing that in years, though reportedly they still exist.
Now, in my family, the decorations are usually put up the weekend before Christmas, and taken off the weekend after First Year’s Eve. Things used to be simple, with just a modest tree and a simple nativity scene, but they’re getting more and more extravagant with each passing year.
Christmas morning is family time, when me, my sisters and my parents all gather and play tabletop games or solve puzzles. My mom bakes stuffed turkey especially for this day, though some other families prefer lamb with potatoes. The afternoon is spent with all the relatives who come to visit bearing gifts for my name day, as I’m named Chris after my grandfather, who was named after his grandfather and so on. And the night in recent years is spent with me and my friends partying until the morning.(Which is just about now :D) On the second day of Christmas, we play tabletops or solve puzzles, just like last morning. These usually are Scrubble, Monopoly and the like, but I think I’ve convinced them to start a Dungeons and Dragons campaign this year. Yay me.
There’s also a fair number of New Year’s Eve traditions, but Shamus didn’t ask for those. Maybe next week. ;)
That’s how we always did it, and it surprised me when my wife had different traditions. In her (large, Puertorican) family they all start at the same time, opening presents and tossing paper all over the damned place.
My stepmother’s family is similar — it’s one person at a time, but that person opens all of their presents in one go.
Kinda interesting how different families open gifts in a different order.
Decorations go up on the eve of the 22nd, including a fresh spruce tree in the middle of the living room. 23rd is the date of both my sister’s and maternal grandfather’s birthdays, so we celebrate it with the entire extended family, alternating between my parents’ place and my grandparents’.
24th, all family members wake up to a stocking filled with candy of the Christmas variety. We gather for a good breakfast, then do whatever for the next couple hours while my dad cooks up the Christmas dinner – fried pork ribs with potatoes, boiled prunes, boiled apples, sauerkraut, redkraut, and, for those above 21, aquavitae. At about 15:00, we take a quick round of the house, cleaning up whatever may have become dirty since the 22nd, and then get dressed up.
At about 16:00-17:00-ish, my maternal grandparents arrive, and we sit down and eat. My grandmother brings the dessert – a porridge-derived dish called “rice cream with rec sauce”. We then do the dishes, and relax for a while. Then, my grandfather goes “to the bathroom” for a long time, at just the moment that Santa Claus “happens” to come a-knocking, bearing a single gift for every member of the younger generation, and we sing verse one of “In The Barn Sits Santa Claus”. Santa leaves, and my grandfather returns. We then open presents, drawn randomly, one by one, so that everybody can see what everybody else got. And then we go to bed.
Next day, we visit my paternal grandparents’ along with my paternal extended family for a good dinner, generally consisting of a dish called “twig meat”, which is actually heavily salted and washed out sheep’s meat boiled on a carpet of twigs, with mashed rutabaga and boiled potatoes, followed by rice cream again.
Finally, the day after that, we go to my maternal grandparents’ along with my entire maternal extended family for another good meal, consisting of the same main course as on the 25th, with a kind of pudding made out of cream, with a side of fruit, for dessert. And then we have the anuual gargling competition, preceded by a solemn reading of the “Statutes of the Annual Second Day of Christmas Gargling Championship”, and the person who can gargle gthe longest in a stretch gets to take the trophy home for that year.
I celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way: by fasting. It’s little more then a useless gesture, but I make it anyway.
I live in Australia, so the big change from how Christmases are traditionally portrayed is that it’s normally 35 – 40 Celsius. Funnily enough, we still normally do a few hot roasts when the family gets together, but it’s often followed by a swim in the pool or game of cricket in the backyard.
Last night, I found a seafood place that was still open, spent $30 on salmon and $50 on drinks and never once said the “M.C.” phrase. It was nice.
I’m from the Netherlands too, like some others before me. We have a kind of mish-mash of various celebrations every Christmas.
On Christmas eve, the 24th, it’s my mom’s boyfriend (Ed) birthday. The family (me, brother, sister, girlfriends/boyfriends, and Ed’s mother) comes together at my mom’s.
Everyone buys presents for each other, and everyone prepares something to eat (for example; me and my girlfriend made soup and garlic bread this year, and my mom made Baked Alaska).
We give presents during the whole day, piecemeal. Ed also makes a game, dozens of boxes taped together, all containing presents. You pass it trough until the music stops, do an assignment, and if you pass you get a present. It’s fun, all sorts of silly assignments like holding as many balloons as possible without using hands; pictionary with lego, music quizzes, etcetera.
The first day of Christmas usually consists of a large family breakfast, drinks at my dad’s, and eating in a restaurant with my dad and my siblings. Sometimes we go to my dad’s side of the family.
The second day of Christmas is celebrated at my girlfriends house, we just hang around, eat dinner, the usual.
One interesting thing about Christmas traditions is how variable the experience is. Thanksgiving is pretty standardized
That’s because Thanksgiving is fairly modern and limited to just one country.
Well, here’s how it works in my family:
The night before Christmas Eve, we gather with any cousins or close friends and have a small gathering. On Christmas Eve, my mother and I will sit and drink wine and enjoy Turone (Candies from Spain). Christmas morning, we go to Mass and then spend the day opening presents (simple things, like clothes, shoes, and food stuffs).
For my family, the real heart of the holiday is being able to spend more time with each other, and meditating on spiritual matters.
My wife of 5+ years and I don’t have a “family of our own”, and don’t plan to begin adopting until she’s done with her PhD. As such, we travel to her family’s nexus to enjoy two Christmases (one that varies depending on the most optimal date for everybody, and the 25th itself) and the New Year before driving back home to our cats.
Our celebration changed this year – our family sets up the tree about a week before Christmas, while drinking egg nogg. On Christmas Eve around 4 our grandparents come to my parent’s house, and we spend the next few hours hanging out, eating ordeurves, and reading/chatting. Sometimes we’ll bust out Settlers of Catan or Risk, and my brother and sister and I will play a game or two. For supper we have boulebaisse, which is a fish stew/soup – it’s delicious. Then we have various cheeses and fruits. This year we then opened all the presents one at a time – one child will wear a blue elf hat that we found in a beer case and hand out gifts, one at a time to family members.
On Christmas Day, we sleep in, have a big breakfast, and then open our stockings (my family is half Dutch, so it’s a holdover from the shoes kinda).
Oh – and throughout the day random family members will call to wish us a Merry Christmas.
It’s fun, and quirky. I never realized how different the traditions would be. Also – I disagree with the comment about Thanksgiving only being celebrated in one country = Canada also celebrates it – just earlier, possibly because of the earlier harvests.
We actually celebrate the season of Christmas, not Advent, so decorations go up a couple days before Christmas (I’d put them all up on Christmas Eve, but there’s just too much), and come down at the official end of the Christmas season: the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord (January 10th this year). If we put up decorations before hand, they are usually simple Advent decorations such as a wreath with pink and purple.
(Growing up, my mom explained this to me as such: to celebrate the arrival of a loved one, why would you celebrate with decorations for a month before he comes, then take everything down and go back to “life as usual” the day after he arrives?)
My wife’s family, being Cuban, celebrates Christmas eve and my family celebrates Christmas day, so we easily work both families in.
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