While not everyone celebrates Christmas, most religions and spiritualities celebrate a winter holiday right around Christmas (which is right after the winter solstice). Everyone celebrates this time of year differently. Because of that, I wanted to outline my Christmas traditions a bit more so you will know better what to expect from my Blogmas posts – but first, I want to share some traditions I’ve heard about through the years. (Check out my Blogmas Kickoff so you know a bit more of what to expect from me.)
For anyone not familiar: Christmas Day is December 25th, and the winter solstice is right around December 21st (it’s the shortest day of the year so it changes a little).
Traditions I Know About
Two of my friends celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. Their mom is Christian, their dad is Jewish, so they do both! I thought it was really cool that they were able to come to that agreement and that it worked out so well for them. I also love how unique their holiday season is!
Some people go to a Christmas Eve church service (and some do the all-night vigils), then have a family focused Christmas day that culminates in a large Christmas dinner. Some do Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, then go to church on Christmas morning, then have a more casual and family focused Christmas day.
I’ve heard families that traditionally go out to a specific restaurant or type of restaurant for their large meal so everyone gets exactly what they want. My family didn’t go to a ton of restaurants, period, when I was growing up, so this concept seems foreign to me. But I can totally see how nice that would be! Large meal, no “but I hate green beans” stuff, and no dishes after dinner (that last bit is the most exciting to me lol). Though, depending on the size of the family and the chosen restaurant, I feel like it would be difficult to really socialize with everyone.
My Childhood Tradition
My childhood Christmas was my absolute favorite ❤ I realize that a lot of people probably say that… But really, I love ours! There were very few variations on this until I moved out.
We would do our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, that way everyone could relax all day on Christmas. Occasionally we’d do a big dinner on Christmas, but that was very rare. My mom is allergic to pork (not Epi-Pen allergic, but “this is going to make me atrociously miserable for quite some time if I eat it” type of allergic), so we almost never did a ham. My dad’s mother would do a ham when we did our family thing, and I discovered that I’m allergic to something in the roasting hams that way (I can eat the lunch meat just fine, bacon, and Canadian bacon, but roasting hams and pork chops make me itchy and sick). Because of the pork allergies, we do the typical US Thanksgiving dinner again: turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, sttuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, crescent rolls, and pumpkin pie. Yes, we love pumpkin pie so we do it all the time!
A few times, we would spend Christmas at Gram’s house (my mom’s mother), but most of the time (and most of my memories) are at my parents’ house. Because I vividly remember the Christmas’s at my parents’ house, those are the traditions I will be talking about.
Christmas morning, my sister would wake me up at 5am… Yes, Christine would wake me up because I am very much not a morning person – but she would wake up between 5 and 7 every morning anyway. My parents’ house is a two story house with a railing in the upstairs hallway. From the railing you can see down into the living room (a good 3/4 of it). Since it is still dark at 5am, we would sit in the hallway trying to guess what Santa had brought us based on the shadows (our Santa presents were unwrapped and sat in front of the rest of the presents). Once it started getting light, we would retreat back to our room (or my room when we stopped sharing) and talk and play/visit and tell each other our wishes. Gram would be there every Christmas until she moved to Wisconsin, so at 7am she would tell us we could go wake up our parents. (I don’t know if that was when they were okay with being woken up, but they wouldn’t complain.)
So at 7am we would go wake up our parents, very enthusiastically (that typical jumping on the bed yelling about Christmas thing is pretty close to what we would do). Then we would hang out with our mom while my dad went to setup the camcorder – we videotaped all of our Christmas mornings. When Dad told us he was ready, we would streak down the stairs and rush straight to the presents. The stairs pretty much end right at the presents, so it was almost a straight shot – I know I had several Christmas rug burns!
We would open our Christmas presents, and my parents would make breakfast (and open their presents). We always had cinnamon rolls and orange rolls with scrambled eggs and hot cocoa! After breakfast, we would go open our stockings! Breakfast always made a nice break in the chaos and gave us time to refocus so we could be fully present in the moment.
We would spend the rest of the day in our pajamas, watch a Christmas movie or two, play with new toys, read new books (or books we hadn’t finished yet), play games or work on a puzzle, and just hang out. Most of the time, we would just leave a giant pile of wrapping paper in the middle of the living room until that evening (our kitties loved playing with it). Lunch would be leftover turkey sandwiches. Dinner was always something easy and quick (sometimes just leftovers from the night before).
The next day, there would be one present under the tree. A new board game to play as a family. Gram would apparently do that for my mom and her sister (leave them each a present the next morning) to keep there from being a giant let-down from the excitement of Christmas. My mom, sister, and I would also go off to work on the (Pasadena) Rose Parade floats starting the 26th and going until the 30th. It was a lot of fun!
Either a few days before Christmas or a few days after Christmas (when we weren’t doing the floats), we would go to Grama and Grampa’s house and do our Christmas with them. They would go spend Christmas Eve and day with their daughter and her family about 5 hours north of them.
Now that I’m married, traditions are changing. That’s one of the struggles when merging life with someone: merging traditions. It’s made even harder by the fact that we live almost exactly 1000 miles away from my family, and Dan’s parents are divorced (his mom lives 5 hours away from us, but his dad and his dad’s girlfriend live only about 30 minutes away). Gram passed away May/June 2013, Grama (Dad’s mom) passed away April 2016, and Grampa (Dad’s dad) passed away July 2017 – which has been really hard on my family and has also changed our traditions a lot. (Those were the only three grandparents I knew because my mom’s dad passed away when I was only nine months old.)
Dan’s Christmas traditions had already changed dramatically for him when he was in junior high (between the ages of 12 and 14). As a younger kid, his whole family (mom, dad, sister, brother) would drive up to South Dakota to his dad’s mother’s house. His entire extended family would meet at Grandma’s house and have a giant Christmas there! (There are so many of them, those Christmas’s would have been absolutely massive.) But Dan’s dad is the youngest of five children, so Grandma needed to move into assisted living when Dan was in junior high. That’s also about the time that Dan’s parents separated (not due to his Grandma, just a coincidence). So then, he would stay at his mom’s house (his dad would still be there for several years at the holidays, but he was working four hours away) and do Christmas there. All of her family (her five siblings) still lived in the area and so did her parents, so they would do Christmas with them. Dan and his immediate family would also go to church every year, either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They didn’t have any traditions about presents or when to do stockings or anything like that either (at least not that he remembers enough to be able to explain to me). They still did the presents and stockings and stuff, I just don’t think there was an order to them.
Ideally, I would love to host our Christmases now. I would love if my family could come out (cost and health prohibitive at the moment) and then we could do a massive dinner with his whole family and mine! The dinner would either be mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve or I guess it could be Christmas Day (but I want to enjoy Christmas, so probably not). Then everyone that wants to could go to a Christmas mass after dinner (hopefully with enough of a gap that everyone isn’t falling asleep). Then Christmas morning we could do something similar to what I did as a kid (well, if we have kids they would do the rug-burn stuff haha), where we all laze about in our pajamas, drink cocoa/tea, open our presents, visit, games, etc. My family would definitely be involved if they came out here, his family would be welcome but I’m not sure who would be there first thing in the morning. We could do extra presents in the evening with the rest of his family if they didn’t join during the day, or a few days later/before like we would do with my dad’s parents. I’m sure this would need a little tweaking through the years, but that’s essentially what I would love to have happen.
I loved our Christmases so much growing up, I want that to be very similar to what my kids (someday, hopefully) get to experience. And I really miss the super relaxed “stay in pjs all day” thing. When Dan and I are able to stay home for Christmas, I have made it mandatory that we are at least in lounge clothes/sweats for the whole day (I wear pjs haha). If we go to church in the morning, I come home and change back into my pjs/sweats right away! To me, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas if I have to wear “real clothes.”
What are you Christmas or winter holiday traditions? Have your traditions changed much through the years? Did you create a new tradition when you started doing holidays with a significant other?