Our Family Christmas Traditions, Actually

Monday, December 3, 2012

Well, the holiday season is upon us, and with it comes happier spirits, colder weather and usually some serious overindulgence!  Whether the month of December brings you Christmas, Hanukah, or Ramadan, every family's got their own holiday traditions, and each family celebrates them a little differently.

Mine is notorious for starting things last minute.  I'll wait until the night before to start a 2,000 word paper, my sister will start straightening her hair ten minutes before she has to leave, and we rarely if ever start our holiday shopping more than 5 days before Christmas.  The point is, we're a very laid-back family, as far as time is concerned.  We're not the kind of family to have their Christmas tree up  and strung the day after Thanksgiving, and we definitely don't do Black Friday sales!  But we do have a few traditions that have become sacred over the years, and have remained intact since I can remember.

The Christmas traditions for us start with the tree.  Every year, ever since my little sister could walk, we've always picked out our Christmas tree as a family.  We pile in the car, somewhere around mid December, scarves and gloves in hand, and head over to the nearest tree cutters'.  After scouring the place for a good twenty minutes or so, we eventually decide upon a tree as a family that will be suitable for our, what seems like, several hundred ornaments.

Which brings me to our next tradition: tree decorating!  A few nights following the purchase of our fragrant pine, we dust off the ornaments and the decorations from the attic, turn up Nat King Cole, drink too much eggnog, and decorate the tree with heaps of incongruous, yet very merry, Christmas ornaments.  My dad gets to hang the golden airplane, my sister likes to hang the blue hippopotamus, my mom hangs her childhood ornaments, and I tend to put the star on top of the tree. 

As the days count down to Christmas eve, my sister and I like to make sure we're prepared for our newish Christmas eve tradition.  We used to buy break-and-bake holiday cookies so that Santa and his reindeer wouldn't go hungry, but now we see to ourselves first.  Once the cookies are baking and the eggnog is poured, we head down to the den, snuggle up in warm blankets with the pups, and turn on Love Actually.  It is, hands down, our favorite holiday movie.  The message is meaningful, the dialogue is witty, and literally every actor in England makes at least a cameo.  The movie is unflawed, to put it mildly.

And then, it's to bed.  Unless you still have presents to wrap.  Which we usually do.  Our parents' bedroom transforms into Santa's workshop for a day, and neither I nor my sister is allowed in.  Now, I must have been good in my past life, because even at the ripe old age of 22, my parents still sneak down the stairs in the early morning to deposit presents from "Santa" (I'm serious, the gift tags say "From: Santa") under the tree, and then allow us to wake them up far too early to come join us while we destroy the wrapping they spent hours making look perfect.  We tend to end the morning tradition by making pancakes or something equally as calorific, and then jumping in the car, spirits high and vested in festive garb, and heading to my Aunt's house for Christmas dinner.

Wow, I did not intend to write an essay when I started this post, but I guess that's what it sort of became!  I guess you can tell from the copious amount of writing that Christmas is my favorite time of year?  And I promise, it's not completely because of the presents!

What fun things do you and your family get up to during the holidays?


  1. Your description of family Christmas traditions is so nice. You and your family celebrate Christmas in a warm loving way. I just finished one of my Christmas traditions - putting l00s of ittle white lights on a noble fir Christmas tree. I put the tree by the window facing the street so that it lights up the night. Next come the ornaments including a very round and very engaged white ceramic angel with frilly brass wings reading a book (my sister gave it to me), a round blue and red paper ornament with a red tassel and Renaissance scenes (a gift from another sister) and beautiful glass ornaments from Orcas Island and the Olympic PenInsula. I love the night street coming to life as one house after another lights up in a riot of lights and colors. I've already put bags of ginger cookies and chocolate chocolate chip cookies with sea salt that I made on friends' front porches and in another friend's office.

    I often cook a formal dinner and make a French Christmas log compete with meringue mushrooms that look real but are actually meringue cookies. My greatest compliment was when a friend asked me one year 'why I had mushrooms on the chocolate cake.'. Other years I have a friend or friends over for appetizers - pâté, shrimp cocktail, cheeses and whatever else inspires me at the time. This year some friends said 'let's do something unorthodox.' I live in the Pacific Northwest - a young state - that does not have the classic traditions of the Northeast - so I will see what awaits. One year I went to a party with swing dancing - and a classic dinner - in a friend's home. The world is newer out here.

    I will soon transform my front porch with garlands of cedar entwined with white lights and so my house will join the parade of brightly lit houses. I will see The Nutcracker performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet with one of my more traditional friends and go to some wonderful Christmas parties that I go to most every year. These are my traditions and I keep the lights on my house ionger than most until later in January to have the beauty last. Merry Christmas!


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