What Are Your Favorite Christmas Traditions?

(Randy) #1

Many of us have a favorite Christmas tradition unique to our family. For example, some go to evening vespers, have family reading the Christmas story, sing together, open a present the night before, put out cookies for Santa, have an Elf on the Shelf, bake a special treat, or even hunt or do something else together. What is your family tradition?

We usually put up our tree after Thanksgiving. This year, we have an Advent calendar, and pull a task oriented to helping others (gift for the postman, pray for missonaries) out of a pocket made on the calendar for each day in December. We usually read the Christmas story together before opening presents on Christmas, and then share smaller presents with any cousins in the area at Grandma’s house. The brothers and sisters in law often play Rook and drink coffee or redbush tea (from Zimbabwe, where my brother in law grew up) and everyone eats from an English Tea Ring made by Grandma. Great-Grandma bakes Dutch “banket” (an almond paste filled pastry) only on Christmas and gives a stick to each of the grandchildren. If there is snow, the cousins slide down the dunes near Lake Michigan, which is about 5 miles away. My adopted Korean aunts (Grandpa worked for World Vision during the Korean War) sometimes bring chap chai to share (we haven’t all gotten the hang of kimchi). Grandma prays what we grandchildren think of as a long prayer, and Grandpa’s photo smiles down on us before we all go home in the evening.

I’d be interested in your traditions.

(Phil) #2

Sure I can think of more, but one tradition is that when our kids were little, we would give in and let them open one gift Christmas Eve. And the package always contained pajamas.

(Mark D.) #3

I was going to say we didn’t have any that were very special but then I thought of what we did with Lia’s parents. The tradition in their family growing up was that everyone, kids included, were ‘secret Santas’ and made or bought little gifts to put in everyone’s stockings over the mantle. We still do that.

Another one they did and now we do is after opening gifts we make a particular breakfast. Lia makes a dutchbaby (basically made with butter, eggs, butter, flower, butter, butter and butter) which we serve with lemon and powdered sugar or else fruit, bacon and mexican chocolate. Anything else can vary but we always do at least those three items.

Lia’s mother used to make marzipan potatoes and other creative things which were amazing to look at but even better to eat. In fact, my stepson and his wife now make these for Christmas. He is an engineer who should have been an artist and she is an amazing cook. One year they ground their own almond flour and went whole hog. I’ve got pictures! We literally waited weeks to eat them and before we did we tried hard to document them. That box they put them in is about five inches on a side.

And at the risk of over doing it, here is a detail of that princess cake.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

It probably shows the abyss to which my segment of the culture has descended when I admit that the first thing that comes to mind at the question, “What are your favorite Christmas traditions?” is: We watch Elf.


Contract rummy and other family games come in a close second. And, debuting this year: Clades, the card game! :wink:

(Mark D.) #5

Haha indeed. Now you remind me of a tradition that comes from my side of the family, holiday poker.

(Shawn T Murphy) #6

My favorite is the traditional Swiss Christmas season. It starts out with the celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. People hire a St. Nicholas to come to their house or school. The parents write the story for him to tell their kids - what they did well and what they need to work on. The kids prepare something for him - a song, a poem or a dance. The good kids (all of them) get a little burlap sac with nuts and oranges and maybe gingerbread. The bad kids get the lump of coal, as a warning.

This makes the celebration of Christmas all about the coming of the Christ child, which is celebrated on Christmas Eve. We celebrate this with the classic Christian music and watch the old classic Christmas stories. Our Christmas meal is a simple fondue so that no one needs to slave in the kitchen.

On the 24th, we put up a a freshly cut tree and put on the traditional candles. It is a magical time…

(Laura) #7

Since I spent some years in Britain as a kid, I enjoy when my parents are able to get ahold of a package (or several) of “Christmas crackers” so we can open them together (it makes quite a pop!) and wear tissue paper crowns during Christmas dinner. :smiley:

I guess our others are fairly typical ones: setting up the nativity set, decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings on Christmas Eve, and getting together with family.

(Christy Hemphill) #8

For the last four years we have had Christmas dinner with a large group of ex-pats. There is a British woman who brings crackers for the kids (and makes yorkshire pudding and Christmas pudding), so that is fun. We sing Christmas carols (pretty much all of them, to make Mary the hostess happy, it takes like an hour an a half) and play games. In comparison to my Chicago Christmases of childhood and most of my adult life, Mexico Christmases are nice because we eat on the patio in a garden and the kids can run off the sugar cookies outside to their hearts content. Can’t say I miss snow. Another nice thing is that Christmas is far less commercialized and consumer-oriented here, so it just feels less stressful and overdone.

In the month of December we read an extra page a day from The Advent Book. On December 16 we make pepparkakor (Swedish gingerbread) and Santa Lucia buns and my girls dress up with the candle wreath and serve breakfast to everyone.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #9

I had no idea this wasn’t practised in the states

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

I most enjoy meeting with my family, as well as Christmas Dinner. I also enjoy an English tradition known as a Pantomime play, though some believers may not like it as it involves (tongue in cheek) cross dressing.

(Laura) #11

I wish it was! They’re so fun. I’ll occasionally see them in stores but they’re not as plentiful as they were in Britain, and it seems most people aren’t familiar with them.

(Randy) #12

I remember first reading about English crackers and wearing crowns, and thought it was a rather pleasant but bland sort of food that the English are famous for, only at Christmas. I had no idea what the crowns are for. It Shows just what I’ve been missing out on.

I have heard of the pantomime, and remember something vaguely about a policeman being made into sausages. Is that right? Do you have a good length for that? I remember reading about it in one of the Father Brown Mysteries with GK Chesterton, but because I was not used to the story, it didn’t make much sense to me. It sounds like an interesting and probably delightful tradition.
it’s fun to hear about other Traditions. Do you have a plum pudding at your Christmas?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #13

If you mean a Christmas pudding, which is set alight with brandy, yes. Do you have it in the states?

(Randy) #14

No, sadly. Pudding here is thickened milk and either gelatin or egg with flavor, like a type of custard, and the name does not mean dessert (we would not ask what we were having for pudding, for example…is that how you use the term sometimes?)


I have never had a plum pudding or one that you hide trinkets and a coin in, or set alight, though I think I did once taste a small sample from a tourist shop somewhere. We frequently eat pie for dessert…pumpkin (which I was told isn’t common in England?), apple, pecan (very rich), and butterscotch custard pies at my grandma’s house. Do you eat those at holiday…or fruitcake?

(Mark D.) #15

Some of us do if we’re lucky enough to marry into traditions not our own. My wife makes the same persimmon pudding her mother did. She puts the mixture into a special pan with a locking lid and cooks it over barely boiling water in a very large covered pot for two hours. The result is much more like cake than what I grew up calling pudding. Lia’s mother used to serve it with hard sauce (essentially butter and sugar). Now we have it with whipped cream, but like her mother before her Lia first heats brandy in a sauce pan, lights it on fire, pours it over the pudding and sets it on the table for us all to ooh and ahh over before serving.

(Randy) #16

That sounds great! I should have said that my family doesn’t have that tradition. I don’t know how widespread English traditions are here. Probably it varies from region to region and, as you say, family to family. My brother married a Sicilian/Italian family, and they make their own spaghetti and special Christmas pastries, too. .It probably varies a lot across the US!

(RiderOnTheClouds) #17

Boxing day (the day after Christmas) is a big deal in the UK, where every year my family has a get together, I understand this is no big deal in the states, does it even exist?

What about Mince pies?

Or Christmas adverts? (which are a huge deal where I live)

Christmas sounds must less interesting in the states, though at least it snows.

(Mark D.) #18

As I said in my family we did play holiday poker but we managed to keep the pugilism to a minimum on account of the solemnity of the occasion.

(Randy) #19

Our calendars list “Boxing Day {Canada}” usually, but many of us don’t know what that refers to (I think it was giving leftovers and gifts to servants and neighbors after Christmas?) for December 26.

It depends on what you mean as “mince,” I think–here, for us, mince refers to a savory, herb filled mix of fruit with raisins, apples, etc. I understand that mince can refer to what we call ground beef in England! My family sometimes does eat mince (fruit) pies, but we don’t have tongue, kidney, or steak pies. My mom’s side of the family was (way back, on her great grandpa’s side) originally English. I still have some rhubarb roots descended from what they brought over in the late 1800s in my garden. We make pies (during Spring and Summer) from them, and sometimes freeze it for later.

What do you mean by Christmas adverts? We have lots of commercialism, and it’s a family tradition for many to go shopping all day on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving (my family doesn’t tend to do that, as we don’t really like crowds).

Here’s a picture of snow out our backyard. My sister in Greensboro, North Carolina is getting a foot of snow this weekend, but often south of Virginia, the snow doesn’t really come till January, I think (we live in Michigan, so a good deal colder).

(RiderOnTheClouds) #20

So mince pies ‘do’ exist in the states!