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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

7 Christmas Traditions That Make Our Family Smile

Christmas is only one week away and I am finally in the holiday mindset.  With four kids going in four different directions, shopping and wrapping and baking to do, and holiday events and concerts and dinners galore, I have hardly had time to think about, let alone savor, the buildup to the big day.

But things are settling down a bit now, and I have a pretty good handle on the logistics of the holidays, so my thoughts are definitely turning to the traditions that make our celebration particularly meaningful.  I am feeling all Christmassy and giddy.

To get myself even MORE in the mood, I thought I would run down some of our favorite holiday traditions:

  • Lighting the Christmas Candle
    • On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the big meal was often the main focus of our family time together.  All day long, aunts and grandmas and cousins would fuss about the kitchen creating a delectable feast worthy of such a special holiday.  All the younger kids would hover around the kitchen, entranced by the mouth-watering smells, waiting for Grandma to light the Christmas candle, which sat in the middle of the table.  The lighting of it signaled that it was FINALLY time to come to the table. . .which then started a mini stampede.  My precious Gram is gone now and the baton has passed to me.  It's bittersweet to miss her so and yet have the joy of seeing my own kids hover, waiting for the green light to culinary bliss.
  • Christmas Crackers
    • My husband is British and all our kids have lived longer in the UK than in America, so blending American and English traditions happen frequently in our home.  Christmas Crackers are definitely one of those UK imports we absolutely love.  Found now at places such as Cost Plus and even Target, they are brightly colored, foil wrapped little parcels that look sort of like a large wrapped sweet.  The idea is that two people each firmly grab an end and pull.  A little cap is set off for a loud 'POP!' and inside is always a small toy/prize, a paper hat and a joke.  Don't bother trying to get out of it. . .EVERYONE must wear the hat! Pictures are mandatory!
  • Cioppino
    • Every family has their own culinary Christmas traditions, from special secret recipe cookies and candies through to traditional meals, such as roast goose.  Our family is no different.  Among all sorts of seasonal treats, if fishing conditions permit, we always have Cioppino at Christmas.  I have no idea when and how that tradition started, though it's been going at least fifty years. . .and we aren't remotely Italian.  But we do have a ton of commercial and amateur ocean fishermen in our lineage, and Cioppino is a glorious concoction of the best the sea has to offer, so that may be the connection. It's a dismal Christmas indeed when crab is unavailable!
  • Birthday cake for Jesus
    • After our big, lengthy Christmas meal, and before we start grazing on the platters and candy dishes FULL of special treats, we always share a big, white birthday cake for Jesus.  We gather, sing, and let the littlest one present blow out the candles.  It's just a way to bring back to focus what the holiday is supposed to be about.
  • Gift to Jesus
    • Because it is His birthday, we can't leave Him out of the gift giving! So, we take little pieces of paper and pass them out to all present.  Grownups help the littlest ones and we all write something we want to 'give' God this year.  It might be a 'thank you' for some particular blessing.  It might be a promise to work on an area we are struggling in.  It might be a heartfelt apology.  It might just be a statement of gratefulness or love.  Whatever it is, we write it down on the small piece of paper and fold it up and put it in a cup or bowl.  When all are collected, we pray, remembering the precious gift WE received via the birth of His Son.  Then we toss the 'gifts' into the fire. . .they are not meant for other eyes to see.
  • Littlest waking the others on Christmas morning 
    • This is a tradition that has origins back in the 1800's in my family.  The story goes that several 'great' grand-parents ago, there was a child who always woke in the middle of the night on Christmas, disturbing the whole household.  As those relatives were hard working dairy farmers, losing precious sleep didn't go over too well.  Enter the 'parents waking the youngest child and youngest child then waking the house' rule.  It still stands today.  I didn't appreciate it as a kid.  I LOVE the rule now, however.  
  • Santa doing stockings and big present 
    • This one has only been going a few generations in my family, but it's a great little idea.  Some families claim that ALL presents come from Santa. . .but somewhere along the line, some smart Alecky kid noticed mom doing the shopping, and things suddenly changed.  Now, Santa fills the stockings and bring the 'big' present.  All other gifts are 'family gifts' we give to each other.  Keeps the confusion to a minimum!
Of course there are a million other little things that we do or eat or say, but that's a little glimpse into what makes the holiday special for our family.

What traditions make the holiday special for yours?


  1. For our family, the tradition was (and still is) ravioli. We also did Santa gifts the same way - stockings and one big gift. When my brother and I were old enough, we took on the Santa role for our parents, too.

  2. Ravioli? That sounds very 'Italian Family.' :) And YUMMY!

    I don't know when the crossover happened for us, too. . .but somehow I seem to have ended up Santa for parents AND kids. Now all I need is a Santa for ME! :)


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