Negotiating with tradition

Hello friends! We celebrate Christmas in our house, and we’re still figuring out our traditions. I come from a family whose only tradition is to not have any traditions (even the Christmas tree was hit-and-miss throughout my childhood, and I doubt we’ve ever eaten the same Christmas dinner twice), and my spouse, Nick, is from a family with very strong, sentimental rituals. He and I have talked about what kinds of traditions we want to cultivate. The problem? Our lives are so hectic right now that it seems as though every year, we crash-land in the middle of December with no fruitcake, no lights, and the vaguest of plans to get a tree “soon”.

We have to get our act together.

So this morning I was thinking, what are the most important Christmas traditions for our family? Clearly, we’re going to have to be selective, this year. For me, it’s about a special family meal that we look forward to each year. There will be small menu changes, but it’s not going to be Chinese food one year, followed by Italian the next. For Nick, it’s about the tree and the excitement of Father Christmas for little kids. Following in his dad’s tradition, Nick will create tiny reindeer hoofprints for the kids to find on Christmas morning, as evidence of Santa’s visit. For our four-year-old, it’s all about the gingerbread house, aka an excuse to eat unlimited amounts of Smarties and buttercream icing. And our littlest one is just learning about Christmas, which means she’ll be very forgiving of any amount of last-minute holiday anarchy.

As the kids grow, become more independent, and develop interests of their own, our traditions will evolve. We’ll get to the Christmas baking, the crafty ornaments, the homemade Advent calendar, the big Christmas party – one day. In the meantime, we’ll focus on our dearest rituals and enjoy them to the fullest.

What are your favourite, most-loved holiday traditions?

P.S. There’s a nearby family farm that raises heritage-breed bronze turkeys. The birds roam outdoors, get lots of sunshine, eat organic food (and bugs), and generally have happy turkey lives. We’re all set – for 2013, that is. Yes, we’re waiting on a turkey that hasn’t even been born yet. We are going to be SO ready next year!

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11 Responses to “Negotiating with tradition”

  1. krista says:

    oh! the stockings! the stockings are the very best part.

  2. Joanna says:

    I always love it when my dad put together notes from Father Christmas to leave by the empty cookie plate. I remember one year we left carrots for the reindeer, and “Santa” left one saying that he was sorry about leaving the carrot but he didn’t want to overfeed the poor creatures (the reindeer.)

  3. Ying says:

    Krista: yes, yes! How do you balance filling stockings with not buying ephemeral junk that will become landfill in just a few months? We’re thinking chocolate, tangerines, and a crafty item, but that doesn’t exactly fill a stocking. And Joanna, I love that story! I may borrow your idea once my kids can read.

  4. MelodyJ says:

    We have turkey and ham. The sides are something like collard greens, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls , stuffing(dressing as it’s often called here) whole cranberry sauce. We get 3 or 4 gifts each.The outside lights are put on the first or second week in Dec.IWe have both store bought and homemade ornaments for the tree. I need to plan my crafty ornaments plans better. I somehow get them up in time. I’m the baker so I plan to make cookies and /or bars. My parents grew up with Christmas cakes but since my brother’s birthday is so close to Christmas I decided on cookies and bars. A birthday cake and Christmas cake is just too much.

    Never had an advent calendar or stockings. I like your idea. My grandmother used to put fruit, nuts and Christmas candy( peppermint sticks, butterscotch, chocolate in shoe boxes for us.

  5. Alicia says:

    Our family tradition is also a non tradition =P
    We always have a family dinner (and it must be Chinese food haha). For my friends and myself, we have a rotating Christmas potluck which goes from house to house each year. We also fill up a Christmas hamper instead of buying each other presents and give that to a family who are less fortunate than we are. This definitely helps not having a landfill at home!

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  6. Ying says:

    Melody, I’m the baker, too! I’m leaning on my family just to eat the gingerbread house for dessert, but they’re appalled by the idea. And I’m planning to replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes, too. (Haven’t yet mentioned this to my husband.)

  7. Ying says:

    Alicia, my parents are always a bit sad and unsatisfied when it’s NOT Chinese food! Love the idea of the rotating potluck and the Christmas hamper. Merry Christmas to you, too!

  8. Crystal says:

    My family (Well, mostly my Mom, who is amazing) always makes lots and lots of Christmas cookies, and then we make reindeer, Santa, and snowmen cookie jars out of oatmeal containers.

  9. Ying says:

    What a lovely tradition! I bet your friends and family love getting those gifts.

  10. Mara A. says:

    I have a lot of favorite Christmas traditions, it’s hard to choose which one is the ultimate one. My family never did Santa Claus, so we have always opened presents up on Christmas Eve, and then did stockings Christmas Morning. I’ve always been fond of this tradition – it makes the excitement last longer. I’ve also always enjoyed the huge Christmas Dinner, with the table set all prettily, and now that I’m no longer a child, I really love the excitement of buying presents for other people, and then finding clever places to hide them until Christmas, and seeing the receiving person’s reaction. My sister and I always make elaborate gingerbread houses every year, and that’s always fun, as is going out in our woods to collect fresh evergreens and holly, and the night we decorate the tree and make popcorn-and-cranberry strands, and of course all of the goodies my mom bakes every year. Attending PNB’s “The Nutcracker” might be my absolute favorite tradition, though.

  11. Ying says:

    That’s a lot of beautiful traditions, Mara. I’m envious that you have so many!

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