Christmas traditions–Past and Future

Christmas is a two day celebration at my house, or at least it’s going to be from here on out. I’ve been thinking about which new traditions we can start, which to keep from our parents and how to make our Christmas celebrations this year and for the future BETTER. Here are a few traditions that are important to me, some I can live without and a few I plan on starting and keeping from here on out.

Choosing the tree and set-up. Growing up in my house, the kick-off for Christmas is always the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when we get our tree. I’m a big fan of this tradition, as I hate shopping and there’s something fun about continuing the holiday high you have from Thanksgiving. Plus, it’s usually the best chance to have all family members in the house at one time.

Picking of the ornaments. Every year, our parents took us to pick out our yearly ornament, which I just loved back then and am now truly grateful to have over a decade’s worth of tiny, special memories that I can hang on my tree and one day show my kids. Every year now, when I pull them out of my Christmas box, I look at them fondly, usually remembering where and when I bought each one.

Cookie Day Bake-off: Every year my mom hosts a cookie day in which all available ladies (cousins, aunts, grandparents, SILS, friends, etc) come over and bake one or two of THEIR favorite type of Christmas cookies. At the end of the day, there are about 10-15 different cookies to choose from and share and each person walks away with a festive bag full of yummy treats for the week or to give away. I missed this year’s cookie day and will have to start my own on this side of the world which means I’ll also have to start being an active participant. Everyone at home knows I’m merely the spoon licker and good for unwanted advice on frosting and sprinkle placement. The making part is what always gets me. 🙂
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Midnight Mass. Pass. When we were younger, we used to alternate years where we spent Christmas Eve. When at my house, my mom used to bully us into MM when we were too young to find our own transportation places. At my father’s, it never even came up. I suppose at the time it was a nice gesture to Jesus, swinging by to wish him a happy birthday and all, but this is a pass for the future. 1. No one belongs in dress-up clothes on Christmas Eve. 2. I’m not going to go to the house of someone that I think is the equivilant of the Easter Bunny. 3. You should be drunk and celebrating or in your bed at midnight because Santa won’t come if you’re not.

Chinese food on Christmas Eve. Yes, please. After years of switching holidays, my parents struck some deal where my father just had us every Christmas Eve and then we were returned to the house Christmas morning to be with our other siblings. For awhile my Dad and Judy used to treat us to really expensive dinners in nearby towns. It gave us the chance to dress up on Christmas and order something fancy and festive at a restaurant that did not qualify for daily dining. I think my favorite was White Barn Inn, because it was so pretty and magical and probably the first place I ever ate a 4 course meal.

That tradition faded with the years, though, and was replaced by something even better: Chinese Christmas Eve Takout Night.
Every Christmas Eve we would order a Pu Pu Platter for too many, 90 sides of duck sauce, and eat our faces off, filling piles and piles of napkins with yummy chinese grease. Then, when our MSG levels were topped off, it was boardgame time, which usually included some Apple game, a word scrambling game, Trouble, Yahtzee and who knows what else. THAT, board game playing and Chinese food eating, is exactly what I want my kids to be doing every Christmas Eve. I believe it’s called holiday family bonding.

Stockings. When you’re older, sometimes parents try to phase out stockings. Stockings have always been the best part about Christmas morning (until David and I joined forces and starting spiking our coffee) and I wouldn’t trade them for anything…except that all the siblings at my house did. We told the parents that if they were going to cut down on anything, it’d be presents, not stockings. So, when my mother finally does decide to make good on her word about cancelling/limiting/cutting down on Christmas (she makes this empty promise/threat every year and it never,ever happens), our house will be down to just stockings, which is fine.by.me. Except not now. Not at MY house. At my house we will have both stockings and presents until we breed children and send them to college and then I will most likely mimic whatever my mother did.

Making of Gluhwein: We’ll have to start this tradition this weekend and keep it up for all years to come. I mean, c’mon. We live in Germany. We have to pick up something from this country that stays with us for life and it certainly isn’t going to be their sunny dispositions or terrific accents. So Gluhwein it is. I already posted the recipe here: theheatherchronicles.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/diy-gluhwein/

Going to see The Nutcracker:
My grandmother, better known to the world as Cupcake, took me to see my very first Nutcracker in Boston around the time I was 7 or 8. I remember thinking I was the fanciest person there, with my dress and tights on. Around every corner there was something magical and I was so thrilled to spend a winter evening in the big city. That and when we left the show, she let me pick a gift for myself, and so I picked a tiny necklace which held an even tinier ballerina. It was almost as pretty as my favorite Sugar Plum Fairies, which is why I picked it.

Now I’ve gone since with a few guys since I was 7 and it always ended badly. You’d think a nice night out at the theater during Christmas would be a dream, right? No, this never happens. A lot of male pouting or sleeping while sitting up or getting hammered is what usually happens. I think if I were to continue this tradition, it’d be a ladies night out thing–possibly a mom, Cupcake and sister tradition, aka people I don’t have to drag kicking and screaming. **(this does not include my Mr. H. I have never even asked him to go so he can’t be blamed for this. Yet.)

So, for now, those are all of the traditions I’m going to write about. I’m sure in the next few days, I’ll remember more and we’ll do another holiday tradition go-round.

What traditions will you keep from your childhood?