What are your family’s holiday traditions?

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christmas tree © by zolakoma, used under Creative Commons license.
This morning my child Jasper woke up at 6 AM, shook my husband and I awake, and sped off to the living room where our alien head-adorned Christmas tree is sitting. There were a handful of presents underneath it that we had to put out the night before so our kid wouldn’t spend every day leading up to Christmas trying to rip the presents apart.

We ate cinnamon rolls and drank a lot of coffee like we always do while Jasper ripped through everyone’s presents, after asking if it’s ok if he helps each of us out. After that we put on Love Actually, a tradition my husband and I started a few years ago — we watch it once a year, always on Christmas Day. Jasper watched the opening scene because it’s funny and then proceeded to alternate between being bored with the film and asking if we can watch Cars or Toy Story instead (no for now, but I could probably be talked into Toy Story later).

We then got dressed and headed out to see extended family that’s in town, and the scene will more or less repeat itself as it has for every year that we’ve been a family… and that’s pretty much it: the short version of our Christmas day celebrations.

December and January aren’t limited to Christmas — how do you and your family celebrate your wintery holiday(s) of choice?

Comments on What are your family’s holiday traditions?

  1. Up early, open gifts, play with gifts, take a nap (for mom), start dinner. Dinner is always crab legs, rolls, some kind of cheesy potatoes and fruit. Later Skype with family and movies all day.

  2. Xmas morning I make Chocolate and Biscuits (YUM) though my daughter hasn’t developed a taste for them yet 🙂 She won’t eat until after presents anyway lol. Then we play for awhile and visit the extended family that is having Christmas at their houses. Xmas Eve is when we do all the traditions. We makie cookies for Santa. Leave out our milk too. Carrots for the reindeer, in addition to the reindeer food we spread in the yard. We watch the cartoon version of the Grinch and open one present which is always cute Xmas Pjs and try to get to bed early 🙂

  3. Our traditions are a bit all over the place, but Christmas usually involves church, too many family dinners to count, movies like Muppet Christmas Carol and the original Miracle on 34th Street, and lots of crafting and baking.

    Other winter traditions include driving through downtown Ottawa to look at the lights (I miss the days when you could drive on Parliament Hill), skating on the canal or the Rideau River, and eating Beavertails. And my mum running “day camp” for all her great nieces and nephews during the school break. That is awesome-cousins sleeping over and having a great time hanging out in the city and making everything lively and fun!

  4. My favourite childhood tradition was waking up super early with my sister on christmas morning to open our stockings and peek at the pile of presents that would appear overnight.

    Now we get together with my partner’s family on Christmas day, but my side of the family hasn’t been all together at this time of year for a few years now. One of the traditions we’ve started is doing the gigantic crossword in the Globe and Mail – wherever the largest congregation of siblings/parents happens to be tends to be who does it.

  5. Right now we’re stuck in Christmas limbo. My siblings and I are all adults, so that whole Christmas morning magic is gone for now. My husband and I do not have kids yet, so we haven’t yet started our own traditions.

    Christmas for us at this point is giving each other gifts on Christmas Eve, then Christmas morning we go to his parents house for presents and breakfast, then we drive to my parents house for presents and lunch, and finally back to his parents’ house again for supper. This will likely change when we finally buy a house and can host Christmas ourselves….but for now we’re stuck trying to be everywhere at once.

  6. My husband and I are atheists, with no children yet and both extended families out of town, and we’re also vegans. Not a lot of that screams “traditional Christmas” lol. My husband likes to put up a holiday pine tree with ornaments from his childhood, and I put up a holiday light-up palm tree covered in nerdy Hallmark-type ornaments.

    On the actual day itself we spend the time watching movies and simmering hubby’s homemade spaghetti sauce (started as a nod to Pastafarianism and just kinda stuck). Here’s the list of movies we choose from every year:
    National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    Coming to America
    Die Hard (1 and 2)
    Love Actually (with vegan chocolate biscuits!)
    Scott Pilgrim vs The World
    Trading Places

  7. Our daughter is 11 months old and we are just starting to establish our holiday traditions. We always have breakfast casserole Christmas morning and do a puzzle on Christmas day after opening presents (these were pre-baby traditions). Now we have added new pajamas and The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. I’m really excited for our traditions to grow.

  8. Now that my sister and I are grown up, our family doesn’t give Christmas presents any more. Instead we do an event together – like a play or Cirque du Soleil, riding the train through the mountains, or an evening away from home in a nice hotel with dinner. It’s nice to not have to worry about the stress of finding and purchasing the right gift(s) any more!

  9. As a kid, Christmas Eve we always go out for Chinese food. Then we’d drive around and look at lights then go home and play a board game before going to bed. Christmas morning we’d eat then open presents. Then we’d go to my Mother’s side for lunch and more presents (my Father’s side always did dinner and presents a few days before Christmas). Now that we have our own kids and live three hours away, we are figuring things out. We flew to the in-laws this year and had their traditional pineapple upside-down cake for breakfast, then presents, lunch, and a fancy dinner. My family is coming up this weekend to do some version of our Christmas with us. I can’t wait.

  10. My parents are divorced, and my brother has 2 small children, so at the moment we’re alternating Christmasses at either Grandad or Nanny’s house (my Dad or Mum).

    This year was the first I spent with a partner, and we had a lovely breakfast then opened presents together. I opened my card from him, cried, and had to reapply my makeup! He worked from midday unfortunately, when I disappeared off to my Mums for lunch & the chaos an almost three year old brings.

    I am looking forward to developing some traditions of our own.

  11. Our tradition is that when you wake up, you can open your stocking and anything in it (normally one small gift, some candy, an orange, a new toothbrush etc.). We set the coffee maker the night before, so the kids an turn it on at 7:30. at 8am, they are allowed to wake up adults.

    We open our presents in order, so everyone sees what everyone gets (also makes it easier to keep a list of who got what from whom for later thank you notes).

    Afterwards we make eggs benedict and grapefruit halves (cute like stars with a marachino cherry in the center). We have poppers at the table that have the paper crowns and riddles inside.

    After brunch there’s a period of rest and enjoying the presents with foot ball and napping. We finish up with a prime rib and yorkshire pudding for christmas dinner.

  12. My family have so many random traditions it’s crazy. My favorite is that for as long as I can remember, when we put the tree up 12 days before Christmas I have to lift up my little brother for him to put the star on the tree. This started when it was necessary for us to do so in order to reach the top, but as we both grew taller it led to a lot of hilarity, such as the time shortly after he hit his growth spurt and was nearly a foot taller than the tree, meaning that when I lifted him up he had to lean down to put the star on top, overbalanced and fell on top of it. It was completely crushed so we had to run out to buy a new one. The most recent time I was back at my parents place (I live interstate now) for Christmas we continued the tradition, except my “little” brother is now in his earlly 20s, a little over 6 foot and weighs almost twice what I do. I was unable to lift him so instead I held a chair for him to stand on while he put the star on the tree. Which was shorter than him.

  13. My family started a random tradition several years ago as the result of alcohol-induced silliness and it has stuck: wherever we have dinner we all gather together for after-dinner drinks, dessert & games, and put on the craziest hats we can find. Some are not hats but things like ornaments taken from the tree and stuck on headbands, wrapping or bows attached to earmuffs, etc. Especially with such a diverse mix of religion in our family (everything from Catholic to atheists, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Quaker and Jewish) it’s our own little celebration of family & good times, regardless of religion or other specific traditions. The kids love it of course, and even the elderly grandparents get into it–my grandpa brought a funny woven hat made out of palms from a cruise he had went on with my grandma over 30 years ago.

    It’s fun and really has no point other than to get stupid together and it makes for some good family photos 🙂

  14. Growing up, we had some really firm traditions that really equal Christmas for me. Christmas Eve we used to go to church but as I and my mum have slid towards agnosticism or atheism, we’ve given that up. Then we would return and have family presents. This still feels like Christmas to me, getting together in the evening to open and share gifts. The rule is that everyone must have a gift and you can’t open the next gift until everyone is ready for their next one (until someone starts to run out). It’s nice because it helps slow down kids and give them a role of giving out gifts. One gift was usually pyjamas. Following that, usually later in the evening, was always a meal of cold cuts, cheese, breads and Christmas baking. It meant special treats that were not in our house most of the year so I loved it. (Also provides Christmas Day lunch already prepared). Once I was grown up enough to no longer believe in Santa, I would help fill stockings and put additional presents under the tree before bed. That way I had some to shake and squish up until Christmas and then some I had not previously seen.

    Christmas morning I had to wait until at least 7am. Mum and I would get up and make fruit salad and tea, then I would be able to rouse Dad (or later demand that he show up at Mum’s house by 8). We would then empty out stockings which usually had things like bookmarks, fruit leather, small chocolates, and other small and silly things. The presents under the tree usually included books (to keep me occupied while the rest of the family napped), socks, underwear and other goodies. The pets used to get little presents also but we have finally given up on that.

    Following the tea and fruit salad (sometimes with ice cream), we would all relax and usually start scavenging lunch from leftovers. Mum would get the turkey in the oven and go for a nap, I would curl up with a book or a toy, possibly a movie, my dad and uncle would nap or go to other places. Christmas dinner would be pretty traditional and have whatever family and friends were available to celebrate.

    For a while we had the tradition of going to a relative’s house for dinner on Christmas Eve, which is nice, but it did not feel right. So starting next year my husband and I will be working out our own traditions in preparation for munchkins of our own.

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