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Let’s talk a little bit about Christmas traditions. I want to tell you a story about my childhood Christmas memories and how they shaped the traditions I now keep.
We all have Christmas traditions. Hopefully most of them are good ones! My childhood was pretty magical. Well, except for that Christmas morning wife saver 🙁 I don’t think at the time I knew just how lucky I was. But over the years I have come to realize just how amazing Christmas was in my childhood home.
First of all, I have to give credit where credit is due. To my Mom. She was such an amazing person. And her family meant everything to her. Unfortunately we lost her to cancer in 2013, but I am working hard to keep some of her Old Christmas traditions alive. Keep on reading to see how I have added my own touches!
Here is a little story of one of my most memorable Christmases
I was about 9 years old. We lived in a split level house that was a front to back split, so it had about 20 foot high ceilings going up to the second level. On the second level all of the bedrooms were on the top back side of the house, with a staircase going down the center to the main level. So it had a balcony level that looked down over the living room. I remember waking up in the morning and running across the upper balcony from my bedroom to my parents bedroom to go and ask if it was okay to get up. I put my hand up to the side of my face to block my view below, because I felt like it was cheating to look before it was officially time!! But for a split second I moved it away and saw the splendour that awaited me below! We had this HUGE Christmas tree. My Mom wanted this enormous tree because the ceilings were so high. Check out the size of that tree! My Dad looks like a hobbit next to it. This was not bought at any tree lot, this baby was cut down out in the bush. Look at the tiny tree topper teetering way up at the top. And that couch… no never mind that couch.
Christmas Morning Traditions
I checked in with my parents, who told me that it was okay for us to go downstairs and take down our stockings, but not to start opening any presents until they got up, and made some coffee of course!! Now that I ‘m an adult I better understand the beauty of the Christmas morning sleep -in and morning coffee!
Standing at the top of the balcony and looking down into the living room, there were so many presents that they were spilling out from under the tree, and it was a huge tree! At our house presents from Santa were always unwrapped, so amongst the beautifully wrapped presents, were strategically placed unwrapped gifts. I still really love that touch.
My Mom was a world class stocking stuffer! She was also super smart about how to amuse her wide awake children for an hour or more, while they waited for their sleep deprived parents to get out of bed. Our stockings were usually filled with fun stuff. Not a lot of socks and underwear. As a tradition we always had a Japanese orange in the very toe, I think mostly for aesthetic reasons, since it rounded out the toe of the stocking nicely. I have since updated this to a Terry’s chocolate orange.
Besides lip smackers and chocolates that year I specifically remember these little activity books that we got. They had a pen that was “invisible ink” and they kept us occupied for a very long time. I actually didn’t realize that they still made these until I checked and they do!! Oh, and Love’s Baby Soft perfume, does anybody else remember that??? Some other really fun things that we got in our stockings included some sort of brain teaser which I have always loved and usually still include one in Greg’s stocking. And of course candy! Back in my day the LifeSavers Candy Storybook was a big thing, but I was not really a huge fan of lifesavers, having always been more of a fan of sour candies over sweet. I ALWAYS ask for SweeTarts in my stocking. And I only eat chocolate hedgehogs at Christmas, which makes that a tradition! And here’s a little confession, I put some in Greg’s stocking and then I get to eat them!!!
Also I specifically remember getting a Barbie Deluxe Styling Head that year, which was one of those unwrapped Santa presents that was sitting on the hearth next to my stocking. And holy crap how they have changed! So we were set up to occupy ourselves for quite some time before my tired parents had to get up. I’m not sure how many of these presents I actually got that year, as some of the Christmases are starting to blur together so many years later. But some of the things I remember include my Easy Bake Oven, Yeah, those don’t look ANYTHING like my old one!! which was the source of many many tiny chocolate and orange and spice flavoured cakes and tiny little cookies! My Barbie Country Camper and these 2 tiny perfect knitted ski outfits for my barbies, which I think my Mom bought from a lady who hand-knitted them. I took a photo of them all dressed up in their ski outfits standing in front of their country camper, and although the Barbies and the camper are long gone, I still have the photo of them all ready to head off on their ski trip 🙂 Oh my God, I could play with my Barbies for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS 🙂
We don’t have kids, but we have fur-babies, and yes they have their own stockings too! Last year I made new stockings for all of us. I also made a cat specific stocking if that is something that interests you! In our house the gifts are distributed evenly between our furry kids, but the dog thinks everything is for her. So when we give Angus his presents, Sage just steals them!! Poor Angus. Good thing he’s really more interested in the boxes and wrapping paper anyway!!
Christmas Eve at our house was all about the snacks and treats! I don’t recall that we ever had a specific Christmas Eve dinner tradition. Like a lot of people that have their Turkey dinner on Christmas day, cooking is really not a huge priority the night before Christmas. A lot of the time we just ordered in, often it was Chinese food. The main event was all of the trays of snacks!! At our house, we have just skipped to the chase, and don’t really eat dinner on Xmas Eve. We just do up a lot of snack platters. We have an assortment of
Meats and Cheeses
Pickles and Olives
Veggies and Dip
And of course Christmas cookies!
I only eat yum yum pickles (might be a Canadian thing) at Christmas time, and I do a great job of it. I can eat a whole jar, which is why I only buy them at Christmas.
Christmas movies are such a big part of Christmas traditions. My own personal Christmas tradition is to watch A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. I can almost recite this movie line for line. I have been watching it for YEARS. They seem to only play this version on Christmas Eve. I purchased the DVD a couple of years ago, just in case I can’t find it on when I’m ready to watch it. Greg’s favourite Christmas movies are National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story both of which we also own. What’s your favourite Christmas movie? Do you have one that you watch on Christmas Eve?
Christmas Dinner Traditions
I do love a good table setting, although I don’t do traditional Christmas dinner every year. Honestly I’m not a great turkey chef, and it’s really a huge amount of work. But I LOVE Turkey left-overs. Especially turkey sandwiches and turkey soup. So that is my motivation for cooking turkey dinner. My menu usually includes:
Sweet potatoes: Par-boiled and then fried in butter as my Mom made them
Spinach salad – This was a tradition at our house, which I have kept!!
A couple of Veggies (I always cook Brussel sprouts, but nobody eats them, because they are gross)
Dessert. Which is more often Chocolate trifle than pumpkin pie and of course homemade cookies!!
My mother taught me that for family dinners the secret is to do as much prep work as possible the day before. So generally I will have my veggies all peeled and cut and sitting in water the day before. This won’t hurt your potatoes or carrots or broccoli, but honestly would you be sad if it hurt your Brussel sprouts? 🙂
Some years I don’t even cook a Turkey. I often do a spiral Ham, or even my Grandmother’s spaghetti dinner which is made with steak not hamburger. If cooking a big Christmas dinner stresses you out, then don’t do it! Where we live a local high end hotel does up full Christmas Turkey dinners, you need to put in your order ahead of time, and then you just drive up on Christmas day and grab your fully cooked dinner! Sweet! And no stress.
Christmas Morning Traditions
Since we don’t have kids, Christmas morning is pretty laid back at our house. We are both world-class sleepers. I usually get up first, and get the coffee going. Back in my parents day it was a percolator. Mine is a Tassimo I like my morning cup to be a latte.
Greg usually sleeps in longer than I do, and I use this time to start prepping for dinner. In previous years that meant getting the turkey all ready and preparing the stuffing. But last year I tried a pre-stuffed, cook from frozen Butterball turkey. I’m sold! as I don’t really love the Turkey prep, and love the idea of just plunking my frozen turkey into the oven. If you are a fresh only turkey cook, you will probably be wincing right now, but I’m okay with that. I always loved the smell of the stuffing ingredients frying up in the pan on Christmas morning, but I’m willing to forgo this tradition in favour of an easier method. I believe this is called progress!! Sometimes we don’t actually get around to opening our gifts until noon or even later! Another tradition that I kept from my Mother, is champagne and orange juice. We like to sip on mimosas while opening our gifts! Yum. Just don’t have too many or dinner may not get cooked 😉 Which might be okay as long as you don’t have guests arriving 😉
Here is my rule of thumb on toys –
You are never too old to play!!!
That is me and my sister at my Grandma’s house wayyyyyy back in the day. And yes that is Mrs. Beasley on my lap. The original one. Unfortunately she is long gone. But many years later my Mom bought me a Collectible reproduction version of her, which I still have. And she still says “Speak a little louder dear, so Mrs. Beasley can hear you” 😉
Maybe tuck away one or two of your children’s favourite toys, they don’t have to be in mint condition, just the ones that they loved the most, and then give them back to them 20 years later 🙂 I sure wish I had some of my Barbie dolls now, even in all of their beat up glory!
I think everyone should get something fun to play with at Christmas, regardless of your age!
As a kid the toys are really the highlight of Christmas. And I specifically always loved the week after Christmas because you had so many new toys to play with. Back in my day, and they were Operation and Sorry! Also I have a very fond remembrance for Ker Plunk !! We still love games, and I really love playing a game after Christmas dinner, especially trivia games, including my favourite Trivial Pursuit Recently we found an old version of a game called Isaac Asimov’s Super Quiz which was from the early 80’s. It’ hilarious to play because a lot of the trivia is very dated and not even correct any more! We also have Jenga and keep it set up, in case anyone wants to play.
We also both love to play video games, and every year there is at least one new video game for us to play. Since this is my go-to for toys. We have a collection of systems. Currently we have a vintage Super Nintendo hooked up. And we also have our Playstation 3 and our PlayStation 4 ready to play. I also still have my original Sega Genesis kicking around in a box. I have been re-doing the den where we have our big TV and video game systems. We recently got a new dual recliner so we can get super comfy while we play. One of the reasons I buy a game for Greg, is so that I can find the time to get cleaning and dinner done. Last year it was Red Dead Redemption 2 I don’t know about you, but in my house, it’s really just easier with only one of us in the kitchen.
Boxing Day Christmas Traditions
When I was a kid, Boxing Day in our family was all about visiting. My parents were very social and we would always get dressed up in our Christmas finery and go out visiting. And for many years I used to have a Boxing Day Party. We are not super social, but on Boxing Day we always get together with his whole family. This is multi-part day. It starts with his brother and family coming over and picking up their Mom on the way. We have snacks and drinks for a few hours, and then they drop his Mom back off at home. After that his Dad and his wife come over for dinner. Here is our family photo from 2017
I have NEVER been a fan of New Year’s Eve. Even when I was in my 20’s & 30’s and at the height of my partying years, I always found it to be a very over-rated holiday. It was really expensive to go out and there was so much hype getting to midnight, to just get kissed by a bunch of strangers… um – no.
We usually stay home on New Year’s Eve, and our tradition for the last few years has been to do a fondue! Last year we bought 2 new fondue sets. And we switched over from the old oil model to an Electric Fondue Pot. They are safer and easier and all around better. We bought two of them, so there’s not a big crowd in one pot 🙂 And by crowd I mean all those little skinny forks. We put out an assortment of meats/ sauces and dips. And just nibble over the course of the evening. One of my favourite things to fondue is batter covered pickles – mmmm, you really can’t go wrong with deep fried pickles, can you?
Make Your Own New Christmas Traditions
It’s funny that you don’t know at the time what seemingly insignificant little pieces of your childhood Christmas traditions you will keep and carry with you along the course of your life. So, keep the Christmas traditions that you love. And on the flip side, Get rid of any traditions that stress you out. If you really hate cooking Christmas dinner, don’t do it! Go out, or do something different. My niece lives in Edinburgh Scotland and they always have home made pizza on Christmas Day.
I heard a story on the radio where this family did their full Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day they didn’t go ANYWHERE. Everybody, including Mom and Dad, stayed in their pyjamas ALL DAY LONG and they just played and ate left-overs. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.
The Moral of this Christmas Story…
You can make anything you want into a Christmas tradition. Go with the flow or do something unique. It’s your family, your rules. Just do what makes you happy and start making your own Christmas traditions now!
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