Christmas Traditions

Every Christmas time we seem to start new traditions, maybe drop a few, and make sure we meet the favorite ones.  I am fascinated by other people’s traditions around this time.  One that seems to be growing in other families, I think would be fun, which is to wear brand new pj’s on Christmas Eve night.  I resist that one because although new pj’s would be good for early morning Christmas photos, it would be just one more thing to do during the busy time.

Along with my fascination for other people’s Christmas traditions comes the fascination of what traditions were like in the past.  Following is an excerpt from my grandmother’s book, “how did we get from there to here” :

The first Christmas tree that I remember was decorated with real candles.  The kind with metal holders that clipped on the branches of the tree.  The tree was lovely with the candles on it.  We let them burn long enough for everyone to oooh an ahhh over them and then snuffed them out.  It was much too dangerous to let them burn down any further even though the tree was fresh from the woods.  After that, we had strings of electric lights much like we use now.

                                                                                                                                                        –Helen Hopkins Titus

 I seem to remember that in the past, people didn’t get a tree and decorated it until Christmas eve.  That isn’t the case for most people these days though.  It is not uncommon to see hoards of cars with the wrapped-up green bundles on the tops of their cars or back of their pick-ups the day after Thanksgiving. 

The tree seems to be the center of our holiday traditions.  My oldest told me that getting our tree was more important to her than getting Christmas gifts.  Every year we travel long distances to a tree farm that we have adopted as our favorite.  It is a small family owned farm that has such a friendly, warm feeling to it.  We look forward to running the fields looking for the very best one, calling “Marco!” and “Polo!” trying to find each other to show what we found.  Then, when the tree is finally chosen, the tradition is to make Dad lay in the mud to cut it down.  The tree is then tugged and pulled in the special tree wagon to the shaker and baler.  I love the sign on the baler that indicated the price: $2 to bale a tree, 50 cents to bale children.  I wonder each year how many people consider that.  I dream of one of those machines for my house.  I certainly need it from time to time.   When all is done, the tree paid for and on our van, we reward ourselves with a nice hot cup of hot cocoa provided by the people at the tree farm.

While we were camping this past summer, we had an interesting conversation around the campfire about Christmas.  Apparently some members of the campfire conversation were not Christmas fans.  Somehow, they must have missed the point to Dr. Seuss’ , “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”.  To them, they felt as if Christmas was all about gift giving, and had missed out on the feeling you get when families and friends get together to give those gifts.  Here is another excerpt from my Grandmother’s book:

I remember one Christmas in particular during the depth of the depression when I was about twelve.  We agreed to limit our gift purchases to ten cents.  It sounds impossible, even for those times.  The gifts were not much, but we all had some packages to open.  Our expectations were low but it was fun and no one was headed for the poorhouse.

I am convinced that my grandmother and her family discovered joy, no matter what the gifts were or how much they cost.  It was getting together and enjoying each other that was the most important.  I think that we get all wrapped up in the commercials that invade us wherever we go that make us feel as if we are not adequate as people unless we can top last year’s gifts, or can give the ‘best’ gift of the season.  Little do we know that sometimes the best gift is the experience of the season, the traditions, the good feelings that we get when we enjoy each other. 

Now I have to get back to my kids who are out of school for the holidays.   We have more of the season’s traditions to meet, stringing popcorn for the tree, baking cookies for Santa and making snowmen in the fresh snow.  I have a request though.  Please give me a quick comment about what your favorite holiday tradition is (it doesn’t have to be Christmas).

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7 comments on “Christmas Traditions

  1. Suzy says:

    Growing up, my parents tradition was to let us open one gift Christmas eve. It took until we were tweens to figure out it was always new pjs! I never really thought of the reason being for nice pictures, though, I think for us it had more to do with growing kids getting new pjs that fit. The tradition goes further, though – we would spend most of Christmas day in those new pjs, enjoying the day and relaxing.

    I have to say, I’m in that “not a fan of commercialized Christmas” boat (or maybe it was me you were referring to!! :-)). I enjoy spending the day with family, watching movies, drinking cider or cocoa (or mulled wine!), munching on food and just relaxing. Christmas at my parents house is a bit overwhelming because of the sheer quantity of gifts. It literally takes all day (sometimes 2… one year, 3) to get through it all. Granted, we go slowly, take breaks, and each take our turn (opening one present at a time), but by the end of the day, I feel like we missed our on relaxation time because we had so many presents to open. I know… it’s not something we should complain about, but it just seems like the spirit of the day is lost in the present count status quo.

    My brother and I have set monetary limits (usually $30 or so) the past few years, and then we plan a joint trip together for the following summer as our gift to each other. It’s really nice! Those are my favorite kinds of gifts – when you get an opportunity to spend time with the ones you love, and you aren’t stressed out worrying if the package under the tree will make them happy.

    • laurasponders says:

      So Suzy, does that mean that you stay in your pj’s for three days sometimes? ;o) Awesome!

    • laurasponders says:

      Suzy, I just re-read your comment and I wasn’t talking about you. I know you came to our campsite, but I don’t recall talking about Christmas at that time. In my opinion, you seem to be one that really embraces the celebration part of Chirstmas… and other holidays.:) The comments about not liking Christmas very much because of commercalism was by someone else at a different time during that trip.

  2. ben says:

    One tradition that I have adopted from Suzy’s family which I absolutely love, is staying in our pajamas all day on Christmas Day. It’s like a mandate to be relaxed all day.

  3. Peggy says:

    My favorite tradition is one that was started out of tragedy. Alby passed away on December 11, 2002. I just couldn’t get myself into the mood of trying to find that ‘just right’ present for all the kids. So, I just bought a bunch of generic $20 – $30 gifts and elaborately wrapped them up in great big bows. Most of them had to due with hunting or camping. Then, the tradition of “Steal Gifts” at the “W” household was born that Christmas. I just put all the gifts in the middle of the room and passed out cards to everyone to determine the order of each kid picking. Whoever has the Ace opens the first gift. Then, the next card holder can either “steal” that gift, forcing that person to open another one – or, pick an unopened gift. It is a lot of fun and, for me, it made that Christmas almost bearable. And, we all think of Alby each year as we rather loudly steal gifts from each other!

    Today – everyone is invited, I just tell them to bring a $20.00 gift if they want to play! Are you guys coming? Chad is roasting an entire pig!

    Merry Christmas Laura!

    • laurasponders says:

      Peggy, I always admire those who find the bright side of a bad situation. It is also great that you remember him in times of joy. I am sure he is celebrating right along with you. 🙂
      Merry Christmas to you too!

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