Happy Holidays and Merry Early Christmas, everyone!
A couple weeks ago, I visited my family in North Carolina to celebrate our early Christmas together, and my husband’s family has been visiting us in Park City this week to celebrate as well! It was pretty strange, just because it’s the first Christmas we were celebrating early with family, as a married couple. But it was also really nice! Hubby and I have missed everyone, and it was really great being able to spend time with them again.
I’m not sure how many of you celebrate, but Christmas is one of my favorite holidays (Thanksgiving being the second)! So for my Musings blog post this month, I thought it would be neat to discuss some Christmas traditions I grew up with. 🙂
My family would always have Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to ourselves before we went to visit family. On Christmas Eve, we would have breakfast for dinner. Mom would cook bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, country ham, and sausage, and we’d eat them on the Christmas dishes that my Dad kept from his childhood home. Sometimes we would eat by candlelight, but after a sleeve nearly catching on fire one year, that stopped being a tradition at the table, ha!
After dinner, we would all help clean the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher or sink, and then we would bake cookies for Santa and make reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer. The reindeer food was normally made with oats, some chocolate chips or small candies like M&M’s, and some sugar. We’d mix it all together, and we’d go outside with my Dad. Dad would choose a spot near the trees and we’d each pick a handful of reindeer food out of the bowl and sprinkle it on the ground.
After reindeer food, we’d each snack on a chocolate chip cookie or two and I would read my siblings one or two of the many Christmas stories we had. The one I normally read them was The Candy Cane Story, and it was one of mine and my siblings’ favorites. Once I had read a story or two to all of them, Dad would read the Christmas story to us from the Bible and we would sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and then pray.
We were all sent downstairs to get ready for bed, when Mom or Dad would normally yell at us to hurry back upstairs and look outside. My siblings and I would dash upstairs and look out the window to see Rudolph’s nose shining under the trees where we put the reindeer food. 😉
We gave quick hugs and kisses for bedtime and then we all would hurry to our rooms to get a few hours of sleep before my two youngest sisters would wake us up at ungodly hours the next morning to see what Santa had brought us.
And when I mean ungodly hours, I mean ungodly hours – it was around 4:00am every single Christmas. As I got older, this was something I wasn’t particularly happy about because once I’m awake, I have a really hard time falling back asleep. Even my last Christmas with my family before I got married ended with me being a pretty grumpy riser when they woke me up at 4:00am, but my younger sisters’ excitement and joy ended up trumping my grumpiness.
On Christmas morning, we would wake Mom and Dad and wait downstairs for Mom to get her camera and for Dad to be sure Santa had come. When both had gathered in the living room, we were told we could come up. Up the stairs we went, and all of us had presents and our stockings set out for us around the living room. We would normally check out the presents laid out first, just because they weren’t wrapped and were easier to see, and then we’d move onto our stockings. After we had finished admiring all of our presents and then taking turns admiring each others’, we would normally go to the plate of cookies, now reduced to crumbs, to find a note that Santa had written for us.
Once Santa presents had been opened and shown off, we started sorting through the presents under the tree. We left Mom and Dad’s under there, just because we weren’t sure whether they would want to open presents after us or if they would want to sleep for a few hours more before doing so. (In the later years, they just decided to open all of the presents along with us because then they could go to sleep and sleep for a long while after, ha!) We’d normally go oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest, all of us opening one present each. Sometimes there would be fights over which sibling would open whose gift first, just because we were all excited for them to see what we had gotten them.
When all the presents had been opened, Mom and Dad would normally try to go back to bed for a couple hours. Sometimes I would go back in my room to try to rest, but after a few years of trying that, I realized it didn’t work. Normally me and my siblings would just stay upstairs and fix an early breakfast and watch a new movie we had gotten, or while my younger siblings played with their toys, us older kids would take our stuff downstairs and sort through what we were going to take to show my grandparents later that day.
Which brings me to the later part of our tradition – going to my grandparents’ house. I only have one set of living grandparents so between noon and one, we would head over to their house for Christmas lunch, visiting with family, and more presents. We would normally have lunch first, and we would help set the table or pour drinks or grab silverware or anything else we could help do. Christmas lunch varied from year to year, but it was always delicious and there were more than enough leftovers to snack on later. My sister Rylee and I would alternate on who would bring a new dessert each year, which was fun.
Lunch was a long affair, but as I got older, it became one of my favorite parts about spending Christmas with family. There’s nothing like being surrounded by family and eating a huge home-cooked spread, getting full and sharing jokes and old stories. (This is probably the main reason Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday too.) Normally dishes would be cleared away after lunch and sometimes washed, and the leftover food would be covered up for dinner later. Only after everything was cleaned did we all sit down in the living room and start on presents.
First we did stockings. My grandparents had stockings for both their kids and each other and for all of their grandchildren. I loved the goodies in stockings – chapsticks, socks, candy, small gift cards, gum, and sometimes other assorted goodies. They were so much fun.
One of the funny things about opening presents at my grandparents’ house was that there always had to be a system. When you’re a kid, the system seems like a huge waste of time because YOU JUST WANT TO OPEN PRESENTS ALREADY!!! But as I got older, I learned to love the very thorough way we went about things.
The kids would always open presents first, and they’d normally go youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest, opening one at a time. Their present-opening took the least amount of time just because, after awhile, it was only my two younger sisters and our cousin Eli that qualified for the “kid group.”
Once the kids finished opening all of their gifts, they would normally go play in the back room while the rest of the adults set down to go through their own presents. Most of the time we went youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest here, too. My Aunt Candy would video and have her glass of wine, and my grandparents would have secret presents hidden away so they could surprise each other with the last gift of Christmas.
When presents were finished and all the wrapping paper and tissue paper put in trash bags, us older kids would normally play with the younger ones or watch new movies we had gotten. I normally had a book to read and a cup of coffee to drink, and I would always, always, always glance up to look around and just watch the Christmas festivities play out in front of me. The kids played loud, and the adults would play cards or board games at the dining room table and talk.
We would normally stay there until late at night, leaving time for other extended family members or close family friends to pop by and have dinner with us or spend time visiting as well. When it was finally time to go, we gave hugs and kisses and said goodbyes, then we would all load up in the car with our new gifts. On the way home, it would be dark and starry and we would all be full and sleepy. Another Happy Christmas had come and gone.
Obviously now that I’m married, my husband and I will be coming up with our very own traditions. We aren’t 100% sure what they’ll be yet, but we do have a couple ideas for our Christmas Eve. One tradition we decided we wanted to start months ago was giving each other a new book on Christmas Eve. Seems fitting for two avid readers and writers, doesn’t it? 🙂
What are some traditions you’ve grown up with, or some traditions you do now, if you have your own spouse or your own family now? I’d love to hear about them!