Christmas is full of traditions. In a previous post I wrote about the anticipation of that day with the season of Advent and our silly little tradition of giving small gifts in baskets before Advent Sunday breakfast, but that barely scratches the surface of Christmas traditions in our Glenlea home.
For example, as much as you might look forward to presents and family there was always the added benefit of NOT having to gather eggs on Christmas (making for a TON of eggs on Boxing Day, but deferred torture was always better). Our gatherings were condensed with Dad’s family celebrating on Christmas day and Mom’s on Boxing Day, which left Christmas Eve as our family’s day for presents. Although this messed up the concept of Santa delivering presents from a young age, it was terribly fun to spend the evening in this way – and we continue the tradition today. Actually our kids get to open present even earlier on Christmas Eve morning.
Each event had special moments and many special memories; singing Christmas carols notwithstanding. And the food was amazing! Our family always had appetizers on Christmas Eve, after the church Sunday School program of course. (The program was a bit of an annoyance I might add, absolutely interrupting the anticipation of the season and the last obstacle between me and my presents.) We always had the standard Christmas Even food, like meat buns and shrimp rings but my mom also liked to throw in at least one curve ball each year. I’ll never forget those nasty, oily smoked oysters.
My favourite unique tradition however is that my mom didn’t wrap gifts. I don’t know if she just didn’t like wrapping or if she thought it a waste of time given how fast we would rip it apart – it certainly wasn’t an ecological reason – regardless we used cloth bags. I’m pretty sure my mom made them herself, so a little effort on the front end saved a bunch of time as they were reused each year. Of course this meant that you needed quite a few bags and of varying sizes and dimensions and invariably there would be some gifts that were left naked. This didn’t matter though because all our presents were just heaped in a big pile for each kid and covered with a blanket anyways. In fact there were years when my mom didn’t even have cloth bags and we would “open” gifts by grabbing the blanket by a corner and ripping it off all our presents at once. This may seem anti-climatic (especially for my wife whose family painstakingly opened one gift at a time in rotation between family members, ugh) but in reality, the present together were the climax so why draw it out any longer than you have to?
The piles would be set up before church with each of us kids hiding in our rooms while mom and dad loaded the goods into the playroom. I remember one time as a child trying to sneak a peek at the piles before church and my brother caught me. I lied (poorly) to him saying I had been walking with my eyes closed and had missed the stairs and just “ended up” by the presents. Good grief. Lying on Christmas.
Our family was also a bit unique in how the presents were bought. All of kids knew how much our parents spent on Christmas presents (always fair and even between children), so we would prioritize our gifts accordingly. This is probably very common, but we would often tell Mom to get us a smaller similar gift to the one we wanted if we knew that it would blow our Christmas allotment, with the full stated intention of exchanging it for the bigger version after our Christmas cheques had been gathered. We also believed in the principle of making sure that books were good before giving them as presents (in other words we read gift books ourselves before wrapping them.) I had no idea just how crass this was until my wife pointed it out. Like, why wouldn’t we enjoy the CD while we can?
I love my family, past and present and our traditions, they give rhythm to life and bring anticipated joy to our lives. You young parents out there, in particular, should give thought to some of the traditions that you want to establish for your kids. Those traditions become a way to remember good family times. And if you don’t have any traditions (which would be a sort of tradition in itself, I suppose) start this year. Kids actually find security in some predictability even in great times like Christmas.