This is a time of year for family, food, fun, love and traditions!
Over the years my family has had many traditions. Some evolved into different traditions over time, some served their purpose for a time and others are waiting to be reborn again.
For as long as I can remember….. the Holidays revolved around family. My family was never one to travel out of town for Christmas. With the exception of my one brother, Val, who didn’t really live in Utah once he got married…. everyone else was within a 40 minute drive of my parents house. Even Val and his family would occasionally make it to our family Christmas gatherings.
I don’t know about you…… but I have great memories of my whole family celebrating Christmas morning together at my parents house. I’m the youngest of 5 children…. so I got to be a part of this for a long time. My oldest brothers oldest daughter is only 6 years younger than me, so I was still pretty young when we started having the nieces and nephews sleep over for Christmas. I couldn’t even begin to tell you where everyone slept…. I just remember we were all there! They probably shared my bed and my room… but I only remember Christmas morning!
My parents had a very large family room in the basement of our home. Our home was fairly large for the time it was built….. bigger than many of the other homes in our neighborhood. We had a room large enough to hold all the presents under the tree as the family grew and still have room for all the bodies too. It was great fun for me. I can still see in my head that family room being stacked with Christmas presents! It was total chaos…. but we loved every minute of it.
As the families got older…. parents decided it was too much work for Santa to bring all the toys to my parents house….. besides….then you had to get them all home! After that, Christmas morning was spent with me and my parents running to my brother and sisters houses to watch them open Christmas morning. Now that was crazy! Each family was in anticipation of our arrival so they could get to their presents! We rotated the order every year so the same family didn’t have to wait as long each year. I remember that tradition only lasting a few years. After that….. we would pick one family to be there with to open gifts…. then we would make the rounds to the other homes to see what everyone else had received.
The finny thing about that was it always meant that mine and my parents Christmas gifts were the last thing opened that day…. and I never seemed to mind. I always had so much fun seeing what the other family members had received, I was quite content in waiting for my own. My parents still did that rotating Christmas thing with my family for years! It was part of their fun!
The best tradition my family every started was our Christmas Eve gathering. That’s been the one tradition that has been so hard to give up. Unfortunately…. because I am the youngest…. that tradition died while my kids were still fairly young. Well…. not really young, but young enough that we had no grand kids of our own to keep the tradition alive.
Let me tell you about out Christmas Eve tradition. It’s probably similar to many of yours, but it holds so much intense love and memory for me…. it’s what Christmas is about.
We would start with a big dinner for the family. Even as large as the kitchen and dining room area was a in my parents home….. getting everyone in was a tight squeeze. We had extra tables set up everywhere…. just as you would expect. Of course we all brought something to contribute to the meal. Once the meal was done, the younger kids would head to the basement to play while the adults cleaned up the kitchen mess and put the folding tables away.
Then we would gather in the living room upstairs…. which was another large room. We decided to start acting out the Nativity as part of our tradition. It was always fun switching parts and using whoever had the most recent child as Baby Jesus. I remember we would raid my Mom’s scarf collection and jewelry to dress up the Wise Men and shepherds. We’d very often take an old towel and cut a hole in the middle of it big enough to put a child’s head through and then wrap a belt or piece of fabric around the waist. Another towel or piece of fabric would become the covering for the shepherds head. The angel would be draped in a sheet with a piece of silver tinsel wrapped around their head. Over the years, we started actually ‘making’ a few costume pieces. Nothing fancy…. no patterns…. just pieces of fabric cut to work instead of old towels.
The kids would look forward to putting on the Nativity every year. We finally got to the point one year that instead of reading the story out of the Bible, we used an LDS Primary song called ‘The Nativity Song’. We would sing all the verses. As the characters were mentioned in the verses, they would take their place in the nativity scene. It seemed to work pretty good and would at least keep the kids singing as we proceeded.
Then…. we would sing Christmas carols until the time of the big arrival! My parents always arranged for Santa Claus to pay a visit and bring one small gift for everyone. He’d pull a gift out of his big black bag, read the persons name and then they would sit on his lap for a minute and have their picture taken and get to talk to him for a minute. Our kids absolutely looked forward to that part every year. The challenge was to keep them occupied till he arrived so they weren’t looking out the window in anticipation. Early on in this tradition, my parents were able to get Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus to come. They were adorable and fun…. but time takes their toll on everyone and we soon had to find another Santa helper to do the job.
After Santa left, the kids would exchange gifts with their cousins. We all drew names so we only gave one gift and received one gift. It was all part of making the season seem right…. giving a gift to someone else. As the years went on… the gift exchange evolved into a VERY fun White Elephant exchange which we still love to do.
Christmas Eve was the tradition that was hard to let go of. As my parents aged and the family got bigger…. they didn’t want to have it at their home anymore, so we compromised and went to the church to do it and the adult children were in charge.
Once the grandkids grew up and started getting married, then we ran into scheduling problems of not everyone being able to make it on Christmas Eve anymore because the other side of the family they had married into had their traditions too. It became more of a hassle than it was worth…so we started finding another night besides Christmas Eve to have a family party. The same charm just wasn’t there anymore once we did that….. but it was still special and fun to get together with the family. Honestly…. I’m amazed that we went as many years as we did without having our own spouses families expecting to share Christmas Eve time. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Maybe it was just luck, or it was just something that our spouses knew they were getting into when they married into the family!
I’m hoping that this tradition can be reborn again with my own family. I know it won’t be as easy to pull off because already we have families of my kids significant others wanting to share the night. If my daughter wasn’t out of town this year…. I think we’d all be here for the evening this year. However, it’s just not quite the same without little kids involved…. but that will come. I have big hopes for the coming year…. all of my children have significant others in their life right now and I’m dreaming of them all settling down and starting families of their own. I’m hoping they’ve all reached the point where they are ready for that!
However, we have started a new tradition in my family. A few years ago we (or should I say ‘I’) decided we needed to have a family Christmas crafting/baking night. It has been a lot of fun to get us all together and tackle a new project. Right now we don’t have a definite purpose or use for the particular project we make…. but we’ve managed to get them ‘eaten’. We still try to have a Christmas party for my side of the family so we take them there to be consumed. The party has been after Christmas for many years because it was easier for people to fit it into their schedules. Since my Dad passed away and Mom is in an Assisted Living center…. we’ve just scheduled the dining room area at her place to get together, so it’s easier on her. This will be the first year we haven’t had a family get together for Christmas. We are celebrating her 90th birthday a few weeks later, so we decided to hold off for the celebration till then. So…. this year…. our baking project became neighbor and co-worker gifts!
Wow…. I could go on with other traditions we have that mean a lot to me….. but this post is already VERY long! But I guess that’s why traditions are so important to us….. they hold so much emotion and fond memories it’s hard not to rattle on about them.
I’m grateful for all the years that I had keeping those amazing traditions and the meaning they hold in my heart. I was very blessed to be a part of it. I look forward to starting more traditions with my own family as it grows. My family means the world to me. I’m so grateful for them!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful Christmas and hoping that your traditions will add to your memories this week!
Please share what some of those traditions are! Merry Christmas!
I am Grateful! How are You?
We haven’t done a very good job of digitizing our old photos yet…. someday I hope to post some pictures of Christmases past!
Here’s a little Christmas card from my family to yours!