So I’m interested in learning about your family’s Christmas traditions. I’ll begin by suggesting a possible outline to follow, then share my own traditions, and then ask you to share yours with us.
Outline of Traditions:
- Community Events.
- Church services (LDS and others).
- Family (i.e., do you do it as just your own family, or is your family close enough to gather, and if so, who hosts what?)
- Trees (how early do you put it up, when do you take it down, artificial or real, if real where do you get it, what kind of decorations do you put up, etc.).
- Do you exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
- Presents (do you believe in lists or surprises? Are you minimalists or break the bank types? Do you let the kids open a single gift on Christmas Eve to help take the edge off the anticipation? Do the presents magically all appear on Christmas morning, or are they all wrapped and under the tree in advance, or is a special Santa gift unwrapped under the tree in the morning, or something else?)
- Stockings (do you do stockings? Whose responsibility is it to fill them? What kinds of trinkets do you favor?)
- Music (what is some of your favorite Christmas music to listen to?)
- Food (what are your special food traditions for Christmas Eve and Day?)
- Potpourri (share anything else you would like about your celebration)
Here are my answers to get you started:
- Those of you who are Facebook friends with me and saw my Christmas letter there know I have a series of community events I look forward to each December. These include: (a) Songs of Good Cheer (a public carol singing party for charity at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago), (b) a sing-along Messiah, (c) Julbord at Tre Kronor in Chicago (a Swedish restaurant), (d) the holiday double feature (White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life) at the Music Box, an historic, vintage movie theater dating to 1929 in Chicago, and (e) Christmas Eve dinner at Yu’s Mandarin (shades of A Christmas Story).
- Mormons don’t hold special Christmas services, so when Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday, as it does this year, that’s sort of a test as to how we should do it. I remember one year the Stake mandated that the full block be held, and my rebel bishop bucked the leadership and we just had a special Christmas program for sacrament meeting and went home. (That kind of spine is rare among bishops, but he didn’t suffer for his backbone, as he was later called as a mission and then a temple president. I’m pleased to report that my ward this year is not doing the block but just a special Christmas sacrament meeting.) My in-laws are Lutheran, and so some years I’ve attended Lutheran services (including midnight services on Christmas Eve), which frankly put ours to shame.
- We do the nuclear family Christmas Eve and morning, but the extended family assembles Christmas afternoon. We used to do this in my in-laws’ house, but that house is being sold, so we’re going to host it in our home this year.
- We get a real tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. We used to go to a nursery, but when it closed we started getting one at Home Depot. I favor Fraser firs. We use colored lights, and our decorations are not the typical balls but little toys or mementos from our children’s lives. I usually take it down New Year’s day.
- We’re Christmas day people.
- We do lists. When the kids were young we let them open one present Christmas Eve (which we got to pick–almost always new pajamas, robes or slippers or something like that). Wrapped gifts are under the tree well in advance. When the kids were young there would be an unwrapped Santa gift (their most expensive item) under the tree on Christmas morning, but now that they’re adults we no longer do that.
- We still do stockings. My wife does it, and she doesn’t bother filling her own, which inevitably leads to jokes about how she must have been a bad girl this year. There will usually be an orange in the toe, and socks and candy (gold coins and such) or various trinkets.
- I love Christmas music and will listen to pretty much anything. My personal taste tends toward sacred art music, especially of the Baroque. We have a radio station in Chicago that goes to an all Christmas music format in late November, and I’ve been listening to that in the car.
- As mentioned above, we do Yu’s Mandarin Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we have a family luncheon featuring Swedish sausage and meatballs (as a nod to my wife’s Swedish heritage).
OK, now it’s your turn. Tell us how you do Christmas.