As we approach the Holiday Season, I would like to share with you some of my family Christmas traditions. If you have not yet established your own family Christmas traditions, then perhaps some of ours will be an inspiration to you.
Family Christmas Traditions That Began With my Parents
Like any other child, from any generation, the Yuletide Season was the most anticipated time of the year, and we eagerly looked forward to our family Christmas traditions. (Its closest competition was my birthday and summertime.) Our household consisted of my father, my mother, a brother, a sister, and me, a.k.a. ‘the baby’. We were close, and I have many fond childhood memories of the Christmastimes we spent together. In addition to the many blessings of the season, and our family Christmas traditions, there existed another special aspect to this Yuletide Holiday – December 24 was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They’d married during an era when weddings were much simpler. Worries over the ‘perfect dress,’ the ‘perfect cake,’ and ‘the perfect DJ’ didn’t exist in those days. All that was important to them was their love, and the knowledge that they had found the ‘perfect mate’ in each other. And they, too, had carried on family Christmas traditions, since my mother’s parents had been married on December 24.
Because we were a close unit, there were no nights out on the town or anniversary trips for my parents. No, their goal was to create loving, memorable family Christmas traditions for all of us. My mama loved to cook, and she loved making the traditional recipes, albeit with a Southern twist, which she’d learned from her mama. Many of my recipes have come from her sharing her knowledge and her love of cooking.
Our family Christmas traditions included decorating our house. Maybe we didn’t have the world’s most expensive decorations, but they were nice, and we eagerly anticipated the joy of decorating. Mama and Daddy, every year, made the house, our home, beautiful and festive.
As many of you know, I collect Santa Clauses. From salt and peppershakers, to international Santas, to a couple of Santas decked out in tropical attire, I love and collect them all! I haven’t met a Santa, yet, that I didn’t love! Some of my beloved Santas are those old time Santas, which I remember from my childhood. And they now sat proudly, and lovingly, in my Santa collection cabinet, amid their new friends. These delightful figurines have become a part of our family Christmas traditions.
Family Christmas Traditions in my Adulthood
After I finished school, I fell in love, and married a local good-looking guy. Lucky for me, my dear hubby liked living in our small town. Unfortunately, my sister and brother, who were both older, had married, and their marriage and careers had taken them away to the proverbial ‘big city.’
Like other young people, we worked hard, had fun, but still managed to be responsible, and save our money. And like others, we went through the typical cycle of renting, before settling into home ownership. But when the opportunity came, to buy the land next door to my parents, we did. I was blessed that my dear hubby was close with my parents - no nightmare in-law stories here! When a friend recommended a contractor, we contracted with him to build our first house. We moved into our first home, one-week before our first wedding anniversary, and two months before our second married Holiday Season. And it was here, where we began our own family Christmas traditions.
Despite all my offers to cook, to host them in my new home, year in and year out, my mama and mother-in-law insisted on doing the holiday cooking. In fact, she and my mother-in-law worked it out so that one would cook one day, and the other would cook the other day. They said that since hubby and I worked everyday, we should just enjoy our time off. Since we were so close to both sets of parents, relationship wise, as well as living nearby, that made the Yuletide Season, and our family Christmas traditions, all the sweeter.
In fact, what I hadn’t learned about the adventures of cooking, from my mama, I learned from my dear mother-in-law. You could say our entire clan was comprised of foodies! And at the holidays, that was only magnified, deliciously, and became part of our family Christmas traditions.
But, wait a minute! I wanted in on the cooking, holiday entertaining, and family Christmas traditions, too! I had my brand new home, albeit not the biggest one in the world, so I wanted to show off my hosting and cooking skills. So, the 26th became my day. Since country ham was a favorite, I’d cook an old-fashioned country ham (still a personal favorite to this day!), and have everyone to our place for lunch. Thank goodness, back in those days, we didn’t stress over calories and salt!
So, these family Christmas traditions held in place for many years.
New Family Christmas Traditions
Then, a few years later, after our daughter was born, family Christmas traditions changed. As with my parents, family Christmas traditions became centered around our precious gift. No longer did we want to leave our home on this special day; instead, we began new family Christmas traditions. The grandparents gladly accepted the changes, and they eagerly looked forward to these new family Christmas traditions. After all, our precious daughter was the only grandchild on the paternal side, and the youngest on the maternal side, a.k.a. making her ‘the baby’ of the whole group. And, as we all know – ‘Babies Rule!’
My husband and I both liked the family Christmas traditions we had grown up with, and the changes we adopted after our marriage. Now, we wanted to expand on these family Christmas traditions, and make them even better for our daughter.
Typically, we began our Yuletide Season right after Thanksgiving. We, like many others, began our shopping on that Friday, and Saturday was the day we set up, and decorated, our tree. The next Saturday was one of the highlights of the whole season - it was the day we took our daughter to see, and have lunch with, the ‘Real Santa,’ at Miller & Rhoads Department Store, in Richmond, VA. The ‘Legendary Santa’ visit was one of our special family Christmas traditions that we enjoyed with our daughter. As she grew, the customary picture changed from one of her sitting on Santa’s knee, to one with her dad and I standing beside them. This collection of pictures has a very special place of honor in our home. When the Miller & Rhoads stores closed, we continued the visits with the ‘Legendary Santa,’ wherever he was holding court, and our last picture was taken when she was home during her first year of college.
This ‘Legendary Santa’ is now affiliated with the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and just the other day, my husband said maybe it was time to go and have another picture taken. I am going to try to hold him to it; I would love to experience, once again, one of my favorite family Christmas traditions, and have another fabulous picture taken with Santa.
One of the family Christmas traditions we started to help our young daughter relate to the sanctity of the day was to serve a special ‘birthday cake,’ including a candle, and to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to ‘Baby Jesus.’ To this day, regardless of how many pies, cakes, or cookies we have to serve, a special ‘birthday cake,’ and its accompanying song, is part of our meal.
Family Christmas Traditions Present Day
Other family Christmas traditions have come and gone over the years. But we still look forward to church pageants, open houses, parades, grand illuminations, and the tacky house light tours. About five years ago, we changed how, and when, we open our gifts. We like to begin opening our presents on the night of the 24th, when we select one to open, and then one each night, thereafter, until they are all opened. We find, that since we are all older, we have more time to savor each gift, and we enjoy the anticipation of another special Christmastime meal, and another gift the next day, prolonging this festive season. Sadly, our parents have passed now, and our group is much smaller, but the love is just as strong, and we are thankful for our roots, the family Christmas traditions they passed to us, and what we have learned from our parents.
A few years ago, we moved to the city, where our daughter lives. We still do some of the same family Christmas traditions as we did in years past. We now have country ham on the 24th, and I cook a turkey the next day. Monkey bread and country ham biscuits are part of our family traditions for Christmas morning. And we like all the other traditional dinner fare, such as: mashed potatoes with gravy, dressing, corn pudding, green bean casserole (We actually like this dish!), pineapple-carrot congealed salad, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, a plate of sliced country ham, and homemade rolls.
We love this special time of the year, and we enjoy our family Christmas traditions. But our family Christmas traditions can be flexible. A few years back, our family took a Christmas week cruise, and it was magical in its own way. As much as I love cooking, I also love being taken care of, and receiving the pampering one receives on a cruise. It was fun, and something we might include in our traditions, and do again in the future. After all, the most important component of our family Christmas traditions is being together.
I would like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Blessings in the New Year. Thank you for reading my articles, and I hope you enjoyed reading about our family traditions and how they came to be.