We asked our community of contributors to tell us about their families’ holiday traditions. Here’s what one contributor had to say:
My family is, well, a typical middle-class family. I am the middle child of three, born and raised in Central New York. Our tradition isn’t anything terribly unique — that is, until I became divorced and had to share custody.
When I was young, we would go to church on Christmas Eve and then come home for festivities. The church part was for my mother, and we squirmed and patiently awaited its ending. When we got home, we put on Christmas music, lit the tree, and ate snacks and appetizers. We then would exchange one gift with each other and give gifts to our parents. The gifts were school-made when we were younger and now are the typical adult gifts. We would go to bed and await St. Nick to put our favorite toys under the tree.
Christmas would start around 6 a.m. — two hours after my brother and I were up and when we decided it would be safe to wake my father. We would open presents one at a time until they were all done. My father would make us pancakes and eggs, and after, we would clean up and get ready for our trip to Grandma’s.
That tradition still lives on to a certain extent. The difference is that we have had to merge other families’ traditions into that one, due to in-laws, the death of my grandparents, and the fact that we all don’t live in the same area any more.
So now, this is how we celebrate Christmas.
It starts on the eve of Christmas Eve — Christmas Eve Eve. I have my children the day before Christmas Eve until about 10 p.m. the next day. My ex-wife gets them on Christmas Day. This was agreed upon because my children love our Christmas Eve celebration with my mother and father. So my children still get to wake up to presents from Santa, I have told them that Santa will come a day early for children of divorced parents. On Christmas Eve Eve, we bake cookies; pop popcorn; watch “Elf” and Scrooge, open up our Christmas pajamas; take a picture of me, my fiancee, and my children as a family in our pajamas; eat snacks; and then go to bed. On Christmas Eve morning, my children wake up to presents from Santa, open them, eat breakfast, clean up, and get ready to go to my fiancee’s parents’ house for a midday Christmas Eve celebration. We open presents and eat food. We then go to my parents’ house to start the tradition of Christmas Eve that was started when I was a child, minus the church (our family is more secular now when it comes to Christmas). We all eat a lot of food, have some drinks, listen to music, laugh, open presents one at a time, and then I bring my children to their mother’s so they can start another tradition with her.
I return to my family and continue to celebrate. I retire to my house with my fiancee and go to bed. We wake up and exchange gifts, if we haven’t done so the night before. We sometimes, like children, can’t wait. We then visit our families once again for a more subdued celebration, but with, of course, more food! It’s a busy three days, but I love it, and I look forward to it every year. Happy holidays!
— Oswego, New York