Family Traditions

Me and my sister 1968
Julia gets lots of presents 1971
John always loved presents from grandparents 1989
Putting the star on the tree 1992
Growing family 2001
John, Jackie and Kira 2015
Kathy, me, and Mom 2015

Family traditions are an important part of making Christmas feel like Christmas, and my family is no different.  We have traditions that we do every year and until we do, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.  Here are a few of my family’s Christmas traditions:

  1. Decorating for Christmas, 1974
    Decorating for Christmas, 1974

    Lights and decorations go up around the beginning of December and don’t come down until after New Year’s – usually around January 6, Epiphany.  I hate that the day after Christmas all the radio stations stop playing Christmas music.  At least keep it going until New Year’s!

  2. We have certain foods we always like to eat.  For me it doesn’t smell like Christmas until I bake Grandma’s Ginger Cookies.  A turkey or ham in the oven is another traditional food.  Mom likes us to have a jello salad on Christmas.  And we always have birthday cake on Christmas and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.
  3. In our own homes, and starting when we were children, we open the presents one by one with each person taking their turn.  We usually go youngest to oldest but sometimes we mix that up.  We do not tear into our presents like animals.  We take care with each one, thanking the giver as it is opened.  This makes the presents last longer.
  4. Mom has a stocking with everyone’s name on it over the mantel.  As the family has grown, more and more stockings have been added.  There are 16 now and there isn’t much more room on the mantel, but I’m sure she will be able to find room for more when great-grandchildren come along.  We still laugh about the year our dog, Sam – a mix of Boxer and Great Dane – grabbed Mom’s stocking off the mantel and ate the chocolate out of it.  Her stocking has holes that she refuses to fix.
    Stockings this year (with Mike and Steve)
    Stockings in 2012 (with Jared and Devon)
    Stockings in 2002 (with Steve, Julia, Dad, Mom and me)
  5. We are a family that likes to laugh so we have silly gifts.  We used to do a gift exchange but it got a little expensive and we didn’t want the larger family gathering to be about the money.  So we revived a game introduced by my Uncle George years ago.  Each of us brings a “silly gift,” nicely wrapped, and then we choose and steal and have to take home whatever the gift is.  Mom and Dad instituted the last part of that when they got stuck with too many of the gifts.  The gifts can be old books, unwanted perfume, costume jewelry, popcorn:  everyone has plenty of stuff in their house that they don’t want or don’t use.  We used to wrap and exchange an old pair of Grandma Clymer’s underpants – I’m not sure how that got started but it was hilarious!  This year Tom and I got a lantern and some hand towels, which are both good gifts for the RV.
  6. family 009Someone is always sick.  When I was a kid, it was usually my brother Steve.  He spent many years lying on the couch while we opened our presents.  Now it seems the grandkids are taking turns.  This year Jared was sick and he exiled himself to the basement where we could visit him without him contaminating anything.

What are some of your favorite family traditions?  What makes Christmas feel like Christmas for you?

I hope that whatever your traditions are, you were able to celebrate them and carry them out in a way that made this Christmas a special blessing for you.

Dad takes his turn 1974
Steve opens presents 1975
Our first Christmas tree 1981
Stockings in 1982 (with Mom and Dad)