Music? Snow? The amazing treats? Gift-giving? Gift-receiving?
Contemplating whether to give your kids that coal-shaped candy and then realizing they’d probably think it was real and freak out?
Hot cocoa in front of a fire?
The Muppet Christmas Carol?
I’ll give you my answer, and it’s pretty easy. I kinda cheated though because it encompasses all those responses.
Tradition! (How many of you read that in the “Fiddler on the Roof” voice? Just me? Got it.)
I’ll go first and share the Christmas traditions I grew up with, and then we’ll hear from Erin.
Cameron’s Christmas Traditions
We had bunches of traditions growing up, and I think that’s super important for kids. We had things to take our focus off obsessing over our Christmas-day loot – which helped emphasize the things that actually mean something around Christmas.
A few days before Christmas, we’d all pile in the van and look at Christmas lights. We did this for so many years that we have all the best streets memorized.
As a family, we’d also whip out batches of Rice Krispies treats and fudge to leave on the doorsteps of people we knew. Much to my mother’s chagrin, we’d usually ding-dong-ditch instead of having the guts to hand it over to a real person. Score one for the digital generation’s fear of social situations!
Then, on Christmas Eve, we always always always (and still do when we spend it with my family) read The Polar Express. Remember that animated movie with Tom Hanks? This is the book version that we’ve been reading since I could remember. When we turned the pages, we had to ring this little bell that came with the book.
Of course, leaving out a plate of cookies for Santa was required, and equally important was my dad shoving the giant recliner in the hallway so us little kids couldn’t sneak early peeks at our presents.
We’re one of those “we go in order and everyone else watches them open the present” families, so Christmas takes hours for us. In fact, now that we’re all married with kids, there’ll be 16 of us… so we might finish by New Years.
Now having Erin’s family to spend every other Christmas with has been awesome. I have an entire other family’s traditions to be a part of (and we can pick and choose the ones we like best for our little family).
I’ll let her tell you what her family does!
Erin’s Christmas Traditions
Christmas time is always a special time in my family. It starts the day after Thanksgiving by pulling out the Christmas music and decking the halls with boughs of holly. Seriously though, my mom has a lot of decorations!
Growing up, we would make a trip to see Christmas lights, make Christmas goodies, watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, and go to some Christmas concerts. On Christmas morning, my sister and I always had to wait until my parents got the camcorder all set up so they could record us running in to see what Santa brought.
My favorite traditions however have to be getting the tree and our Christmas Eve festivities.
Many people just go straight to the nearest parking lot that sells trees and call it good. Not my family! We would travel about an hour to Placerville to find our tree on an actual tree farm. Tree farms usually have a lot going on like hay rides and places to eat and games to play. The best part about a tree farm is of course the hundreds of acres of Christmas trees! We always got a Douglas Fir tree.
After everyone gets out of the car the hunt is on! You run around the tree farm looking for the perfect tree. When you find that one perfect tree you stand in front of it and yell as loud as you can “CUTTER!!” and then wait for the dude with the saw to come over and cut down your tree. The cutter asks how tall of a tree you want and pulls out his stick with the feet marked off and chops it down. Then we haul it back to basecamp, run it through the mesh wrapper, and strap it on top of the car.
Then of course we would all decorate it together when we got home and put the star on top.
Christmas Eve was special to me growing up because that is where I really learned the true meaning of Christmas. My parents taught us that it was always more important to give than to receive presents on Christmas. We all gathered around with our hot chocolate and listened to our parents read Christmas stories which always ended with the story of Christ’s birth.
After that we would all gather around the piano and I would bust out the Christmas music. We all sang as many Christmas songs as humanly possible and always ended with Silent Night. Then we each opened one present, which was always Christmas pajamas, and then go to bed and try to sleep.
This Christmas season, we hope that we will all take care of each other and give of our excess to those in need. We also hope that we remember that it is the memories we create that we will remember and not necessarily the best and most expensive present you can give someone.