Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Past, Present and Future

Being the eternal procrastinator I am, rather than finish wrapping presents or attempt Baking Fail #3 while Sammy is napping, I've decided to not deprive myself of a sudden urge to blog.  Today's topic: Christmas traditions - both old and new.

As I establish my own family, traditions are something I embrace more and more.  My sisters and I have so many memories of Christmases past, and I can't wait for Sammy to one day be able to laugh and reminisce with his brother(s) and / or sister(s), as I do with mine.  So without further ado, a couple favorite memories - some new traditions, some continuing traditions, and some old traditions that have since fallen by the wayside (but that maybe should be picked back up!)....

Advent calendars always marked the official start of the season in our household.  Of course ours weren't crafty as so many of the ones out on Pinterest are these days, but rather of the paper sort.  (Which I still prefer.)  My two sisters and I would take turns opening a door each day, which would then reveal a picture of an angel, snowman, or other holiday-related item.  At the beginning of the month, I would ALWAYS scheme a way to be the lucky one to open the last door on December 24th, as that was always a two-door picture of a beautiful Christmas tree (and obviously the best and most exciting door).

As a child, I took piano lessons from my grandmother for many years.  After Thanksgiving, she'd always pull out a Christmas carol music book and a Nutcracker music book, from which I would play songs. I fell in love with the Nutcracker music, and as an even more special treat, each season she'd take me to our local ballet's production, and then gift me with an actual Nutcracker.  This was extra special as while some years she bought the Nutcrackers, other years my grandfather would make them.

I'm not sure if Sammy will take piano or not, but this is a tradition that I would love to carry on with him.  Regardless of the fact that it's a ballet - perhaps the fight scenes and evil mouse king will be of interest.

Not necessarily a Christmas-specific tradition, though definitely a winter break activity, I have many memories of my dad taking me ice skating at various ponds in our town, as well as participating in the open skate at our town's ice skating rink.  I flat out love to ice skate (especially as it's usually followed by cups of steaming hot chocolate).  I still make James take me at least once a year and guarantee Sammy will have skates strapped to his little feet very soon after he learns to walk.

Three things you'll always find at my parents' house around Christmas - Harney and Sons' Holiday tea, egg nog and egg nog french toast.  We drink cup after cup of Holiday tea throughout the season.  I will always be one of the people that love egg nog (I just don't understand those that don't).  And it would not be Christmas morning without some artery-clogging yet beyond delicious egg nog french toast.

But prior to indulging in the aforementioned egg nog french toast, everyone at our breakfast table must open their Christmas cracker.  Truthfully, I can not remember when this tradition began in our family (perhaps around a trip to London?), but every year my mom finds a new kind of cracker, and we love opening them to find the weird little trinkets and jokes (and paper crowns!).  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures on hand of our family wearing their paper crowns....  (Note sarcasm.)

And lest we forget the true meaning behind Christmas, Christmas Eve brings Christmas Eve mass.  We usually attend the earlier 4 p.m. mass each year, though one of the first years James and I were dating, we went to midnight mass at the church where we eventually got married.  Of course it was late, but that night there happened to be a huge snowstorm, and I loved trekking through the snow to attend my first ever midnight mass, which was absolutely packed with people.  I'd love to be able to make that a tradition with my own family, though I think it's one of those things that is easier said than done with young children in tow.

And finally, as Sammy grows older, I am determined that we follow the order of present-opening activities that I followed as a child.

My sisters and I were never allowed out of our rooms / the hallway until my parents were awake and gave us the go ahead.  First, we'd look at all the presents that Santa brought us, which were never wrapped.  I know most families do not follow this protocol, but it always made perfect sense to me.  Santa never came until Christmas Eve, so why on earth would there be presents from Santa under the tree ahead of time??  And on top of that, why would there be gift labels signed from Santa in your parents' handwriting?  You can best believe that Sammy will have both wrapped and unwrapped presents (from Santa, obviously) this year.

Once all of Santa's presents were examined and played with, we'd move on to our stockings, which were always (and continue to be) packed with the best little presents.  (Unfortunately I broke down and already gave Sammy the one item that was going to be in his stocking this year.)

And then finally, all gifts from our family were exchanged.  This is done one at a time, so everyone can see what was given and we can give each gift our undivided attention.  Of course this results in quite a lengthy present-opening process, but that just means we have time for that second (and third) cup of Holiday tea....


  1. What a nice post....does a Mom's heart good! Now you can add your own traditions as well....

  2. Jen, I loved this post! Your family has many of the same Christmas traditions as ours...not surprising since thevtwo Queenies seem to always have LOTS in common. Merry Christmas to all of you! We will be thinking of you with lots of love from Texas!