Christmas Traditions

Though we just celebrated our 5 year anniversary last month, this will be the first Christmas Dave and I spend together.  We’re both sad that we won’t be with our families for the holiday, but are looking forward to creating new traditions together.  We got our tree (more like a mini-shrub) this past week and decorated it with some of the ornaments we’ve picked up on our European travels.

Christmas Shrub

In thinking about new traditions we’d like to start this year we got talking about our favorite traditions from Christmases Past. We thought it would be fun to do a joint post and share some of our individual favorites!

We even have music to set the mood as you read…


The best Christams tradition is spending time with family… my family also happens to be obsessed with doing things exactly the same every Decemeber. We have a set schedule that we rarely ever waver from, we eat the same exact foods every year, we have the same people with us in the same place, and of course, we always tell the same jokes.

One Christmas tradition I love is on Christmas eve, we always go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to eat cheese fondue. Bo and Kristie always make three different kinds of fondue: Parmasen, Swiss and Cheddar. Every year, each member of the family ranks the cheese sauce in order of which they liked, from best to worst. You would think that since we have the same cheese every year, people would always have the same order, but it usually changes for some reason (yes we actually record what people say, we’re very interested in rating and debating in my family).  When we were younger, the kids used to perform a Christmas pageant, where we would act out scenes from the story of Christmas. We have grown a little too old for that tradition though, so now we just sing Christmas carols. My cousin Anina posted a youtube video of our singing one year, but to avoid embarrassment I won’t link to it here (we are somewhat tonally challenged).

Another one of my favorite traditions is the way my family gives gifts. Instead of putting “Love: Dave” on the tag, we include a hint to what might be in the gift. For instance, if I bought someone a new kitchen knife, I might put “From: Martha Stewart”. I usually get a gift from Dan and Paul Hackett or from Terry Francona. It’s a good way to add some creativity into gift giving… everyone always gets very excited to try and guess what is in the gift based on who it’s from.

Another of my favorite traditions is eating Lobster Bisque on Christmas day. We always buy the lobster fresh on Christmas eve and my Mom makes the bisque before hand. We have a lot of people over to our house for Christmas: Me, Cara, Jack, my mom, my dad, my uncle Bo, aunt Kristie, Anina, Mary, my grandfather and  of course the dogs. Everyone gets everyone else at least one present so opening gifts takes a long time. By the time we finish, everyone is starving and that huger makes the bisque even more amazing every year. Delicious!


There are a number of things I love about Christmas, but what I love most is the anticipation leading up to the big day- maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday…  You get to enjoy an amazing Thursday chock full of food, family and football.  When you wake up the next morning, you still have three days off of work/school and it’s universally acceptable to start listening to Christmas music and begin holiday preparations.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up always begins on the 1st of December.  It’s the day the Christmas books come out!  My mom has been collecting Christmas books since I was a baby.  I think she began with the intention of getting one new one each year, but we were never that consistent. Overall we probably have more than 30 books though- many inscribed with the year and circumstance in which they were given.  While the scratch-and-sniff candy canes and trees in Barnaby’s First Christmas only contain hints of their former glory and I cringe every year when Jim tells Della that he sold his watch in The Tale of Magi there’s nothing quite like looking back at some of your favorite stories each year to bring about that holiday feeling.  My two absolute favorites are The Littlest Angel and The Year of Perfect Christmas Tree.

Since graduating from college I’ve enjoyed shorter Christmas vacations at home, but even when I’ve only made it home a few days before the 25th my parents have always saved the decorating of the tree until I arrive.  I’m usually the “light lady” (we’re a fan of white lights…something Dave and I agree to disagree on) and it always takes a good number of hours to sort all the decorations and figure out where everything is going to go. Maddie and I each have ornaments that we and we alone are able to place on the tree.  We always try and get the favorites up front and put the “less desirables” near the back. I’m a fan of a fully decorated tree- just because no one sees the back doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be decorated…even if it’s with the more generic ornaments. The Amy Grant Christmas usually playing throughout the decorating and after Amy finishes up we move to Gloria Estefan and other Christmas mixes. After the tree is complete we then get to set up the manger.  It’s always fun to unwrap the manger my Uncle John crafted years ago and set up the main players in their spots. The little black sheep is my favorite.  It always feels so comfy and cozy when the decorating is complete and I can read my Christmas books in front of the Christmas tree!

The final tradition I’ll go into a little depth about is our Christmas Eve routine.  Every year we get gussied up and head to church for Christmas Eve service.  The service is my absolute favorite of the year.  The service is primarily a song-fest.  In between songs pastor shares the Christmas story with the congregation and usually a special musical piece is done by the choir or a musical ensemble. The final part of the service is the best- all the lights are turned off and candles are passed to everyone in the congregation.  As the pews are dismissed one by one everyone sings Silent Night on repeat. It usually takes 5+ times through all three verses to get everyone out, but as it’s my favorite Christmas song I always enjoy the tradition. After the service we head up to Kersting Court to visit the snowman.  Every year someone drives down from the mountains with a truck-bed full of snow and crafts a snowman in the square.  As Southern Californians it’s always a novelty and a treat to pose with the snowman on Christmas Eve. The night ends with hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps at home and the opening of the first gift. Usually we watch a Christmas film or play a game and then go to bed dreaming of sugar plum fairies and nutcrackers.

Christmas itself brings a big hearty breakfast, the opening of stockings and then presents-we open one at a time, youngest to oldest.  After presents there isn’t much in the way of a scheduled out day. Usually an afternoon nap is had at some point. We always receive new games and movies from “Santa” that we enjoy in the afternoon and the many, many tins of cookies are eaten all day long.  My Grandma always sends us loads of her specialties and I particularly enjoy the wreaths and white chocolate dipped pretzels. The nice things about California is that you can spend part of almost any day of the year outside.  Last year I sent Dave pictures of me doing a crossword puzzle in the backyard in a t-shirt…ah the good old sunny California.  Dinner is typically something done up on the BBQ and then we spend the rest of the evening relaxing, game playing and enjoying each other’s company.  No huge traditions for the actual day other than lots of togetherness, but it’s still always one of my favorite days of the year!

Obviously we are a bit sad not to be back home for Christmas spending time with family, but are looking forward to starting some new traditions! We miss everyone back home… maybe you guys could tell us about your favorite traditions in the comments?



8 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions

  1. Even though you two will not be with your families this Christmas, I am so happy to hear that you are starting new traditions while in Germany. Everyone back in Boston misses you two & we always look forward to reading all the fun adventures that you two go on. I hope you two have a relaxing, warm & happy holidays!

  2. Hi Daverian! This post is so sweet! I totally laughed out loud at the fondue rating thing… yes that defies logic, but somehow people change their opinion every year.

    Another slightly logic-defying yet amusing family tradition: we wrap up nasty things, like really old chocolate covered cherries for example, and give them to each other. Fun!

    • Anina, that’s a great one too… I hope the jello makes an appearance again this year. Another one: your father’s tradition of guessing that every gift is a chocolate covered cherry. Never get’s old!

  3. My family always gets woken up at 6:30 AM by my brother, and we open our stockings (’cause Santa always brought them to our rooms so that our parents could sleep more…) before going downstairs. There’s always money crumpled up and hidden in small bills in our stockings as well (usually about $50 in 10’s and 5’s) for us to find and un-crumple. We then open presents one-by-one, going in a circle (including the dogs), and my mum makes apple cinnamon french toast along with home fries and other delicious breakfast items.

    We then go to my aunt’s for more food, more presents, and drinking our irish selves into a post-dinner nap. Then I go to my best friend from high school’s house for dessert with her family! The biggest tradition, however, is going post-christmas shopping with my brother and sister the day after Christmas, braving the malls to spend our money that we inevitably get from relatives.

    I hope you two have a phenomenal holiday, it’s upsetting not to be with your families for the holiday, but I hope that your new traditions are fun and exciting as well! Everything is going well here, not too much to report on here. Looking forward to your next novel of an e-mail, and looking forward to replying to it and updating you on the ins and outs of my life!

    Take care, and Merry Christmas!

  4. Making orange juice on Christmas morning. The Juicit is a very important part of our celebration. I don’t quite know what is so fun about juicing with that very old juicer, but it has a very special place in all of our hearts. The sound it makes, it’s like it is full of Christmas spirit. We all get a small juice ration. That it only appears once a year, on Christmas day, lends a certain mystique to the Juicit. Glucklicher Weinachts!

  5. I’ve been lamenting about having to alter my own traditions and my family’s for next year already. Initially my mom asked me if we were splitting holidays this year and I promptly became upset over just thinking about it! So, Seamus and I decided that this year would be the last that we will spend apart so I suppose my lifelong traditions are subject to change. We have done the same thing every year for Christmas since I was little and a lot of it revolves around food. We have presnoc (a family recipe with eggs and cheese) & sour cream coffee cake for breakfast on Christmas Eve morning which we spend at home getting ready for my mom’s parents to come over for the evening. I’ve taken to spending the day helping my mom cook and baking the past few years. My mom’s family comes over and we do stockings and gifts with them and have dinner which is always seafood newburg with lobster, scallops and shrimp with usually rice pilaf and green beans almondine. Some years we make a Mocha Christmas Log for dessert and other years we choose something different. Often we play a new game or watch a Christmas movie and sometimes I did out Twas the Night Before Christmas but always when we were young my dad would read that to us and now I pretty much know it by heart. Christmas morning we wake up and have presnoc & sour cream coffee cake for breakfast again and open our stockings from santa. Santa always left gifts out unwrapped when we were kids. I vividly remember a Harry Potter VHS in a Radio Flyer for our dolls and a Barbie camp house sitting out in front of the tree. Also, any year that there was snow on the ground there would be sleigh tracks, boot prints, and reindeer hoof prints in the snow. This part kept me believing for years after my friends had stopped because I couldn’t understand how anyone else could have done that without all kinds of extra footprints everywhere! We open gifts from each other and then all get ready to go to my dad’s parents house and usually arrive there before 12:00 and eat second breakfast/brunch of more presnoc!, sour cream coffee cake, usually some kind of potato casserole amongst other things. We open stockings again and gifts from each other, listen to Alabama’s Christmas Album and have Roast Beast!, twice baked potatoes and other specialties for dinner and dessert.
    I feel very fortunate this time of year and reflecting on my childhood holidays to have such happy memories of Christmas knowing that many people do not have such merry Christmases and it puts things into perspective a bit as I sometimes feel sorry for myself that I have to alter my traditions to encompass Seamus’ as well that I should feel extra lucky that I have two families to spend holidays with next year and not just one. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday from Maine!

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