Our traditions

This year, Mom unveiled a dream of hers. She’s been buying gold and silver decorations on sale after the last few holidays. This was the year to put them all together. A gold and silver tree with matching wrapping paper.

We’re a modest family that doesn’t have many flights of fancy, and Mom, like many mothers, doesn’t often stand up and say, “This may be somewhat frivolous but I want it.” I’m delighted for her.


Mom and Dad's tree


We’ll pack up our car on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and head over. They only live 15 minutes away, but we sleep over. Waking up alone on Christmas makes the whole thing rather pointless. It’s the special people that make it a celebration, after all.

Rainer makes sushi and I make side dishes.  This year miso soup and sesame-crusted tofu over spinach.  It may be odd, but nothing says ‘special’ like a platter of sushi in our family.  Everyone dresses a little fancy. (A little.  This is a tai chi/yoga/counter-culture family after all.)  There will be a walk, games, talking.  My sister and her husband will be there too, although they’ll arrive after the food and games. Just in time to stuff stockings and sleep, actually.

On Christmas morning the traditions are quite firm.  There’s no free-for-all with paper flying and no one certain exactly what gift attaches to which tag.  That sort of thing focuses entirely on what you’re getting, rather than the giving.

We grab our stockings and take them to the table.  We go around the circle, drawing out the little things.  In the toe of the stocking, always, is an orange.  Then breakfast.  I’m sure part of that is shrewd mothering on my mom’s behalf and part of it is her diabetes that doesn’t much like a change in schedule.

Only then do we start the presents.  Again, we go around the circle.  The kids used to work together to be Christmas elves, but Sandra (ever taller, ever funnier, ever more mature) has passed full responsibility to Matthias.  Everyone watches while the present is opened.  We all exclaim.  The recipient gets up and hugs the giver.  Then we move on to the next gift.

Takes forever.

Isn’t that the best?  Christmas day has plenty of time in it, after all.  No one’s rushing anywhere.  Everyone has been looking forward to the giving and the getting.  So why hurry?  Last year it took us til about noon to completely empty the bottom of the tree.  Our four had made everything by hand, stocking stuffers included, and it was a big show.

This year we’ve bought a few of the presents, but the focus was still on making them.  I’m so pleased by this.  I noticed last year how much more than usual the focus was on giving; how excited the kids and Rainer were to see others unwrap the handmade secrets.  It’s nearly time to unveil them again, and we’re nearly done.  We consulted the big family check-list again last night (which has boxes to check but isn’t the list of what we’re actually making) – and after a little collective sewing before bed we have but one present left uncompleted.  And I am so happy to say it is a present for which I have no responsibility.

A very merry of merriests to you all.


8 thoughts on “Our traditions

  1. livnletlrn says:

    So many similarities in how our two families celebrate!

    Fancy-ish Christmas eve dinner at my mom’s, where there was a Victorian style decorated tree for a few years but now back to homemade ornaments while my sister’s family is living w/ mom.

    We live only 3 miles away, so we sleep at home and open our gifts (3 for each child) here in the morning, then head back over to mom’s. We too do the one-at-a-time opening, youngest to oldest and round again, savoring each gift and thanking the giver. B’fast usually comes after, but because the gifties take a long time, we’re usually ravenous by then, so I’m going to propose b’fast before gifts this year. A few extra minutes of wonderful anticipation and delightful keeping of secrets for all!

    Friends and neighbors usually pop in throughout the afternoon. We take a walk at some point, exploring all the new goodies otherwise. We cook up our “traditional” Reubens and Fritos Christmas day feast in the late afternoon. 🙂


  2. PS~Erin says:

    Sounds wonderful. Just perfect, really, aside from the sushi (although the hubby would *love* it).

    We do the same each year too… We do advent activities leading up to the big day. This year we focused on charity and fun activities. Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s and we exchange our name drawn gifts there. Everyone comes over here for Christmas morning. The kids see Santa’s surprises. We eat breakfast and drink lots of coffee. Then our little family exchanges our gifts after everyone has gone. Then it’s over to my hubby’s family where it’s super casual and we do one of those shootouts type exchanges where you steal and unwrap. It’s fun.

    Can’t believe it all starts tomorrow!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. nicolaknits says:

    I love the gold and silver theme. A few years ago, we bought silver stars and icicles (tin actually) from Lee Valley here in Canada. I declared tinsel banned! Gradually I want to make the tree more tasteful and less tacky.

    When I met my husband, his family had the Swiss tradition of gifts on Christmas Eve, giving them one at a time and watching them being opened and giving a hug for each one. We now do this on the Solstice, but it’s so much nicer than a gift-opening frenzy! I love seeing people open the presents that I give them – I don’t like it when they say “I’ll open it later”.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.

  4. Kim says:

    That is EXACTLY how our Christmas morning unfolds. EXACTLY!!! Right down to the orange in the toe of the stocking!!! Were we in Canada instead of Turkey, we’d be sleeping at my parents’ house too. But no, just the four of us. We’ll be doing much like you, stockings, breakfast, then gifts. There’s not a lot because we’re here and family aren’t and because the Turkish postal service decided not to deliver the things send to us. But it will be wonderful. And we’re having sushi too.

  5. Anne says:

    Lovely tree, and lovely family you have. May 2010 be a year of peace, love and joy for you and yours.
    I also loved the post on the Christmas School – what a great idea.

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