Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Traditions

And just like that, Christmas week is upon us!  I'm equal parts amazed and excited that Christmas is just days away.  This holiday season seemed to sneak up on me especially fast, but I am very excited to see all of my siblings (albeit not at the same time) and celebrate my favorite time of the year!

One thing I love about this time of year is all the traditions that each family honors year over year.  I'm always curious to hear about others' traditions so thought I'd share some of mine. 

Phil and I have celebrated two Christmases together and have established a tradition of baking something together after we have dinner and open presents.  On our first Christmas together we made peanut butter balls (aka buck-eyes) and this year we made Italian Almond cookies, which won the local paper's cookie recipe contest.  They are gluten free as they are made with almond flour and are easy and tasty!

Shifting to my family, here are some of our Christmas traditions.  Christmas Eve is definitely the bigger day of celebration for us, so all of our traditions tend to happen on Christmas Eve.

- We always attend mass as a family on Christmas Eve.  These days we go to the earlier mass since we have lots of young kids, but before the kids came along we'd go to the latest service which was usually at 10 pm.

- Our Christmas Eve meal is all about seafood.  For appetizers, we always have a platter of different cured fish, like smoked oysters (yum), sardines (ick), kipper snacks, which is a cured fish (yum), and herring (ick).  We also have shrimp cocktail which my brothers makes by steaming fresh shrimp.  It's SO good.  90% of the time I'm full by the time the appetizer course is over.

- The main meal is also all about seafood, but the meal has changed over the years.  Our traditional meal when I was growing up was oyster stew which I honestly have never liked.  But I come from one of those families where you eat what is served or you don't eat at all (my parents have 5 kids so I can not blame them for having this policy) so I used to eat a bowl of the broth and fill up on other stuff like the veggie tray.  But these days we have other options like grilled shrimp and crab legs.  My mom also makes a pasta option for the kids and those who don't care for seafood. 

- We always have homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert, but dessert usually happens way after dinner because everyone is way too full to have it right after the meal.  We used to have this old school ice cream maker.  We would pack snow around the ice cream maker part to keep it cool instead of using ice.  I observed this process a lot as a child and for the longest time I thought the snow actually went IN the ice cream but that was not the case.  These days my mom uses her kitchen aid ice cream maker and it's a much more domesticated process - i.e. no snow is needed.  :)

- Before we open gifts, most years we watch this home video that all the grandkids on my dad's side of the family made back in 1987 as a gift to our grandparents.  It's an enactment of the story of Christmas from the bible and hilarious to watch.  I'm almost 7 in the video and I played the part of the angel Gabriel.  My aunt, who passed away last year, narrates it so it's neat to hear her voice.  I am sure that when my parents and aunts and uncles made this video back in 1987, they never imagined we'd still be watching it all these years later, but we do. 

- After the story of Christmas is read or watched, we open gifts.  We go from youngest to oldest and each person takes a turn opening a present.  Having kids around definitely makes gift opening more fun because they get SO excited. 

- On Sunday morning, we sleep in and have a lazy start to the day.  Santa comes for the little ones during the night so they wake up and have a few more presents to open.  We have a big meal, but the main courses changes year to year. 

What are some of your family's holiday traditions?


Stephany said...

We're definitely a Christmas Day celebration family, and we rarely do much on Christmas Eve. It's mostly a lazy day of anticipating Christmas Day! This year, I have to work until noon, and then my aunt is hosting a Christmas get-together, since some of my family is leaving for a trip the following day. And Christmas Day will be fairly low-key with a small celebration with my mom, brother, SIL, and nephew in the afternoon.

Gracie said...

I love the tradition to re-watch the Christmas video! I hope you've remastered it on a dvd or something for longevity. How neat for the next generations to see that.

San said...

I love that you celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Is that because your family has German origin (because we celebrate Christmas Eve in Germany rather than Christmas Day!).

My favorite part of the evening are the traditions.... taking turns opening presents, listening to the same old Christmas CD over and over, we even used to play music back in the days.... I am going to miss this a lot this year!

Happy holidays, Lisa. xo

Carolina John said...

We do a breakfast with my parents. They want all 3 of us kids in Greenville for the night of fun, and the next morning mom does a big southern breakfast then we open presents to each other. This year, we're driving down to Greenville friday night and will do the big breakfast saturday morning before the big extended family christmas with all of my cousins (10 adults and 8 little kids now) saturday afternoon. It's an insane time but so much fun getting to see everyone!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I love that you and Phil have started some of your own holiday traditions. ;) And your family has a long list of traditions, but it wouldn't feel like Christmas without them, would it?!

Sweets and I have started a bunch of holiday traditions that balance Chanukah and Christmas. Lighting Chanukah lights and eating Chinese food. Putting up a tree and buying new, meaningful ornaments each year. Attending his family's annual Christmas dinner with all their friends. Oh, and one we'd like to add once Gavin is a bit older is the New Year's Day movie marathon (at the theater).

Jeanie said...

I love your traditions! Seafood -- yum! And I like your cookie baking with Phil! And the video!

Rick and I have built our traditions, too. Christmas Eve is the same dinner (the one his grandfather always made -- roast, etc.) and then we decorate Christmas cookies together! We may watch a movie if it isn't too late! Then presents in the morning with the same breakfast (a sausage/egg strata), mimosa, sweet treats! After, we play "Reindeer Games" -- a dice game with presents from the dollar store we try to capture! And you know -- it's all good!

Many hugs to you for a glorious and tradition-laden holiday!

Anonymous said...

Oh! You celebrate Christmas like the Germans do.

We wait until it's dark to open gifts on the 24th. Then we have an easy dinner. Something like potato salad and sausage. When I'm home (unfortunately not this year), I attend midnight mass together with a friend.

On Christmas day we have goose, red cabbage and potato dumplings for lunch. And fruit salad for dessert. That's a must!

Merry Christmas!

Becky said...

Oh how fun! Ben and I are still honing our Christmas traditions - unfortunately we work around his schedule each year, but we always carve out time for my family, his family and us - it may not be the same days each year but we make time for each!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I love hearing about all your traditions! It's cool that you do the feast of the 7 fishes :) Also, so typical grandmother vs. mother that your parents made you eat whatever was cooked but now that there are grandkids, she makes other stuff for them. Ha ha!

Our traditions vary a bit because we switch off which family we celebrate with, but we do Christmas Eve at our house so that's a pretty consistent one :)

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

Mmmmm, I like the tradition of seafood on Christmas eve!! We might have to start that one in our home :-) We usually go to Christopher's parents' place or his sister's on Christmas eve, and have snacks and drinks. Our Christmas traditions are still developing :-)

Amber said...

I love that you guys have a big seafood feast. That's so awesome! Our traditions have varied over the years depending which family we celebrate with and where we are to celebrate Christmas. This year is our first Christmas in FSJ since 2011 and I can already tell it's going to be such a crazy busy few days. A long standing Christmas tradition in my family is a huge Christmas Eve get together with my mom's extended family. So all my grandma's siblings and their kids and their kids and so on. There will be about 40 people this year and I'm looking forward to seeing people I haven't seen for a few years!

Shoshanah said...

I feel like since I left for college and then after my mom died I've lost a lot of traditions from my side of the family. Although a lot of that has been because I haven't actually been home for Christmas without my mom.

But growing up our big meal was always Christmas day, since my Aunt and Uncle would open presents as a family and then we'd meet around lunch to open up more presents. We always took turns opening presents too, which is still what I prefer, although not the way the boy's family does it.

As for his family, their big meal is also Christmas Day. As for Christmas Eve there's been a few years where we've gone down to the bonfires together.

I do think though in the next few years we'll probably start establishing our own set of traditions for our little family, which is kind of surreal to think about!

Leigh said...

I love hearing what other people do for Christmas and the holidays! I have a feeling our traditions might change next year :)

J and A said...

This is amazing!!! I love all your traditions!!sounds yummy too.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I miss our Christmas tradions. A lot of them faded when my grandma passed because it's been too hard. Then more changed still with Isla and then with the illness fairy that seems to dump on us every other year at Christmas that has thrown things too. Growing up everything was on Christmas Day. I'd go to church on Christmas Eve with my mom but Christmas day was everything. We'd do presents at our house and then go to my grandmas. Some we are starting in our own family are baking cookies, reading christmasy books before bed/moving an advent calendar and opening a new book each night... Ohhh carols. We used to always sing Christmas carols with my grandma playing the piano. ahh.

Charis Faith said...

So many special memories!!! I love seafood!!!! We had shrimp for our Christmas Day dinner that my aunt made and it was super yummy!!! We also open presents on Christmas Eve and we go from youngest to oldest and one at a time :) we started drawing names a few years ago. Mom carried on the Christmas Eve dinner tradition of yummy melted ham and cheese sandwiches that my grandparents started. I am so sorry you were sick over Christmas! I know that is just awful!!!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I love the traditions! That is almost the best part of Christmas! I think that's so cute that you guys watch the video every year.

We always read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, right before we go to bed and then Santa comes! We still do stockings for Santa, even though there are no little kids in our family right now. We always go and chop down our own tree in the woods.

This year I did not do any of these things, and it was kind of like it was not really Christmas. It was very strange, and I totally missed it. However, I do think that traditions do change over the years, so maybe it's time to add some new traditions.

Alli said...

This post reminds me of one of my favorite memories with you:

"On Christmas we always had homemade ice cream. My mom had an old school ice cream maker that you'd have to pack with snow from outside."

"But what if there was no snow on Christmas?"

"It's North Dakota, there is always snow on Christmas."

Abby said...

I adore Christmas traditions. My heart is breaking as I read this, since I didn't get any of the Christmas Eve or day food :(.

I like the tradition you and Phil started with baking something after gifts! Ryan and I don't have a tradition yet for Christmas since every year has been so different (traveling, Ryan's family visiting, me working, Etc). We always celebrate our own Xmas a different day. But we always try making monkey bread.

I always thought the snow went in the ice cream, too!!! Lol!