My unique family holiday tradition:
Every year on Christmas Eve we would open one gift, which was always a game for the whole family to play together. Of course when the kids were little we had games like Candyland and Hungry Hippos. Now all our kids are grown, and soon 3 of the 4 will be married, but we still get a new game to play together as a family. It may not be that unique of a tradition, but it has stuck now for almost 30 years.
Whenever our children and grandchildren can get together for Christmas, we pretend it is Christmas morning and gather in pajamas for Christmas breakfast, and we added a most unique tradition a few years ago. We assigned a different “ theme” each year for our family gift exchange. A couple of our most memorable themes? “Peace On Earth Goodwill to Men” (each gift had to be purchased from a Goodwill store and it became quite creative)….”Think Snow” (Some of the gifts that year included scarves, gloves, baskets of hot chocolate and goodies!) … “Gifts from the Heart” (each gift was handmade… anything from a life size wooden nativity to a child’s simple drawing) were the very thoughtful gifts that year! I could fill a book on traditions… we get bored and just keep adding on!
Instead of “Elf on the Shelf” we play “Martin on a Carton.” We paste Joe’s face on the side of a milk carton where there’s one of those “Have you Seen This Missing Person” ads. Then we hide the carton in a different spot every day for the kiddies to find, as they run through the house chanting, “Joe, Joe, where did you go?” Finally on Christmas, we open the carton, in which I’ve safely hidden a copy of Joe’s latest cantata, which we then sing merrily around the fireplace.
Outside of that, we do have a tradition of collecting Christmas ornaments from family vacations, or things which represent the hobbies and interests of family members. (There are lots of music-oriented ornaments on our tree!)
For generations, every Shoemake holiday table has included homemade cranberry salad. The kids refer to it as “the pink stuff.” We use my great grandmother’s antique meat grinder to grind the cranberries (it’s been used for nothing but “the pink stuff” for decades). One (supervised) child gets to drop the cranberries into the grinder while another turns the crank. Who would have thought that an old meat grinder could be a family tradition?
For the past 30 or so years, we have tried to find a different perspective on some aspect of the Christmas story each year. I have then interpreted that perspective with a simple song to include with our Christmas card to share with family and friends. It is fun to hear back about the impact of these songs. Some play and sing the song individually just for pleasure or meditation, and then write to tell about it. Others sometimes call and sing the song over the phone. Still others share the song with a children’s choir director and incorporate it into a service. This tradition has given us a fresh point of view for each Christmas season, one which we can share with others, and one which has challenged us to grow in our realization and appreciation of the depth and breadth of the meaning of Christmas.
When our children were preschool and grade school age, there was a group of us who sang together. We sang for the community Christmas doings in the downtown area. Living in a Swedish community, we went to church on Christmas Day at 6 a.m. in the morning. Julotta was a Swedish tradition. Our group, with children still in their pajamas, sang a couple of carols at the service (well-rehearsed and in parts of course), and then went home to find the presents that Santa had left for us. Walking into the church, the brass choir was heard playing from the bell tower. Sometimes, snow was falling, so it was like living a Currier and Ives Christmas card moment.
On Christmas Eve, we do a white elephant gift exchange where we roll dice, and steal gifts from others if we rolled doubles. This can get pretty crazy. Some people buy things for the exchange, and others find items in their homes to wrap and bring.
On Christmas Day, instead of exchanging gifts, we collect money from cousins, aunts, and uncles and vote on who we might know that is in need and could use a sweet surprise from our family to theirs! My aunt then sends out a check with a card to whomever we voted on! This has been very touching indeed.
We don’t have many endearing traditions per se, but we do like to play pranks on each other. I have a wool Michigan State hat topped by a puffball that I don’t wear often, except to shovel the snow. One year my brothers stole it from me without my knowing and gave it to me as a present the next Christmas. At first I had forgotten I had it at all, and thought it was a great gift. Ever since then it has been surreptitiously stolen and re-gifted to me each year, every time in a different package or container so that I don’t know what it is until I open it!
We have this silver ball that plugs into the wall and chirps like a bird. First it does a long swoop, then it chirps with increased frequency and intensity for another five seconds or so before repeating. It must be over 50 years old by now, but it still works. It has become a game to plug it in and see who will be the first to reach their tolerance limit and demand that it be unplugged.
My parents have a weather station display device. I will often secretly change the city so that the forecast is slightly different, but not too much. This year at Thanksgiving, people were excited to see that it was going to be 75 degrees on Saturday! But alas, soon they discovered I had changed the city from Cincinnati to Dallas.
Most unique family tradition: giving stockings filled with treats!
Family holiday tradition: We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we pretty much only went out to eat once a year, on Christmas Eve. After Christmas Eve dinner, we put on our ice-skates (we lived in Northern MN and were all pretty adept skaters), and skated around one of the many ponds in our city. I remember skipping this tradition one year when the wind-chill was down to about 0 degrees Fahrenheit: not cold by MN standards, but a little chilly to be whipping around a pond on skates!
Tamales on Christmas Eve. Tamales have become a part of the traditional Mexican celebration of Las Posadas, the annual commemoration of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before Jesus’ birth.
Ringing the jingle bells. When my children were small, we told them that when they heard the ringing of jingle bells it meant Santa had arrived, and they must hurry to bed! I would run around outside the house ringing the bells, and they would rush to their beds. They never noticed that their Dad was never in the house when this happened!!