Christmas movies every movie night (movie nights being Fridays, Saturdays, and any vacation days we get off work). We take turns choosing which movie to watch each night: Dad would choose one night, Mom the next, me after that, then finally my brother Charles. Movies we see almost every year include Ernest Saves Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, and one or more renditions of A Christmas Carol (Scrooge is a favorite). No Christmas movies allowed after Christmas.
Any day in December
Christmas potluck with extended family on my dad’s side. This doesn’t happen every year because nobody wants to go to the trouble of organizing and hosting the party. Adults and children bring gifts. Children’s gifts are for specific other children (decided randomly some time before the party, to allow for shopping time). Adults’ gifts are generic, to be piled in the center of the room for a white elephant gift exchange. Our white elephant gift exchanges involve playing a game – decided upon by the party’s host – where the winner gets to either open an unopened gift from the pile or steal an already-opened gift from any previous winner, in which case that person must choose a new gift from the pile. The game repeats until everybody has won. Nobody is allowed to win more than once.
Mom bakes various types of cookies. Peppermint puffs (recipe coming soon!) are an old family favorite.
Charles and I each open one gift, chosen by our parents. Due to the extensive re-use of wrapping paper, we both often had two or three gifts with “winter solstice” written on them. It was therefore a bit of a crapshoot whether we would get the one gift that was actually meant to be our WS gift. We’ve stopped doing this now that Charles and I are grown up; it was really just a way to keep us kids pacified until Christmas.
Dinner is simple: nachos and cheese. Later, before going to bed, we would all gather near the tree and read A Visit From St. Nicholas The Night Before Christmas and other Christmas stories. When Charles and I were little kids, we would leave a plate of cookies out for Santa. (Interesting side note: I don’t remember when I stopped believing in Santa, or whether I ever did believe. What I do know is how my parents found out that I didn’t believe: One year I decided to sleep by the tree, and they caught me eating the cookies in the middle of the night!)
As kids, I remember Charles and I wanted to open our presents as early as we were allowed, which meant that our parents had to decide on a time. We weren’t even allowed downstairs before this time (the tree and presents being downstairs and both of our bedrooms being upstairs) unless we had slept by the tree, which I sometimes did as a kid to try and catch Santa. Now that we’re all adults, we still agree on a time to shoot for (10:00 this year), and the gift opening starts when we’re all reasonably awake. One person, generally Charles since he’s the youngest and most energetic, puts on a Santa hat and distributes presents one at a time. Each present is opened upon being received. Gifts marked “for the family” are given to Dad since he doesn’t get a lot otherwise (It’s impossible to shop for him! He never lets us know what he wants, instead preferring to just buy it himself).
After all the presents under the tree have been opened, Mom makes a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole for brunch while Charles and I play and Dad watches. The casserole is served buffet-style, each person taking a plate full of it and eating while we do other stuff. Part of that ‘other stuff’ is opening the stocking gifts, which we all do at our own pace whenever we feel like it.
This year I’ve proposed a new tradition: Since we all know each other so well (being family and all), I’ve proposed that we make a list of patterns we’ve noticed: types of gifts (e.g. Mom always gives Charles and me some kind of puzzle) or things that the giver does with the gift (e.g. I like to play with boxes: putting a small gift in a really large box, or putting presents in joke fake-product boxes), then as we’re opening the gifts, try to guess which ones correspond to which pattern.
As we’re searching for eggs, we find the one Christmas gift that Mom hid and forgot about. Okay, so this isn’t really a tradition! It happens just frequently enough that it’s worth including.
Tell us yours!
What kind of holiday traditions does your family follow? They don’t have to be Christmas related. Let us know in the comments!