Christmas Traditions

It’s funny how important traditions and a sense of wonder can be. Every year, I spend some time around Christmas going back to L.A. to be with my family. It’s one of my favorite things to do, despite the parental drama it can come with, because spending time with my family (and now my sister-in-law, nieces and nephew) is absolutely soul-lifting. Even spending time with my crazy parents can be fun.

I don’t remember much about Christmas at my house growing up – in large part because, as we’ve established earlier, I have a sieve-like memory. But I’m also the youngest of four kids (by six years), and my parents split when I was eight (I think. I always thought I was six, but in a recent conversation with my sister, it turns out I must’ve been 7 or 8 since she was already in college when it happened.) We aren’t religious, so we didn’t do the whole church thing, and my parents are immigrant Chinese (funny to think that – they’ve been here almost 50 years now!), so the whole Christmas thing wasn’t the ingrained cultural thing that it has become for many, if not most, Americans. I remember stockings, singing Christmas carols and the (occasional?) Christmas tree, but I don’t really have the major traditions that stick in my mind the way so many other people do. Just to be clear, I don’t feel I was deprived of anything – It’s just I don’t have these major traditions that others have that I feel compelled to repeat over and over again. The same is true of Thanksgiving, actually. We spent most Thanksgivings at the table of our friends, not our own place, so I have no “we must….” dishes.

Anyway, my point is that the holidays are awesome as a time to get together with family, but I’ve never thought much about the traditions that surround it – the tree, the magic, the food, the order of events, Christmas Eve, etc. And so I’ve always thought that the trappings of Christmas didn’t much matter to me.

Since K was born, however, I’ve learned just how wrong I was.

Two years ago was K’s first Christmas, and we arranged to go to LA the week before Christmas, arriving home on the 24th.

A pate and prosciutto Christmas lunch

As a result, we didn’t buy a tree or decorate the condo. We bought and wrapped our gifts to give to everyone else (and K), but planned to spend the day at others’ houses.

And I realized that while I don’t feel like I had a deprived childhood, I wanted K’s Christmas to be deeply rooted in tradition and wonder. I want her to feel anticipation as Christmas gets closer. Experience the joy of finding the perfect Christmas tree. I want her to know that Santa Claus comes every Christmas Eve and that every December we read Twas the Night Before Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That her daddy will be making shortbread from her great-granma’s recipe, and that Christmas brings with it a roast, pate and prosciutto.

And when she grows up, I want her to be able to describe what her Christmas was like and to have created traditions that she passes on to her family some day.

So while we’re still in the midst of creating her traditions, tell me – what are your favorite ones?

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5 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions

  1. Pingback: And a Gung Hay Fat Choy to you too « Practical Whimsy

  2. Every Christmas season my family bakes cookie cutter cookies. Afterward we frost and decorate them. We divide up the store-bought white frosting into as many bowls as we can and then each bowl of frosting is colored with food coloring. We always have red and green, but usually have blue, yellow and purple too, even brown if something goes wrong or if someone wants to correctly frost the trunks on the Christmas tree cookies. Then we frost the cookies and decorate with sugar crystals, red hots, those little silver balls and whatever else we can find. My second Christmas in Vermont, I decided that I wanted to do it there. I told them they didn’t have to do it, but I was going to. Everyone joined in, including Virgil’s Grandma and his dad, his brother and his brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife. We had a pretty good time and I’ve never seen anyone get so much frosting on their hands as Virgil’s Grandma did. So much that we wondered if she was doing it on purpose so she could lick her fingers. It’s one of my favorite memories of her.

    My mom also has a cookie press that came from her grandmother. We always make the cookie press cookies too, because making them is fun. For those who don’t know, a cookie press is like a play-do fun factory or an extruder. We make the dough and divide it up into bowls and color it with food coloring. We make the same colors as with the frosting. The shapes that are made usually are stars, trees, and other Christmassy things. The press can’t press out all of the dough so you are always left with a little bit of each color. At the end, we mix them all together and make cookies that are made of different colors of dough swirled in each cookie. They look a bit tie-died, but my cousin really enjoyed the year we made what she called “psychedelic camels”. The funniest part of this tradition is that the cookies taste just awful. They’re dry and not good at all, but we make them every year with he same recipe.

  3. Our new traditions with Dylan: reading the Night before Christmas, picking out a christmas tree, christmas eve sing a long, visiting Christmas City in Lexington to see Santa, Elmo, enjoy carolers, and have hot chocolate.
    My childhood tradition: roasting chestnuts on the fire, disney movies (mary poppins or bednobs and broomsticks or swiss family robinson), and a good dinner.

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