When I Think About Traditions I Can’t Help But Hear Tevye’s Voice Booming In My Head

Traditions. Traditions. Tra-di-tions!

I never realized how essential they are to me until one is forgotten, or lost, or cancelled. Now, I make it my mission to continue old and create new traditions for our family. We have traditions that we follow throughout the year. For birthdays, for Halloween, for our favorite vacation spots. At Disney, we always start and end with Magic Kingdom. At Hilton Head, as the rest of the family is settling into the condo, I go to Fresh Market and stock up and that evening we take a long walk on the beach after dinner.

But Christmas? That’s when the traditions start the month before. This has to be my all-time-favorite season. I get into the Christmas spirit long before the actual season arrives. For goodness sake, I never put away my Christmas cds. I listen to them all year-long.

Our traditions are many…..

1. We always decorate the house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, get our tree the weekend after and put the finishing touches on Christmas cards the week after that.

2. My mother-in-law has made us two advent calendars. One for me, a beautiful quilted piece where I add a quilted square each day until all 25 squares are completed and Christmas has arrived. One for the boys, little pockets filled with coins, candy and tiny gifts.

3. Honeybaked Ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey on Christmas Day. Only the side dishes vary. The one time I made beef tenderloin the family complained. We’re back to the traditional menu this year.

4. We always open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a pair of pajamas. Although, I always pretend I have no idea what we’re opening and act surprised at my own gift. (I’ve purchased all of them, for everyone, including my in-laws who share Christmas with us every year — another tradition, of sorts.)

5. We all know the reason for the season. Don’t worry about our salvation – we are well aware about the true meaning of Christmas. But Santa Claus is a really big deal in our house. My kids still believe in Santa and more importantly, I still believe in Santa. (A message to little Brandon in #2son’s class at school: I respect YOUR beliefs but if you hint/tell/try to convert my child one more time about the “myth” of Santa Claus I will come to your house, beat down your door and give your entire family a stern talking to. There is nothing wrong with teaching my children about unconditional giving and surprise and wonder.)

6. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we all pile into the car and go enjoy the Christmas lights. A few years ago, my sons asked why they had to put on the pjs but the big people didn’t. We do this because they typically fall asleep in the car and it made it easier to slip them into bed. My mother-in-law said, “Yeah? Why don’t the big people have to put on their pjs?” So a new tradition was born. We ALL get into our jammies, pile into the car and see the Christmas lights now. God help us if the car should ever break down!

7. The kids sleep with us on Christmas Eve and they can’t leave the bedroom until we wake everyone in the house (their sister is 10 years older and the grandparents want to be in on the fun, too!).

8. We open gifts one at a time. One present at a time. Everyone taking turns. Yes, this can last hours. But this is the way our family focuses on the giving rather than the getting.

There you have it. A few of our family traditions. I would love to hear what you do to enjoy this wonderful holiday season.

What are some of your traditions?

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “When I Think About Traditions I Can’t Help But Hear Tevye’s Voice Booming In My Head

  1. I usually cook something complicated for Christmas dinner but this year, I said “fuckit” and ordered the Honeybaked Ham. Honeybaked Inc. *is* Santa Claus.

    We also drive around and look at the Christmas lights–I love that. Everyone also gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve. We also have the infamous “Puck Santa” cookie every year, but that story will have to wait until next week. :)

    • Would this be a good time to ask you how we can make a REAL Gingerbread house…(not from Traders Joe Kit) ? We have the pans (house came with them) and I have an artistic wantabe cook for a kid —Now if only. …..IF ONLY. . .we had a little bit of direction from a Kitchen Witch…..our lives could be merrier….if only. I will even call it a Mr. and Mrs. Fuckit’s gingerbread house, if you want.

      –she swore first…but please censor me as appropriate.

  2. We do the same “one-at-a-time” gift opening. Our daughter-in-law was totally amazed. At her house, everyone piles his/her presents in front of them and goes at it. It’s all over in a few minutes. She likes our process much better.

  3. I love the idea of being in your pj’s to drive around to see Christmas lights… may have to do that this year!

  4. Hi Jane:

    I love your message to Brandon! My youngest just stopped believing in Santa last year (she’s 12!). I kept the myth alive as long as I could!

    I’d like to try your “one gift at a time” approach, although it would take a long time with our gang!

    Wendy

  5. Traditions are wonderful…..a constant in an ever-changing world:) We may adopt some of yours:)!!

  6. ck

    Brandon – and his DC counter-part – are GOING DOWN. You and me Jane – we’re taking them out.

    And also? We’re adopting your #8. Great idea!

  7. We have many of the same traditions… especially opening one gift at a time. In our family, the gifts we exchanged on Christmas Eve (not pjs) were symbolic of the gifts that the Wise Men brought to Baby Jesus. the gifts on Christmas morning came from Santa. It’s very easy for children to grasp that idea. So stick it, Brandon!

  8. We also observed rule #8 in my house growing up. I remember the first time I opened Christmas gifts with an ex-boyfriend’s family. It was a total free-for-all and I was shocked: I didn’t realize that everyone didn’t follow my family’s rules. :)

    This is the first year we’ll be celebrating Christmas at our house and without any family. I’ll let you know what traditions we end up adopting.

  9. I always issued a stern lecture at the beginning of the season–Be reasonable, moderate, Santa does not have to bring so many gifts..and as soon as the words are out of mouth-I race merrily from store to store to store buying and wrapping and making–which costs as much a buying. Santa is a very big deal in our house. We exchange PJ’s on Christmas eve and enjoy honeybaked ham. I tell the story about how all the animals can talk at midnight.
    This year is harder than last without Joe–we were numb and my parents came to visit last year–but its our traditions that keep us strong. Traditions help us belong, and connect, they reassure us. I think this is what Tevye’s was singing about-TRADITIONS!
    Cheers!

  10. I’m a fan of doing most everything during the cold, cold holiday season in your jammies. Including making my mom’s delicious fudge. And then eating it. All. Yum!

  11. Christmas light PJing is the way to go. I will be fighting for the one-present opening this year.

  12. unabridgedgirl

    We also decorate the day after Thanksgiving.

    And we also open the traditional “pj” gift on Christmas Eve – plus the present from the person that drew our name out of a hat. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. I love being with my family.

    And we aren’t the typical nice dinner on Christmas Eve, either. The family usually eats homemade pizza with plenty of chip dips and egg nog and what not.

    And there is plenty of caroling to go around.

    Fun post!

  13. Our traditions changed pretty dramatically when everything else in life changed dramatically. And as the kids have gotten older, the traditions are fewer. It’s more the touches of the feeling of holidays, having them both here with their friends always welcome – and of course – lots of good things to eat and a house filled with wondrous aromas.

    Still, there’s either a ham or a turkey, and a few little surprises under a tree. And our share of latkes, too – whenever we please!

  14. I too like #8. I’ll give it a go this year.

    Just so’s you know, I too love Santa, even though I tried to raise my son without the myth. “Tried” because it couldn’t be done. Oh well.

  15. Your traditions sound a lot like ours. But even though there are no little ones in the house anymore, Army Wife is adopting the Christmas Eve PJ present with her family now. Ornaments are given by the grandparents every year is another one we do. I usually try and make fettuccine on Christmas Eve. As for the rest of your list….
    #5. I’ll come with you to Brandon’s house as back up.
    #6. You live in the south so you can do this. We’d freeze to death.
    #8. One side of the family does it this way, the other subscribes to mass chaos.

    Whatever the tradition, the best one is just being together.

  16. So many of your traditions are what we did in my family growing up. My husband and I are still making our family traditions. This will be our first year staying home for Christmas and we are hoping to make some long-lasting memories and maybe even some traditions.

  17. These sound wonderful! My favorite is the lights at the zoo!!

  18. Growing up as a Hindu who celebrated Christmas we had a few memorable traditions. We would always drive around to a small street where the houses were completely decked out in Christmas lights. My father would order fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery in Texas and we would have fruitcake and Indian chai while listening to Indian music. And we would open a few presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

  19. Those are a lot of traditions! And I’m impressed that you cook twice!

  20. Growing up, we slept in the same room with my parents (to keep us out of the living room until we all got up). Luckily my husband also subscribes to the one gift at a time school and we continue it. And, being even further south, we walk the neighborhood Christmas eve, taking in the lights and the sometimes cool. Where I grew up, people decorated with luminarias on that night and it was beautiful.
    Traditions are so important. Sadly I’m the only one who really cares here. Except for lights and a tree. I’ve got time, I’ll get my girls on board.

  21. We always did the Open one gift on Christmas Eve and it’s going to be PJ’s, too. It improved the Christmas morning photos! We also open one-at-a-time.

    I’d love to see the quilt Advent calendar. Post a picture sometime!

    We used to have a big Christmas Day breakfast, but cookies and sausage balls do the trick, too.

  22. I love your traditions, especially the Santa one. I still believe in “him” too! =)

  23. Traditions are so important. I love the Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. I think we may just have to copy that one.
    P.S. Sean loves the header picture on your blog.

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