Friday 13 December 2019


My Family's Christmas Traditions

An assortment of Christmas presents wrapped in red, gold and white wrapping paper, some with ribbon in the same colours.

Photo by on Unsplash.

My Family's Christmas Traditions

Christmas is only a couple of weeks away now, and if you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know I'm starting to get pretty excited! Christmas has always been something special to me, and that's probably down to my family's Christmas traditions.

When I was younger, my mum always wanted to make Christmas, and in particular, Christmas Eve, special for me and my brother - full of excitement and fun - because some of her memories of Christmas from when she was younger are marred by arguments between her parents and a tense atmosphere. She wanted to create good, happy memories for us, and so the first of our Christmas traditions began.

As a child, every Christmas Eve was full of anticipation. Not just because Father Christmas would be visiting that night, but because Christmas Eve was an event in itself. My parents would take my brother and I to the cinema to see a Christmas movie. I've seen most of the major Christmas movies of the 90s; Miracle on 34th Street (my favourite!), The Santa Clause, Jingle All the Way, The Muppet's Christmas Carol, and many others. Those movies would always further increase my excitement of the big day and of a visit from Father Christmas, and I would leave the the cinema practically buzzing.

The cinema trip would be followed by a drive around the streets of West End, to see the Christmas lights. This was always a highlight, being filled with wonder as we would turn a corner and see another set of lights. My dad used to be a courier, and would have to deliver a lot of parcels around the West End, so he knew all the streets and roads that put up brilliant lights, meaning we didn't have to go searching for them. Not only was it the lights hanging across the roads, but even some shops would put up wonderful displays in their windows - not of things they were selling, just something Christmassy and beautiful to look at. There was one particular company - not on any of the main streets of West End, but still in that area - who pulled out all the stops. On a normal day, it was just a huge building with lots of windows. Come Christmas, the whole front face was covered in lights, creating a pattern to make the building look like a massive wrapped Christmas present, or something else Christmassy. My dad had to deliver to this building a lot, so he was told it was actually the guy who owned the company who forked out each year to create such an epic scene across the building. It was always the one I would most look forward to seeing.

We stopped going to see the lights when they became much more commercial; huge adverts across the roads in lights for this shop or that, and it kind of ruined the whole thing. My brother and my dad stopped being all that fussed about the Christmas movie a long time ago, but it's something I've always tried to do - and because it's an important tradition to me, and she doesn't mind Christmas movies, Mum generally comes along. Since starting work, it's hardly ever fallen on Christmas Eve, but we try to watch something as close to Christmas Eve as we can. It's also become harder because they don't really make Christmas movies for children any more - or adults, really. I started to get hopeful that Christmas movies were making a comeback when Arthur Christmas came out (which was awesome!), but there wasn't anything great for a few years until Get Santa. This Christmas, their is only Last Christmas, but as it came out in the middle of November, we saw it early in case it was no longer running closer to Christmas. But there is Klaus on Netflix this year, so I think we'll be watching that this year!

Other Christmas traditions fall on Christmas day. There is no opening of presents on Christmas morning - they aren't opened until after dinner. This used to really bug me as a child, because it would seem to take forever for dinner to be ready and eaten and then cleared up, but as an adult, this is something I really appreciate. There is something to be said for taking your time to open presents and enjoy watching other people open theirs. When the dinner still needs cooking, you don't really have the time to fully enjoy watching children open their presents, seeing them so excited, or enjoy the gifts you receive, as you have to put them down shortly after and rush back to the kitchen. By opening presents after dinner, everyone can relax and enjoy the whole experience, as everything that needs doing has been done. Instead, the morning, when I was younger, was spent with the children being kept quiet by their presents from Father Christmas; my brother and I would actually bring our stockings (or, rather, our pillow cases) into Mum & Dad's room first thing, sit on the bed with them, and show them what Father Christmas brought us, they being just as wowed by our gifts as we were - as an adult, those memories really make me smile. Now, the morning is for helping get dinner ready, setting the table, and getting ourselves ready - or in this case, just me.

One of the presents my brother and I got from our parents as children was a new outfit, because Mum and her sister used to get the same. This was the one present we were allowed to open before dinner. They were normally fairly dressy clothes, smart and pretty, and so for me, a part of Christmas is getting dressed up. Every year, I try to find myself a new outfit - normally a dress - to wear Christmas day, and I'll get done up to the nines; make-up, hair, jewellery, clothes. Christmas, to me, is like any other major celebration, and when I celebrate, I get dressed up. This isn't something that generally follows through to the rest of my family (though Mum will on occasion), so sometimes I stick out like a sore thumb, but I have never not dressed up for Christmas, so it would feel weird not to. And for me, it's an acknowledgement that Christmas Day is different to every other day - it's kind of like a respect thing; I'm giving Christmas Day the respect it deserves by looking nice for it. And every year - even before I've got dressed - I'll be wearing my sequined silver Father Christmas hat all day! I got it probably over ten years ago in my stocking, and I've been wearing it every Christmas since. When the crackers are pulled and I get a paper hat, that goes on over the Father Christmas hat, sitting just above the faux fur trim.

Another tradition is that my dad and brother used to go and visit my grandma. She used to live just outside Clacton, so it was a two hour drive each way to say Merry Christmas and give her some presents, just so she wasn't alone on Christmas. Having vascular dementia, she didn't really know it was Christmas, but that's not really the point. Then Grandma had to go into a Home due to her dementia getting so bad, and we would all go and visit her in her Home instead. Sadly, she died last year, so last Christmas was a little weird for us all, but we still made it special.

We've had a few Christmases alone since my nan, so my mum and I would join my dad and brother visiting Grandma on those occassions, but before Nan dies, while they were away, I'd help Mum and whoever else was visiting us with the dinner. Normally there isn't a huge amount for me to do, because a lot of food (read: the meat) was cooking overnight. So I set the table. It might not sound like much, but this is something I really enjoy. We simply don't sit together as a family and have dinner at any other time of the year, instead we sit in the front room - or in my brother's case, his bedroom - with trays on our laps, Mum and I watching TV, Dad with his earphones on watching something on his computer. We don't get together as a family all that often, even if we're all in the same house, so I love getting the table ready for our meal together. Table cloth, place mats, coasters, wine glasses, cutlery, crackers, and I'll even try and do something fancy with the kitchen roll. I like to make it look pretty.

You'll have noticed I've not mention Christmas Day TV. That is because, in our house, there is no TV on Christmas day, or computers, or phones (or at least, there weren't, but I'll come to this in a second). We're allowed to send a few quick texts in the morning to wish people Merry Christmas, and there will be some phone calls later in the day to talk to other family members we aren't spending Christmas with, but otherwise, Christmas Day would be a screen-free day, and that's just how I like it. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are days we would spend together as a family, away from the technology that rules our life every other day. Our evenings were spent playing game after game - board games, Charades, some card games, having a fun and laughter filled time together. Boxing Day would be a repeat of Christmas day, just without the presents. However, since Nan's death, we've had Christmases alone, because Christmas was slightly harder for the individual families. And because we were alone, and my brother and I are now adults, my dad is of the opinion we don't need entertaining any more, and would be in front of his computer as normal, and my brother would follow suit, alone in his room. So mainly, this tradition was kept up by Mum and I, who would play whatever 2-player games we had. Last year, though, what with no-one visiting Grandma, and hings being a bit sad and weird, my dad and brother did decide to join in, and we have family visiting this year, so there will be more board game playing.

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So those are my family Christmas traditions! Do you have any family traditions? I would absolutely love to hear them!

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