Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas traditions

Mel was asking about our Christmas traditions. Here are some of my family's. They have evolved a bit over the years.

Christmas Eve is probably the bigger of the two days for my family.  We used to get all dressed up when I was a kid -- dresses for the girls & women, suits for the men. THAT has definitely gone by the wayside!!  although I still wear a dressy sweater or top and put on makeup etc. (My sister's boyfriend wears shorts & a T-shirt, which I think is taking informality a bit TOO far....)

When my mother was a kid, Christmas Eve dinner was lutefisk, as per her mother's Swedish family traditions. The lutefisk had been replaced by ham when I was kid (thank goodness!!), but in recent memory, we've been eating pan-fried pickerel fillets. This year, however, there was absolutely no pickerel to be had -- my dad's regular supplier had none (the lake wasn't frozen over yet) & they wanted a ridiculous $20/pound at the fish market in the city. So it was back to ham, lol.  Christmas Day dinner is always, always, always turkey with mashed potatos & gravy and my mother's wonderful homemade stuffing (made with seasoned bread cubes, apples, celery, onions and raisins). As a nod to my Dad's Ukrainian family (& because we all love it), we always have perogies as part of our Christmas Eve & cabbage rolls/holubtsi on Christmas Day. There are various veggies & salads that have become part of the traditional menu, and it's my job to put together a goodie/sweet tray to nibble on after dinner while we're opening presents. Usually that includes butter tarts, two kinds of shortbread cookies (all homemade) & Nanaimo bars (which we have made in the past, but now buy at the store).

For awhile, and as a break from turkey leftovers, dh & I would make lasagna for everyone for dinner on Boxing Day, but my tomato allergies put an end to that.  So in recent years, we've often had ham or ribs instead. Or leftovers. ;)

We open our family presents on Christmas Eve after dinner.  When we were kids, we were allowed (after MUCH begging) to open ONE present before dinner. The rest had to wait until the dishes were done (great incentive to get us to pitch in and help!! lol -- and no dishwashers back in those days...).  We take turns opening gifts, one by one, starting from youngest to oldest. (You open one gift, then the next person opens one of theirs, & round we go until everyone has opened all their gifts. Makes Christmas last longer.) 

Before we go to bed, everyone has to pose for a photo in front of the tree with their stockings (and we ALL have stockings -- my sister & I take turns filling mom's & dad's) before we "hang" then up. (When we were kids, my sister & I would be photographed together -- these days, we do it with our respective partners.) Aside from my parents' tiny newlywed apartment, we have never lived in a place with a fireplace, so we don't actually hang them up -- we just put them under & around the tree. My sister & I have and still use our similar felt stockings (mine is green, hers is red) that were handmade by one of my Grandma's neighbours when we were babies. Stockings get opened the same way as the Christmas Eve presents, youngest to oldest. We generally wait until PND & family come over to open them. And my mother insists we have to wait until AFTER the turkey goes into the oven.

Growing up, we would always go to church either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I found church too difficult after we lost Katie ("Away in a Manger" would just about kill me...), so my attendance since then has been sporadic. I don't think any of us, even my mother, has attended church on Christmas Eve or Day in recent years, particularly since the Little Princesses came along. If church was in the early evening on Christmas Eve, we'd have to rush supper to get there on time (if you didn't go to church, you had to do cleanup) & then wait until everyone came back to open presents -- or if there was a midnight service, we'd have to make sure we were done opening gifts well in advance, and then it would get to be really late. Likewise, attending church on Christmas morning meant getting up extra early to get the turkey ready & into the oven. Just too much going on and too much to do.

After dinner on Christmas Day &/or Boxing Day, there is usually a card game.

Dh & I have travelled to spend Christmas with my family every year since we were married -- but we have developed a few traditions of our own:
  • We have our own (artificial) tree (now pre-lit), with a large & still growing collection of ornaments, many of them Katie-related
  • I have a felt advent calendar that I picked up years ago. there's a green tree on a red background with gold grommets on it. The 24 pockets below the tree contain little felt "ornaments" -- a teddy bear, a Santa, a sleigh, a candle...  I add a new ornament to the tree every day until we leave, and then I add all the remaining ones on the morning before we go. 
  • We often take a drive around the neighbourhood at least once to look at the light displays. 
  • Oldest Nephew has a mid-December birthday, and we haven't missed one yet. That has become our defacto Christmas celebration/get-together with dh's family.
  • I still send out Christmas cards, and collect the ones I get in a basket that's been spray-painted gold. Photo cards go up on the refrigerator with magnets. 
  • Since my best friend at work retired in 2006 (!), she, I & our boss have made it a tradition to meet for a pre-Christmas lunch, usually at a British-style pub close to the office. All three of us are retired now, and live anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours-plus from downtown Toronto, but we haven't missed a Christmas lunch yet. 
  • Being both part Ukrainian and Swedish, I feel entitled to leave my tree and other decorations up until after Ukrainian Christmas (Jan. 6-7), if not until St. Knut's Day (Jan. 13), which supposedly is the day Swedes traditionally take down their trees and eat up the leftover Christmas cookies and other goodies. ;)  I usually don't make it that far, although I almost always do keep the tree up until after New Year's. 
More Christmas-related posts from over the years here


  1. So much fun. Okay, so question: if you open the presents Christmas Eve, how did Santa work into the story when you were younger? Did Santa not bring presents?

    We were in Montreal for Boxing Day, and we were so surprised that things were closed since in the US, things are open on the 26th. Is Boxing Day just as big as Christmas Day in Canada?

    1. Christmas Eve presents are from family. Christmas Day stockings and presents are from Santa. You can do both! ;)

      Boxing Day is a statutory holiday here as well as Christmas, and so most stores & businesses are closed that day. However, shopping laws have probably loosened considerably since you were in Montreal, and many malls are now open that day. It's generally considered the Canadian equivalent of U.S. Black Friday -- big discounts -- although we're getting our own Black Friday sales here now (to encourage people to stay home & not go to the States in search of pre-Christmas bargains). Shopping deals aside, Boxing Day (at least in my family) is pretty much just a quiet day to veg out & play cards or board games and eat up the leftovers, after all the hoopla of Christmas. Nothing really significant or special about it.