by Lindsay Rose
When I was tasked with writing an article about holiday traditions, I wanted to make sure I had something new to say. I come from a very large family and have a host of different traditions of my own to share, but this isn’t about me. Instead, I chose to reach out to my (Facebook) community to hear about theirs. I asked this community, comprised of close friends, new friends, former classmates, former coworkers, a few randoms I’m too nice to unfriend, and yes, dozens of family members, to share some of their families’ traditions. “Standard or strange,” I told them, “I want to hear it.” As I expected, people were happy to share.
Perhaps you’re a newlywed looking to start a new tradition. Perhaps your family has experienced a loss this year and a new tradition would help make the holidays a little more cheerful. Maybe you’re always on the lookout for a fun, meaningful or silly tradition to bring to your family. Or perhaps, like many people commented about their traditions, just thinking and reading about traditions gives you the warm fuzzies. Here are some of my favorite holiday traditions that were shared with me.
Many of our holiday traditions begin with decorations. When we decorate. What we use. What we do while we decorate. I know plenty of people do their decorating before Thanksgiving, and while no one fessed up to it when I asked, there are plenty of people who top off their Thanksgiving celebration by putting up the Christmas tree. My good friend Rita buys a new, special ornament each year from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had multiple friends tell me about setting up their Christmas village (a collection of beautifully intricate buildings and settings at Christmastime). For each, it was a tradition that started with their mothers when they were children, and now they have their own villages that they set up with their own children and on and on. Many of us have a favorite Christmas album that we listen to while we decorate. From the cheesy, but classic Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Christmas album Once Upon a Christmas to Frank Sinatra to the lovely combination of classics and quirky new songs found on the Elf soundtrack, music gets everyone in the spirit.
Most of us can’t think about the holidays without thinking about food. Christmas celebrations in husband’s family begin with cheese braids, a sweet breakfast pastry they just love. Taste wise, they’re not my favorite, but I love the tradition and how excited they all get about it. Warm, with all the best-smelling spices, wassail is a tradition for many families. There are tons of varieties out there, but most include some kind of fruit juice combination with spices like allspice, cloves and cinnamon simmered over the stove or in a Crock Pot. Perhaps your family spikes theirs, perhaps you keep it kid-friendly, but either way, it makes the house amazing!
Christmas Eve is full of traditions for just about everyone. Many families allow the kids to open one present on Christmas Eve, and for many, it’s always their Christmas jammies. “What a letdown,” thinks 8-year-old me. A lot of traditions begin for us as children, and somehow, we never seem to grow out of them. Lissa Critz tells me her family watches “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” each year. She said, “Even in the stretch of time when we were teens and adults before having our own little ones, we would always watch it.” A reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” is a tradition for many families, and one that often includes many generations.
Some of my favorite traditions that were shared with me were the ones that were a little out there. One was downright strange. Elizabeth Baggs told me that her mother used to tell them that Santa doesn’t bring presents to children with stinky feet, so before bed on Christmas Eve, they would spray their feet with her mom’s best perfume to ensure a visit from Santa. I like her mom’s (and apparently her grandparents’) sense of humor. What I really like is that Elizabeth didn’t realize the tradition was strange until she was in high school.
Other “out there” traditions weren’t really strange, just foreign. Many try to stick to their roots by preparing food from their family’s homeland. From Mexico to Czechoslovakia to the faraway lands of east Texas, the holidays aren’t complete with tamales, weinerschnitzel, and biscuits and tomato gravy. Jeff Feld married a lovely Venezuelan lady and her family’s (and culture’s) traditions include painting houses and buying new clothes in the weeks before, so everything is new for the celebration. They also prepare traditional Venezuelan food like hallacas and pan de jamón, have gifts delivered by el Niño Jesús (not Santa Claus), shoot fireworks throughout the night, and prepare decorations that center more around the Nativity and less around a Christmas tree. Rusty Long’s family has a 30-year tradition of celebrating Christmas as they do in a different foreign country each year. It started when his grandparents, who used to live in Europe, came home one Christmas with gifts from Scotland, which got his mom and aunt excited about experiencing a Scottish Christmas. Now, they vote on which country they’re going to celebrate next, learn about the country and its traditions, and top it off with a feast that is unique to that country. He says, “It began with mainly European countries, but moved to Latin American, Africa and Asia. This year will be our 30th year and we are just now celebrating Germany.” It sounds like a fun way to keep things interesting each year.
Surprisingly, of the dozens of people who shared their holiday traditions with me, none mentioned shopping. I can’t have that, so I’ll tell you that in my family, no holiday is complete without a trip to either NorthPark Center or The Galleria in Dallas. Aside from wonderful shopping, the decorations are breathtaking. It is a tradition we started when I was a child and one that I share with my own children. Plus, I’m pretty sure North Park Center gets the real Santa to listen to children’s wishes each year. But if braving Dallas traffic doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll find a little taste of the North Pole close to home at Old Town Burleson and many other places around town. December 11 and 12, Old Town Burleson will feature carolers, great discounts from the local merchants, and even a visit from Santa as part of Christmas in Old Town Burleson. Along with the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting, plus Breakfast with Santa, your holidays will feel even merrier.