Family Christmas traditions create memories that seem to last the longest for most of us. We care about them because they define our culture and give us a sense of belonging. Christmas is a magical time of year filled with traditions like no other holiday!
Although many traditions are common to the entire Christian world, each and every family has its own selection of customs that gives them a sense of bonding and family identity. Here are some of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions.
- Our Family’s Christmas Traditions
Our Family’s Christmas Traditions
I love everything about Christmas: the lights, the decorations, the parties, the music in the stores. From mid November until after New Year’s Day it is one big shuffle. But no matter how hectic this time is, I’m still looking forward to fall under the Christmas spell each year and enjoy our family Christmas traditions. Some of these we grew up with. Others we acquired after we moved to California, but they became our own and we love them just as much.
Decorating the Christmas Tree
For us, decorating the tree is at the top of our Christmas bucket list because it’s a ritual meant to bring the family together. All family members participate in picking up the tree and decorating it.
Christmas ornaments have their own stories that are being remembered as they get hanged on the tree. Some have been purchased in far away places and bring back good old memories. Others have been hand-made by the kids when they were small. Those are the most precious ones.
Singing Christmas Carols
Caroling has always been our favorite family Christmas tradition. Ever since we were children, friends and family used to gather around the tree in the days preceding Christmas and singing carols. Sometimes friends would just drop by unexpectedly and began singing in front of our door, instead of ringing the door bell. It was so much fun!
We still love to sing carols, but since we moved to California we also have another beloved tradition: attend the Messiah Sing-Along every year, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. With an orchestra and soloists on stage, the Music Director Grant Gershon conducts an audience of 2200 people in this joyful sing-along. You just bring your own score or buy one in the lobby and join the chorus. I think everyone should experience Messiah Sing-Along at least once in their lifetime. Hearing the Hallelujah Chorus sung by over 2000 people (who sound like professionals) is quite an uplifting experience!
One of our most beloved family Christmas traditions is picking up mistletoe. It makes a great outing for the family. We usually choose a sunny, warm day (not hard to find in California!) and head for the San Gabriel Mountains, right in our own backyard.
Kissing under sprigs of mistletoe is a well-known holiday tradition, dating back hundreds of years. The custom originated in England and it is practiced by a number of countries all over the world.
Hanging the Christmas Lights
Decorating the house for Christmas is always a big deal in our family. We start by pulling the lights out of storage and checking them. Then the job gets divided: I take care of the lower parts of the house, while my husbands climbs up on the roof (a dangerous enterprise that he won’t be able to do much longer).
It’s a lot of work, but the result is awesome. We love coming home in the evening and seeing our house dressed up in glittery lights!
Sending Christmas Cards to Our Friends and Family
In this age of cyber-communication, sending out greeting cards may sound a little obsolete. Yet, an email or an e-card can’t replace the warming effect of an old fashioned greeting card. We love the personal touch of a handwritten Christmas Card, with a red or green envelope and a real stamp. So, in the spirit of this old family Christmas tradition, we still send out greeting cards in December to all our friends and family.
Interestingly enough, exchanging holiday greetings via mail is a relatively recent tradition. The first formal card was designed in the 19th century by an Englishman named J.C. Horsley.
Attending the Christmas Parade in Our Town
California may not have a wintery atmosphere, but it’s not short of Christmas parades. Every year at the beginning of December, Santa Claus parades down the Main Street of every town, big or small in the state.
We love joining the crowd for this fun event, while sipping some hot cider. People in the neighborhood line up the street, snuggling to warm each other up. Some bring chairs and blankets, others just stroll up and down the street enjoying some window shopping.
Watching a Christmas Movie
The movie-night family Christmas tradition is something we wait for the entire year. For us watching Christmas–themed movies is just as much a part of Christmas as decorating the tree. Snuggling around the television in our PJs warms our hearts and puts us in the holiday spirit.
Some of these movies are classics that we can’t seem to stop watching. Like Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or Home Alone.
Christmas Eve Dining
Every family celebrates Christmas differently. Some have a big Christmas Eve dinner, others do a brunch with family on Christmas Day, and some just order food from a nearby restaurant. My food-obsessed family falls into the first category, celebrating Christmas with a rich, decadent dinner, filled with a four-five courses meal and deserts. After that we hang around the tree and open the presents.
Surf and Ski in the Same Day
One of our Christmas traditions is skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon on Christmas Day. There are not many places in the world where you can play in the snow and lie on beach during the same day, but in Los Angeles that’s entirely possible. The closest beach to downtown Los Angeles is Malibu, an easy 40 minutes drive. December is usually pretty warm in Southern California, so having temperatures in the high 70ºs (F) is not unusual.
But while days are warm, nights are cold up in the mountains in December, so the ski resorts open sometimes as early as Thanksgiving. The closest ski slope from Downtown L.A. is Mount Baldy, an easy 55 minute drive (46.9 mi) via CA-60 E. So every year on Christmas Day we make it a point to see both the snow and the sunny beach in the same day.
Call Our Loved Ones From Overseas
Since many of our friends and family live in other parts of the world, we make it a point to call each one of them on Christmas Day and wish them Merry Christmas. It a great time to catch up with those we love and miss.
All these family Christmas traditions make the season really great and are one the reasons we don’t like to be far away from home at this time of year. No matter how beautiful December may be in other parts of the world, there’s no Christmas like a home Christmas!
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