Christmas Traditions


I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old, familiar carols play. 
And wild and sweet the words repeat of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men!”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We all have traditions that we follow blithely and sometimes blindly, each Christmas.

In our family growing up we always opened gifts on Christmas Eve.  I have no idea why or when the tradition started, I only know that it was so.

Christmas Day always started with a visit to church by the three girls, followed by a visit with Father to his family.  I don’t remember there being much in the way of exchanging gifts.  We grew up during. and after World War 2, so there was little to be had in the way of presents. I think we each got an orange or maybe a mandarin, both of which were only available at Christmas having been imported from warmer climes.

Mother didn’t accompany us on the visits; she was always busily cooking Christmas lunch. This was always goose and Father’s job was to go to the market on Christmas Eve to purchase one. Remember there was not a lot of money and so the fowls were cheaper as the day wore on.

There is a funny memory of the time we were visiting from New Zealand for Christmas.  Father and my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) took off to buy said goose.  They arrived home several hours later, having had a good time and found they had forgotten the goose.  So, they had to traipse back to all the pubs they had visited to find the bird.  Mother didn’t think it funny and of course, I had to support her, but really, I thought (and still think) it was hilarious.

These things continued until one by one we left home and then other traditions were started when we three girls came home with our husbands and our own children, to visit.

When I married my DYS we started our own traditions.  The Christmas tree was always a family effort with very young children delighting in ‘helping’ and getting in the way. I remember the first Christmas we were here in New Zealand, my small daughter asking in her high pitched Scottish voice why we were decorating the tree when the sun was shining. And when would it snow.  Just another change to be accepted when moving from the northern hemisphere to the southern.

The dressing of the tree as a family carried on for many years until the children, now fully grown, moved on to new lives out of this town and/or the country.

 Strangely, while everybody loved decorating the tree, the undressing and packing away always fell to me; they were all busy doing other things at that time.

Another tradition we had was calling my parents on Christmas Day.  Fifty plus years ago, telephone calls had to be booked, no Skype or Facetime then. The children knew they had to be home early enough on Christmas Eve to be in available to talk to grandparents in the morning without being too hungover.

We always started the day with the phone call.  Then we would all sit around, still in our night clothes drinking coffee (or in earlier days the children would have a soft drink) and shared our gifts.

Of course, when other people are introduced into the family, some traditions change or are slightly altered.  Our daughter-in-law introduced the first such change.  To have with coffee she served croissants hot from the oven with bacon. A change much appreciated by all and still carried on 30 Christmases later.

So still thinking about traditions old and new, I read two posts over the weekend from bloggers I follow.

The first was from Cat at She lives in Switzerland and wrote Love in Action at Christmas. She tells of something just starting in a small town on the Rhine.

Apparently, a small group of businessmen got together and on December 1st they installed a Christmas tree. Under the tree they put a ‘wish box’ where people could write a note to Santa telling of their wish for Christmas.  In one week, all 412 wishes in the box had been granted by caring people in the community. 

in Cat’s words ” In addition, many other would-be “secret Santas” were clamouring for the opportunity to do something to help people less fortunate than themselves, and so an appeal was made in a local newspaper for more institutions and organisations to send in their wishes.”

Goodwill to Men – Longfellow would have been delighted.

And the second blog. This one was from Diana on  Diana and her family live in Cley a small village in Norfolk, England.  Diana’s post was entitled Cley Advent Windows 2021. For the second year, the people of the village have decorated their windows to form an Advent Calendar. This year there are 45 windows that are lit presumably from behind, when it gets dark. Diana says ” As with every Advent calendar, the display of decorated windows begins on the first of December and a few new ones are added every day until Christmas Eve. They are lit from 16h to 20h. We are always very excited about what new things we get to see every evening.”

A very new ‘tradition’ that will no doubt continue for many years to come.

So once again, Longfellow would be happy with this Goodwill to men.

And he no longer would cry –

“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men!” 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So what traditions do you have in your family? I would love to hear from you.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale, American author, 1898-1993

JB December 20,2021

7 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions”

  1. When I was growing up, we always opened gifts on Christmas morning, followed by going to church in our best new outfits, followed by breakfast, then time to play, read and try out our new things until dinner. After clean-up, it was family games and puzzles until bedtime. Wonderful memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. COVID19 changed my tradition. Used to spend Christmas Eve with children and grandchildren for Chinese food. And next morning my DIL made Eggs Benedict etc. Last year and this year delivered my gifts and had a visit then Christmas Day with my 2 sisters

    Liked by 1 person

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