Christmas Traditions

Christmas tree
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When we were little we used to have to stick to a routine at Christmas. The tree wouldn’t go up until the weekend we broke up from school, which was sometimes only a few days before Christmas – everyone else’s tree will have been up for ages, some even had presents underneath from mid December.

Christmas Eve would always be midnight mass when we were old enough to stay up that late as a special treat, then straight to bed afterwards to wait for Santa, when we were too young to go out at that time we would be all tucked up in bed and looked after by Grandma.

Christmas morning would come, and our stocking would be full of nuts and an orange that were put in there each year – I never did understand the relevance of these but they just became a tradition. There were normally one or two small presents in our stockings from Santa that we were allowed to open before getting ready to go to church. We were not allowed to open any other presents until we returned – it was awful… we would arrive at church and see everyone else on their new bikes, carrying new dolls and barbies ready to do the ‘show an tell’ bit of the service, and what would me and my brother have? That’s right, a small stocking filler!

It was highly embarrassing and we wanted to climb under our chairs rather than face a congregation of people and show them our piddly presents. We knew that when we got home we would have lots of presents to open but it was the public humiliation that wasn’t fair. Obviously all this was forgotten as soon as we got back home with all the excitement of what was under the tree, but first we had to make sure Mum had the lunch all sorted and wasn’t burning the stuffing or anything, then get a round of Sherry’s in for the adults and mince pies for the children, then get our pieces of paper and pens at the ready so that we could list each present as it was opened and who it was for, this would be helpful when later on that day we would have to write our thank you notes. Present opening could then commence when everyone was in the room with everyone having to stop when an important present was opened to pose for a photograph and for everyone else to ooh and aah and say “you are a lucky girl”. Now that I write it all down in a blog it is surprising that I even like Christmas as our little family tradition sounds horrendous, but I knew no different so I enjoyed it. I still got to go to my best friends house across the road in the afternoon to look at presents and play, even though our tradition was to give each other our presents on Christmas Eve and always asked our parents every year if we could sleep over so we could wake up in the morning together – we were never allowed.

So do I keep any of these traditions at Christmas? The answer is no – none at all! We now have our own traditions, we never make anyone wait for their presents, we never go to church, in fact I haven’t been to church in years apart from weddings, christenings and funerals, we put our tree up as close to the 1st December as possible and we celebrate Christmas throughout December by consuming as many mince pies and mulled wine as is humanly possible and playing cheesy Christmas tunes all day, everyday. Christmas at our house lasts the full month and we love it! The only similarity is that it is all based around family. I hope when my little girl is old enough to appreciate Christmas (she’ll only be 3 months old this Christmas) that she will love it as much as we do.

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  • Morag Gaherty

    Mary, your childhood Christmas sounds very like ours, except that we never even had stocking fillers to take to Church! My parents were a bit sniffy that Church on Christmas morning involved any element of show and tell, and I can understand why – isn’t it supposed to be celebrating the birth of a special baby? But I look back with very fond memories of those days because they were all indeed about family.

    And like you, I’m afraid we don’t follow any of those traditions at Christmas now. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realised how much hard work it all is. Hats off to my parents for the work they put in. We don’t even get a tree usually. :(

    In more recent years, one of my friends always used to dust the kitchen floor in icing sugar and make fake Rudolph and Santa prints in it for her kids! Her kids are the same as mine and I’m sure they had stopped believing in Father Christmas years before, but were dutifully pretending on her behalf. She even told me how devastated she had been when she found out he didn’t exist, which I thought odd, as she led her own kids towards the precipice of that disappointment.