I know it’s a bit early to be talking about Christmas but we’ve just started thinking about what we’re going to be doing on Christmas Day this year and it got me thinking about Christmas Traditions.
For my whole childhood Christmas was exactly the same every year. I never really thought at the time that we had Christmas traditions but I suppose the very definition of a tradition is repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, and that’s exactly what we did.
My Grandma only lived round the corner but she always used to stay at our house on Christmas Eve so my mum and dad could go to Midnight Mass at church. She would sleep in my brother’s room, and he would have to sleep on the floor in my room. We had stockings in the bedroom and we were allowed to open them when we woke up but we weren’t allowed to wake anyone else up until ‘a reasonable time’. When we deemed the time ‘reasonable’ (which was probably still really early) we would really noisily go to the toilet so my mum and Grandma woke up. We all went downstairs in our pyjamas to where the rest of the presents were, except my dad who always took ages to get up and then would insist on having his breakfast and making us all wait to open our presents.
The morning was taken up with present opening and playing with our new toys. We would have Christmas Dinner around 2pm – always prawn cocktail or melon, then a roast capon (which is just a big chicken) with all the trimmings. I was always made to eat one sprout even though I hated them, and then my dad, brother and Grandma would have Christmas pudding while my mum and I had chocolate pudding. And there were always After Eights afterwards.
In the late afternoon we would play with our presents some more, watch whatever the Christmas film was while the adults had a nap, and then have a snacky sort of tea before my Grandma went home, we watched a bit more telly and headed off to bed.
This was the pattern of things until my late-teens when I started going to the pub on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day nursing a hangover! It was still very much the same except my Grandma didn’t stay at our house any more and the morning tended to start a lot later. At some point we also started having a turkey crown instead of the capon, and my other Grandma and step-grandad would come for Christmas Dinner too.
I was 21 the first time I spent Christmas away from home. It was 1999 and I was working in a ski resort. Instead of spending Christmas Day skiing as I’d intended I actually spent most of the day in the doctor’s surgery getting an x-ray on my ankle after slipping over in the pub toilet the night before. I knackered the ligaments and spent a month in an ankle brace, and always told all my customers it was a skiing injury!
The next Christmas I spent away from home was in 2006. I had been living in Scotland for three years but always come home for Christmas. That year though I was working in a call centre and I had to work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and there was just no time to go home. So my mum and dad came to stay with me (my brother was spending Christmas with his girlfriend and my Grandma had died a couple of years earlier). On Christmas Day we went for a walk and our Christmas Dinner was tuna sandwiches eaten at the side of the road! We had beef wellington in the evening and it was lovely but it didn’t feel like Christmas in the slightest.
Fast forward a few years and we spent Toby’s first Christmas in our own house in Scotland before heading south to see our families on Boxing Day. Toby was five and a half months old and the very first solid food he ever tried was Christmas Dinner (although he didn’t actually eat any of it, just licked a few bits of carrot). For some reason I had decided I wanted him to have his first Christmas in our house, even though he wasn’t going to remember it.
The following year I got a bit bah humbug about the whole Christmas thing. I had to work until the 23rd December, I was pregnant, and I just wasn’t feeling the Christmas cheer. We went down to my parents’ and had a nice time but to be honest I don’t remember too much about it.
The next year I got a bit more into the spirit of things. I bought Toby and Gabe matching pyjamas to wear on Christmas Eve at least. We were still living in Scotland though and so travelled down to my parents’ house again. Christmas Dinner was still exactly the same as it always was when I was little – except now I actually like brussels sprouts!
And so that brings us to last Christmas. We had finally moved to England so no more travelling was required. The boys had matching new pyjamas again and that’s a tradition that I’m continuing this year. We left out a whiskey and a mince pie for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, just like I used to do (and actually still did until I was about 25!). Toby was three and a half last Christmas and for the first time he was really excited. And I’m sure Gabe will be starting to join in the excitement this year too.
On Christmas Day we had my parents and Barry’s parents to our house for Christmas Dinner. I’m not sure what we’re going to do this year actually. My brother and his wife alternate Christmas with our parents one year and her parents the other year, and this year is their year to be up here. We could have everyone at our house again but I don’t know if I can manage Christmas Dinner for 10 in my single oven!
We don’t have many other Christmas traditions of our own yet. We haven’t been to visit Father Christmas (and it’s unlikely we’ll bother this year either), we don’t have a Christmas Eve box, or any special books to read or films to watch. I’m sure all that stuff will come though and over the next few years we’ll come up with some special Christmas traditions just for us.
Do you have many Christmas traditions? Do you think they’re important?