Every family celebrates Christmas in a different way.
In my family the tree (fake) went up every year on the 19th of December and came down on the 6th of January. Christmas decorations were stored in a big polystyrene chilli-bin and we would try to hang every single thing on the tree in a gloriously glittery hotch-potch effort that threatened to collapse the branches.
Santa stuffed stockings. Presents were only allowed to be opened after breakfast. The Christmas CDs were played and a large traditional meal would be served at lunch time with all extended family invited.
When I was 16 I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. The Christmas there was entirely different and a lot more organised. The tree was cut with great ceremony and brought home to stand proudly in the ‘prime spot’. It was decorated with real candles without a thought for fire danger and I was given the highly-coveted role of decorating the tree.
We had mulled wine and lebekuchen and gorgeous iced cookies and herbal teas.
As honorary tree-decorator in my host family’s home I proceeded to hang everything (as was my upbringing) but I quickly learned that Christmas was a bit more thoughtful and I needed to choose a theme. I chose white ribbons and gold balls. Just white ribbons and gold balls even though I wanted to add tinsel and the angel and the little biscuit things as well…. It was an extremely organised effort and it looked almost professional…
There are so many different ways to celebrate and so much relies on tradition and upbringing.
Now that I have my own household, I can begin or continue my own traditions and I am kind of stuck.
Having children has made me more mindful about what I am passing on as well as what we want to pass on.
Last year I was alone for my son’s first Christmas as his daddy had to work and we have no family in the near vicinity. I had no visitors for the day and no one really to cook for and, to be honest, I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’. I had a lonely little celebration with my son trying to make his day special in whatever small ways I could.
This year I am making more of an effort partly because he is more aware of what is going on and I want him to have something to remember. I also want to teach him about the cultural value of having and honouring special occasions.
We have an improvised fern tree that is decorated with button garlands, gold thread and star fairy lights. Beneath it, a small mound of presents is building.
Beneath that is the fire place where, presumably Santa will make his magical entrance. Or will he?
I don’t have the answers for how to celebrate Christmas because I sit somewhere between a festive-fairy and a Grinch.
I recently read of another mother who was slammed for ‘denying’ her child the belief in Santa and for cancelling Christmas. She is a single parent and finds the financial stresses of Christmas entirely too much and has decided to cancel it. The Outrage! But times are tight and I understand her position.
Here are some Christmas ‘truths’ I have recently come across from friends and family and I don’t know where I stand on them:
Christmas presents are only for children under five
Christmas presents should be ‘useful’ vouchers only
Christmas is for immediate family members only
Christmas encourages spoiling and there should be one gift per child only
Christmas must include family for a special (traditional) meal
Father Christmas is vital for a healthy childhood
Christmas has become too commercial
The Christ in Christmas has been irretrievably lost
Christmas should be about church
These are all excellent moot points. Each one would spark a lively and entertaining debate in any group.
But affirmative or negative, where do we stand on all of these points?
I wondered why I have put a tree up this evening and I started researching the origin of the Christmas tree and it makes for interesting reading – and I am surprised I had never bothered to look it up before now.
I had just accepted ‘the tree’ as part of the ways things were done and yet by using a tree fern instead of a full tree, I am beginning to do it differently.
There are more questions than I have answers for when it comes to Christmas traditions and thankfully my son is still young enough that I don’t yet have to find any.
What I really want to know is – Christmas – pass it on or pass on it?
What are your Christmas traditions? Which ones are you continuing? Are you discontinuing any?
Tell me how you tackle the traditions – I would love to have more answers!