Our family has some Swedish heritage so our big family event is Christmas Eve (although, now that I think about it, we also have Christmas Day brunch and turkey dinner on Christmas Day. So we actually had 2 full days of activities… Funny how we can
tell ourselves something that sets a frame when the reality is actually wider.)
Anyhow, we have certain Swedish things that have always been part of our family tradition on Christmas Eve like sil (pickled herring), potatiskorv (potato sausage) and spritz (little shortbread cookies). Usually the kids help out with making these throughout the week leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we have dinner at my parents’ with our traditional foods (every now and then my mom tries to throw other things in). After dinner, the dishes must be done before we sit together in the living room and listen to my father read the Christmas story from the Bible. Lighting the advent wreath is also another tradition in our home so on Christmas Eve, the white candle is lit to symbolize the birth of Jesus. My dad will say a prayer of gratitude and blessing and then…. the presents!
The youngest in the family is always the one who hands out the gifts from under the tree (and the tree is always Charlie Brown style as per my dad’s preference). We usually take turns opening one gift at a time. Anyone who receives clothing must model it (this was quite funny when I was younger because my mom’s mom would send her underwear every Christmas. Not only were they granny panties but they were always way too big.) After all the presents are opened (and my dad has collected the paper for recycling), we sit back at the table for dessert.
Over the years, our traditions have changed slightly. I think my mom has managed to add some vegetables to our Christmas Eve dinner. We used to read “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” together over the weeks of advent and then read the final chapter on Christmas Eve. That no longer is part of our practice although there is usually a joke about the Herdman’s during the evening. In the last couple years, we also play a domino game called the Mexican Train after dessert. Some years, we have included other people at different meals but we have decided that Christmas Eve is most special to us when it is our family at the table.
This year, my new in-laws will be joining us for our Christmas Eve festivities. We have added a new twist to presents as we have added new people to the mix. This year we are doing a present swap. Each person is bringing a wrapped gift with a maximum cost of $25 and we will choose a gift and maybe swipe from each other. Just for kicks, we are doing a second gift with a maximum value of $1.
What are your traditions?
How have they evolved?
What do they mean to you?
Where is your frame set on narrow when there is more in the wider picture?