Growing up, we had Thanksgiving, and on the day after, we would write out our Christmas lists and a letter to Santa. As the holiday itself approached, we'd hang stockings, we'd put up and decorate the tree, on Christmas Eve we had a big gathering with my mother's family, complete with grab bag (when you have near 60 people in one family, grab bags are essential!) and a visit from Santa Claus. On the way home, we'd drive through the neighborhood and look at the lights, then stop at home and put out milk and cookies for Santa before we headed off to bed.
Now that I'm older, I find that some things I have kept, while others, I want to do differently - or more. However, it's an interesting balance, as I travel every other year to Statsia for the holiday - and stay in Mooselandia on the opposite years. And so, when were in town, we have a live tree, which is the first clue that we're traveling for Christmas. I'm still working on a countdown-calendar tradition that I like, but it's a little more difficult than I'd thought it would be.
We have our elf, Gingerbread, who shows up to play and make mischief for most of December, and my son (Mad Natter) loves him dearly. Then comes the tree. Whichever kind we get, it goes up on the first day. The second day, it gets lights and a garland. The third, it gets ornaments, and every day after it gets any cards that come in the mail. Gingerbread puts out our train set under the tree one night, and will dye the milk some odd color on another night before he leaves. On Christmas Eve, regardless of where we are, my son gets a present to open marked as "from your family, with love." In the present, he finds new pajamas (this year it's Doctor Who!), a new Christmas movie, hot cocoa, and popcorn. Then, everyone that's home sits down, and after Mad Natter changes into his new pajamas, we all sit and watch his new movie together, complete with cocoa and popcorn for everyone. Up next, we're taking our lead from Iceland's traditions and everyone gets a book! After you open your book, you retire for the evening to sit and read that book. A pretty nice way to calm things down on a Christmas Eve, I think! Christmas morning, Gingerbread leaves Mad Natter a stocking in his bed - this buys Mama and Daddy a good 15m to regain consciousness before we all trek down to the tree to see if Santa came (protip, he did). After the rush of presents and excitement, we have cinnamon buns for breakfast, and then get ready for the rest of our day. Now, if we're staying in Mooselandia, we have breakfast at Mimi's (my MIL) house up the road and the buns come with us. If we're in Statsia, we're already at Hammie's (my mother's) house, and we don't travel for breakfast, but the day still shapes up the same. In the afternoon is another Christmas dinner, lots of fun and family and togetherness, and then... Time to sit.
Truthfully, we don't necessarily have the most robust of traditions for the holidays, but we have our share, and it's my hope that Mad Natter grows up to think as fondly of decorating the tree or of freshly baked cinnamon buns as I do of my years having Santa come to see us.
How about you? Do you have a favorite holiday tradition - past or present? Tell me all about it!