Some things are more special when it only comes once a year. Some things are simply made more magical with the season. I’ve always been one for traditions. I love the holidays and spending time with family and friends. I wanted to share 9 of my favorite holiday traditions with you. They’ve definitely changed some over the years, but you can always count on Christmas for lots of family time!
1. The Murray Family Day After Thanksgiving Gathering: I love this event, because it always kicks off the Christmas season. The actual event is switched up year to year, but the idea is the same. We’ve done Chicago trolly tours, old fashioned bowling, ice skating, and game nights. It’s a night of fun and family. We also use it to draw names for the Christmas gift exchange. This is my first year out of the “kid” group and into the drawing so I’m pretty excited to finally participate in it!
2. Christmas Eve Eve: This is another tradition that we’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. On the Eve of Christmas Eve, we go to my dad’s best friend’s house for his Christmas party. For dinner, there’s usually either homemade sliders or chili. We exchange gifts and always pass around the holiday poppers. The crackers always have paper crowns that we pile on our heads and bad jokes that we read in (also pretty bad) British accents.
3. Christmas Eve with Mom’s Family: This started as a party for the entire family. Before the evening was over, Santa would come for a visit and deliver gifts to all the kids. As the family grew, it became two separate events, the first being before Christmas in a rented out space. One year the kids put on a little Christmas story play for the family. More recently, the Christmas Eve party included my grandma, my mom and her siblings, and some of their kids. It didn’t include all of the great grandchildren. When Grammie was still with us, she would always say the prayer before dinner and then we’d pass around the opłatek (Polish Christmas wafer). The night often included singing Christmas carols and piano playing. My aunt and uncle that always hosted this party recently moved so this is the first year that we won’t be visiting both families on Christmas Eve. But, at least my parents were able to visit at the new house this past weekend!
4. Christmas Eve with Dad’s Family: After dinner and presents with my mom’s family, we would drive to my Aunt’s house to see my dad’s side of the family. We would walk in to see a ginormous pile of gifts under the Christmas tree. We don’t start opening gifts until midnight so we usually watch A Christmas Story on tv or take naps until then. The littles are usually asleep upstairs until they are awoken when “Santa” comes. I remember when my cousins and I were little we did some scavenger hunts while waiting too. My Uncle Kevin, as the oldest, is tasked with the role of Santa and hands out all the presents. Although never without being silly and pronouncing things incorrectly on purpose. You can always count on it to be a long, fun, late night.
5. Santa’s Visit: Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, I would be allowed to open one gift from my parents, a new pair of pajamas. We would set out a treat for Santa and sometimes the reindeer too on our Santa plate a la scene in The Grinch. We would go to bed and Santa would deliver all his presents to our house while we slept. When we had a wood burning fireplace, I even found his footprints in the soot of the chimney!
6. Christmas Day at Home: On Christmas morning, we usually grab breakfast, open our stockings, and place baby Jesus in the manger before going to church for the Christmas service. When we get home, we take our time opening all of the gifts, taking turns, one at a time. It’s a lot of fun to just relax and enjoy. I’ve also learned that sometimes giving gifts can be more fun than getting them!
7. Christmas Day with Mom’s Sister and Family: This is another tradition that we’ve been doing for many years. My mom’s sister used to host for her family and we would stop by for gifts and dessert. When she moved, her daughter took over the tradition. We head over when we’re finished with gifts at our house and usually spend time with the family, open gifts, eat food, and games. The game is often a high intensity game of Spoons or Uno.
8. 12 Days of Christmas: When I was little, the elf would leave me a small gift every day leading up to Little Christmas on January 6th. As I got older, I became Elfie and started buying gifts for my mom too. It one of our favorite, time honored tradition. It’s fun to find little gifties and to open them together from our stockings every morning. The twelfth day gift is typically something a little larger than the other days, but nothing too extravagant. The premise comes from the biblical celebration of the three kings arriving to meet Jesus, the Epiphany.
9. New Years Eve: This night has changed over the years. It’s spent with cousins or neighbors or friends and games are almost always included, especially the new ones we got on Christmas. I didn’t get to celebrate New Years in a big way last year because I was away from home to work, so I’m excited to see what this tradition brings this year!