Christmas is not just ONE day… Our family’s traditions, both past and present!

advent calendar

The latest addition to my ever-growing Advent Calendar collection!!! When I was very young, my Oma (German Grandmother) sent me my very first Advent Calendar. I still have it, too. Later my Aunt Helga sent me a couple when she was living in England. My oldest sister, Jaci, has given me several over the years and this one was given to me by my loving husband as a birthday present this year!

For us, Christmastide starts at Thanksgiving, but NOT because of “Black Friday” sales and such… The real kick-off in our family, I suppose, was (and still IS) the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which Mom and I still watch together every year. We might not always be side-by-side watching it, sometimes we lived in different states, but we still knew that we were both watching the parade at the same time! The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent. With a German/Lutheran mother that means the Advent Wreath is out by Sundown that Sunday! The ceramic Yule log that mom painted when I was a kid came out at the same time and I believe Mom usually set up her Nativity, too. For convenience these items were packed away together each year, too! Of course each year our Advent Calendars were also set out by December first so we could start opening a numbered window every morning before school/work. The whole house wasn’t decorated until mid-month or so, though. When Mom was growing up in post-war Berlin her family’s Christmas tree was never put up before Christmas Eve! When my sisters and I were kids, Mom eventually conceded to letting us put ours up around mid-December, and this is still about when we put ours up as well.

On December 5th we’d all polish our best pair of shoes (one year I polished my ROLLER SKATES) to set out for St. Nick. We set the shoes at the end of our bed with our Christmas wish list tucked inside. In the morning we could have found coal in them, but somehow we never did. Instead, there were usually a few chocolate coins and some small gift (like striped toe socks!) or a new pair of gloves.

Christmas Eve changed a bit through the years. When we were younger there was usually a party at either the CB (citizen ban) Radio Club or the Gem and Mineral Club that my parents belonged to. These usually included a visit from Santa and each child had a gift while the adults did a gift exchange or a Secret Santa exchange.

yule log

Several years ago Mom gave me the ceramic Yule Log that she had painted when I was a kid! Behind it are five wooden Santa’s, each depicting a different cultural version of the Jolly O’ Elf, and to the left (behind the Santas) is another of my Advent Calendars.Later, we started spending Christmas Eve at a small gathering of family and friends. My mom’s BFF, Rosemary, was Irish/Catholic and so the party ended with all of us attending Midnight Mass where Rose sang in the choir and her daughter usually sang the solo. (She sang a beautiful solo at our wending, too!) By this time I had nieces and nephews and we all opened ONE gift at the party. Usually we made sure it was a toy for the kids so that they could play with to keep them happy until time to go. Christmas morning, we would get up and rush to the living room to see what Santa had left under the tree for us! We were not to intentionally wake up out parents and we could not open any presents without them. However, our stockings were “fair game” and any unwrapped presents that had been left by the Jolly ol’ Elf himself could also be played with. AFTER breakfast the wrapped present from under the tree would be passed out and opened.

christmas 2014

Our 2014 tree is seen here along with our stockings and my large, felt Advent Calendar. Beneath the tree is a vintage sled that my dad found in their attic in Oklahoma. Apparently it had been left behind by a previous owner.

New Year’s Eve was spent with our immediate family at home. Mom always made sure we each had a few coins in our pocket so we would have prosperity in the coming New Year. We’d watch the Countdown on TV and then since we were an hour behind NY we set off some fireworks at OUR stroke of midnight. We also had a toast of glogg (mulled wine), even when we were kids. Dad was from Texas, so New Year’s Day included a traditional southern feast of black-eyed peas, salt pork, cabbage and corn bread! Of course, that morning was spent watching The Tournament of Roses Parade! This is another tradition that remains with us. I’ve been known to call Mom during the parade and we would watch/comment on the beautiful floats…
We only started celebrating Twelfth Night somewhere around 1990. When I was in college Dad and I were the first in the family to join the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism). Eventually our whole, multi-generational family all joined, too, and so our local group’s annual 12th night celebration became an integral part of our extended family celebration!!! I’m an eclectic Pagan, and so along the way started celebrating Yule/Winter Solstice more than “Christmas”. Thrown in all this merry-making is my birthday on December 18th and my sister’s on December 29th!!!
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