It’s been a year. Nothing happened like it was supposed to. Like everyone else, I had grand plans for 2020, but this year was not the year for big plans. But I did find space in adhering to a schedule helped us all get through the long days and months of 2020.
Another thing that has gotten us through and continues to get us through is sticking to certain traditions. For Halloween we didn’t go out trick-or-treating but we did a Halloween candy and treasure hunt and like every year we ordered pizza and watched a movie after dinner. It made things feel normal even though they were not. That’s why this Christmas we are sticking to as many traditions as we can even though we won’t be with the whole family this year.
I come from a Latin American background and my husband is Irish so our Christmas traditions differ somewhat but there is enough similarity that we have been able to meld our traditions together to make for an eclectic and nostalgic celebration. It’s the holiday season and we all need a little inspiration, especially this year, so I thought I’d share some of our Christmas traditions that we do for the holidays and new ones we are implementing to make this year extra special.
Christmas Eve is big for me. In most Latin American countries December 24th is the day you go all out for Christmas (in Colombia, we start celebrating on December 1st!). As a kid it was super exciting because we were always surrounded by family and I got to spend Christmas with my cousins. The 24th was the day we would have the big Christmas meal. That’s the day we would do turkey amongst more traditional Colombian Christmas fairs like empanadas, rice, and dulce de leche.
It’s also the night we would open our presents, (well technically we open presents at midnight on Christmas Day). As kids we were put to bed at like 8 or 9, there would be no presents under the tree, and then we would be woken up at midnight, after Santa delivered the presents of course, and then we would open them. We then proceeded to play with our toys until we passed out. When we were older we would try to stay awake until midnight to open presents.
There was always a lot of music, mostly salsa music, and raised voices, but not because we were fighting, just because for some reason you can’t have a room full of Colombians who speak in a normal volume. Even if it’s just my parents and sister we are all talking loudly. I have no idea why this is.
Christmas Eve for Tom was a little different. The 24th is not the day they celebrate but they do get together as a family and have a cold ham with salad for dinner followed by Christmas cake for dessert.
In our house we have come up with a bit of a compromise on the Christmas Eve traditions. On December 24th we make ham. I have been making Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Ham. It’s easy to make and super tasty. Dinner will be followed Christmas cake for dessert, made from my late mother-in-law’s recipe. Before dinner we will open Christmas crackers and tell the silly jokes that come in them to each other and wear those silly paper hats that never fit on my head.
At some point on Christmas Eve we will make sugar cookies to leave out for Santa with milk and carrots for the reindeers. We will also have a mixture of traditional Christmas music and the Latin American music I grew up listening to at Christmas playing throughout the day.
This year I think we will watch a Christmas movie after dinner and put the kids to bed at their usual time. I have made a Christmas Eve box for the family to open up for dinner. It has our Christmas family pj’s a Christmas movie or a board game to play as a family, and some fun treats to enjoy while we watch the movie or play the board game. I am super excited about this because they don’t know I’ve done this so it will be a surprise.
Tom and I will then try to stay up until midnight and open one stocking present before going to bed. In order to try and stay awake we either play a board game or we will start a movie from a series. Since our first Christmas together Tom and I will pick a movie franchise or specific actor/actress movies to marathon over the holidays. I believe last year we marathoned Tom Cruise movies from December 24th until January 2nd. This year we are going back to a classic, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You think we would do it in 3 nights but we have children now and we own the extended versions of the films so we should be done in time for New Years.
As a child we would sleep in on Christmas Day because everyone was up most of the night on Christmas Eve. We have a nice sleep in and then wake up to have a big Colombian breakfast with eggs, arepas, chicharones, and more rice. This would traditionally be washed down with a hot mug of Colombian hot chocolate. The adults would proceed to be lazy the next day and the children would play with their toys for the rest of the day. We would end the day with a nice dinner, usually lamb or chicken.
Growing up, Tom’s family would open presents on Christmas Day followed by playing with gifts and toys until the evening when they would eat a turkey and a hot ham with all the fixings. The rest of the evening was hanging around at home and watching special Christmas programing on RTE (the Irish version of the CBC in Canada or the BBC in the UK).
In our combined household we open the rest of our presents on Christmas Day. We usually have a breakfast of some sort of eggs along with smoked salmon, and toast. Dinner is turkey with all the fixings followed by Christmas Pudding, also my late mother-in-law’s recipe.
We will probably watch a movie with the kids or play with them with their new toys and after they go to bed we will continue our movie marathon. Hopefully this year by Christmas Day we will be onto the second LOTR film but most likely we will still be on The Fellowship of the Ring (The extended version is long).
Growing up boxing day we would go to visit other family members who we did not see on Christmas Eve and exchange gifts. This often meant that Boxing Day was kind of an extension of Christmas Eve.
Tom shared with me that Boxing Day is called Saint Stephen’s Day in Ireland. They didn’t do much on the 26th of December but there was the tradition of the Wrenboys, who would parade through the towns and villages playing musical instruments and singing songs. You can find more info about this here.
When I lived on my own I would take this day to do some Boxing Day shopping, but I haven’t done that in a while. Tom and I started going for a run on Boxing Day. We have the kids now and I haven’t gone for a run in at least a year so we will probably go for a nice walk since there is no where to go this year.
This year in the evening on Boxing Day I think we are going to take the kids out for a drive after dinner to look at Christmas lights. I think they will enjoy it. It feels like a nice way to round out the holidays.
It has been nice thinking back on my family Christmas traditions and hearing more about Tom’s. I loved mixing our childhood traditions to share them with our kids and that we have come up with some new ones unique to our family. I hope that with sharing our traditions you are inspired to come up with new ones for you and your family and maybe bring out some old ones to share with your kids. Holding on to traditions helps me feel grounded when the world is so upside down. These traditions give me something to look forward too and get excited about. They are important now more than ever.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.