Christmas in my family is rich with tradition. Although we always think we would like to do a few things differently each year, we usually fall back into family-honoured holiday traditions. Adhering to family Christmas traditions might be one way that we help remember those family members we have lost. My father, who passed several years ago, loved celebrating Christmas so many of our traditions are rooted in holiday activities that he initiated within our family.
Holiday Traditions Before Christmas
Santa Claus Parade
One of our favourite family Christmas traditions growing up was going to see the Santa Claus Parade downtown. This glorious parade features holiday floats, marching bands in their band’s attire, kids dressed up as candy canes and snowflakes and Santa Claus and now, Mrs. Claus. It’s been a few years since I have attended the parade, but it’s just as fun to see as an adult as it was when I was a kid.
In my mind, December 1 is the official start of the holiday season so that’s when I decorate our home. I have Christmas cushions and throws for our couch, reindeer stocking holders and Santa ornaments for our mantle and Christmas wreaths and garlands for the living room, hall and kitchen. I also have a mini Christmas tree that I decorate with mini strings of white lights that I bought on Amazon and I have wrapped these strings of lights on our bookcases and armoires. They provide a little holiday sparkle before the Christmas tree actually gets put up.
I like getting my holiday baking done a few weeks before Christmas and then putting it in the freezer. I used to bake three or four types of holiday cookies, but now I find I have time only to bake one or two. I love making shortbread and if I have time, I will make the cookie cutter type vs. the pan shortbread. I also like making a bar cookie as they are usually easier. Here are some great bar cookies to make this Christmas.
Although many people have stopped sending Christmas cards opting for e-cards instead, I still like to send actual Christmas cards to my family and a select group of friends. I love receiving cards in the mail leading up to Christmas and displaying them on a ribbon in our living room.
St. Michael’s Choir Concert
For the past six years, my mother and I have been attending St. Michael’s Choir Christmas Concert at Massey Hall (although it’s temporarily at Roy Thomson Hall while Massey Hall is being refurbished). Our home was filled with Christmas music when I was growing up because my mother, my sister and I all played piano, my uncle was an organist and my grandmother sang in the church choir. That’s why Christmas choral music is one of the most important family Christmas traditions for me. It helps put the holiday in perspective for me.
Since the Toronto Christmas Market opened about seven years ago, we have tried to visit every year. This market, which takes place at Toronto’s historic Distillery District, is a recreation of an old-fashioned European Christmas Market. The market features roaming carollers, choirs and a village of vendors selling crafts and gourmet foods. The highlight is the 50-foot Balsam Fir Christmas tree in the centre of the square.
Real Christmas Tree
One of my favourite family Christmas traditions is getting a real Christmas tree. I love the smell and the way the tree looks in our living room. So we will go and pick it out at Home Depot around December 12 (we used to go up north and cut one down, but that activity takes a lot of planning). I have Christmas tree decorations that have been handed down from both of my grandmothers, as well as tree decorations from our Christmas tree when I was growing up. I also have tree decorations made by my sister and nieces when they were younger, as well as decorations that were given to me by family and friends. I cherish all of these decorations and look forward to decorating our tree with them. Because of these decorations, our Christmas tree truly is a family tree.
Christmas Lights Tour
A few days before Christmas, we drive through our neighbourhood in the evening to see the houses decorated in Christmas lights.
Christmas Eve Traditions
Christmas Eve Day
Christmas Eve Day is usually spent wrapping stocking presents and prepping the ingredients for my dish for Christmas Day dinner. I make sure all of my shopping has been done before December 24 so that I don’t have to rush out during the last minute madness! My brother or sister might come over to exchange gifts if that hasn’t been done already.
Christmas Eve Dinner
We usually prepare a light meal of salmon or shrimp for Christmas Eve dinner. Knowing that we will be enjoying a full turkey dinner on Christmas Day, it seems like a good idea to eat a bit lighter on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve Church
On Christmas Eve, we try and plan to attend a Christmas Eve church service, but this doesn’t always come to pass. Sometimes, my stepmother will host a Christmas Eve dinner at her place and it’s not always possible to attend Christmas Eve church, as well as her dinner. And sometimes by the time Christmas Eve comes around, we just want to relax and make sure we are rested for Christmas Day.
A Christmas Carol
After church or dinner, I always watch A Christmas Carol on TV because it always puts me in the Christmas mood. The version I like best is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. He is magnificent in the role.
Christmas Day Traditions
Like many families, we open our Christmas stockings on Christmas morning although we do have coffee and breakfast first before diving into our stockings. We then open our Christmas presents and at noon, we always watch Queen Elizabeth II deliver her annual speech on TV.
Since we usually have Christmas dinner at my brother’s place, I always bring a dish such as Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Butternut Squash. I usually start preparing the recipe during the day on Christmas Eve so I don’t have that much work to do on Christmas Day. We usually go to my brother’s place for Christmas dinner around 4:30 p.m., enjoy drinks and appetizers while sitting by the Christmas tree and seeing what my nieces got for Christmas, then have a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings at around 6:30 p.m. We always begin dinner by snapping open the Christmas crackers, reading the corny jokes, comparing prizes and wearing the crackers’ paper hats.
Boxing Day Traditions
Visit My Sister and Her Family
On Boxing Day, we always visit my sister and her family who live an hour north of Toronto. My sister always celebrates Christmas Day with her husband’s family so Boxing Day is the only chance for me to see my sister as close to Christmas Day as possible. We usually arrive in the early afternoon and share our Christmas Day experiences with each other. My sister will prepare a casual meal of appetizers, veggies, and cheeses, which we enjoy with a glass of wine, coffee or mocktail. We have been visiting my sister and her family on Boxing Day for the past 16 years. The only year we missed visiting her was when they went to Australia for Christmas and we had to reschedule our get-together to December 31.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. What family Christmas traditions do you cherish?