Like many, I absolutely adore the holidays. I love the twinkling lights and decor, the excessive amounts of food to be consumed, the cheesy movies and classic carols - but most of all, I love the traditions, and that every family has different ones. Over the last few years, my holiday traditions have changed drastically. Because my grandparents don't come down for Christmas anymore (they drive down for Thanksgiving instead!) and because my parents aren't huge on holidays, and because my sister and brother-in-law live in Bulgaria, I've spent the last three Christmases in Fort Myers with Ryan's family. Let's get real...at this point, they're pretty much mine, too.
I love reading about everyone's holiday traditions, so I thought I'd share my own: past, present, and future!
Past Christmas Traditions
Setting up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Because my grandparents always came down for Thanksgiving, my parents would trade off by driving us all up to St. Augustine for Christmas celebrations every year. Immediately upon arrival on Christmas Eve, my grandparents would break out their fake tree (from the 1960s...which we still own, much to my grandad's dismay), and we would decorate the tree with our handmade ornaments and multicolor string lights.
Waking up in the middle of the night to see what Santa brought. Nothing brought more joy to me as a child than waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom, tip toeing into the living room instead, and picking up each and every present under the tree. I'd scan gift tags marked with my name, and marvel at the special wrapping paper Santa used, and then I'd just sit back and stare at the twinkling lights for just a few minutes more before heading back to sleep.
Celebrating Hanukkah, too. I was supposed to be a Jewish baby, you know. I was supposed to grow up going to synagogue, reading the Torah, etc etc. My dad was (is?) Jewish, and used to be so religious that he even considered being a Rabbi once (for anyone who knows my dad, this is hilarious). Anyway, because my parents wanted me to grow up at the very least knowing about my Jewish heritage, I got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. Presents under the tree and eight straight nights of gifts? What a life.
Present Christmas Traditions"Find the nut." Every Christmas Eve after dinner, Ryan's mom makes a small bowl of rice pudding for each member of the family. In one bowl, she hides a walnut, and distributes the bowls of pudding at random. Whoever finds the nut in their bowl wins a prize! Usually the prize is some kind of chocolate or yummy goodie.
Opening presents on Christmas Eve, and stockings on Christmas Day. Rather than waking up early on the 25th and immediately opening gifts, we open ours after dinner (and finding the nut!) on Christmas Eve. Everything under the tree is revealed that night, while our stockings magically fill overnight. Ryan's mom is the cutest, and fills ours to the brim with random gifts and treats.
Samgria. After Christmas morning shenanigans, Ryan's fam and I hop into the car and drive 45 minutes south to Naples to visit his dad's side of the family to eat, drink, and of course, be merry. Between his five cousins plus significant others, aunts and uncles, and family friends, it's a full house. My first Christmas with the Fredericks came about just a few weeks after me and Ryan "officially" started dating, so I wanted to impress the masses. Thus, I made sangria. They all loved it, and called it "Samgria." Needless to say, I can't disappoint the family, so I make some kind of sangria every year.
Future Christmas Traditions
Buying a real Christmas tree most years (this year marked our first...check!)
Host a Christmas cookie exchange.
Learn more about my Jewish heritage so I can celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah with my future children, just like I was able to do.
Decorate our house with lights.
Volunteer at a shelter and/or "adopt" a family or child in need and buy presents for them.