Growing up we did almost the same thing every year for Christmas ... at least until the age of 12. Occasionally we had additional guests - cousins and whatnot that visited and added to the merriment of the season - but for the most part we had the same routine every year. There wasn't necessarily a 'focus' on the tradition of it (or not that I specifically recall) - but by the repetition of it traditions were born.
We spent Christmas Eve at my Grandma's house - a tradition that around the age of 12-14 I was mildly irked by when I wasn't allowed to go to the Christmas Eve Party at my best friend's house. We had dinner - I don't recall the meal being the same every year - but I recall it being one of a family member's favorites. Sometimes dinner was later because we were waiting for my uncle to arrive who had driven down from San Jose, or was flying in from the same. In later years my Aunt joined us as well (he married when I was in high school.) Other times he was already there or would be missing Christmas Eve entirely (meal wise) so we ate at the grandparent's standard dinner time - which I recall being pretty early (for our family) around 5 or 5:30.
We then moved into Grandma's living room (everyone!) to allow my brother and I to open one Christmas present - sometimes of our choosing - other times we had one picked out for us. Often if one was picked it was because it was a bigger item such as a bike. I don't recall the rest of the family members opening one present on Christmas eve when I was younger. Perhaps it's because I personally wasn't giving gifts at the time, so there weren't too many options if they did open one on Christmas eve, there might not be another on Christmas morning. But after I went to college - I do recall that everyone opened one gift on Christmas eve for a few years. The remainder of Christmas eve was spent playing with our new toy - or patiently awaiting the assembly of it by my dad, grandpa, and/or uncle. We'd wrap up our night and we'd load the car with all the wrapped presents from Grandma and Grandpa and head home - where presents were deposited under the Christmas tree, we got into jammies, set out cookies and milk for Santa, and read or watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Then we went to sleep... or to bed at the very least.
Around 11 or so my Uncle would venture over on many of the years and assist in more assembly of whatever 'Santa' was bringing my brother and I. In our home - Santa left presents play-ready. So the year I had received the Barbie Mansion was the year that my mom, dad, and uncle were up until 3am putting tiny stickers on all the furniture, walls, etc of that giant house. My uncle always was assigned sticker duty. Apparently that same year of the Barbie Mansion endless sticker marathon, was also the same year that Derek (my brother) decided that Christmas should begin at 4am. I somehow had ended up in my parents bed that night - I don't recall consciously joining them there - but I do recall my brother bouncing in telling me I got a GIANT house. I, at the age of 9 (10?) did not care and treasured sleep more than my new toys - at that hour. Finally, at 5:30am they could hold him off no longer and 'made the call' the call that had been made every year since I had been born. Come on over it's time for Christmas! So at 6am my Grandma, Grandpa, and my Sleepy Uncle (who treasures morning sleep like I do) came on in and we had Christmas morning BRIGHT and EARLY.
We didn't have a 'traditional' meal that was for breakfast - I often recalled muffins or donuts being what we consumed. After the family arrived we started unwrapping the presents that had been sitting under our grandparents tree for days/weeks that we had been pinching and prodding all with the threat of if we opened it - we wouldn't get it. So massive tearing and frenzy of wrapping paper would fly and the excitement would build. We'd be left in a sea of presents and occasionally the wrapping - while the adults sipped on their coffee and took it all in. Eventually opening presents from each other (and eventually presents from me... Derek took longer to get on the present-bandwagon than many kids.)
After a few hours the grandparents and my uncle headed home and we spent the morning playing with our toys - while mom readied the Christmas feast in the kitchen. Sometimes we'd watch a parade or a Christmas movie (especially if we received videos for Christmas presents) other times football was on - and it was almost always on once the family came back over for Christmas dinner. Around 4pm my grandparents would return with part of the Christmas feast in hand (sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, jello...) and the table would be set, football would be watched while the meal was being finalized, and we'd sit down to a Turkey dinner - I do not recall a year we did not have turkey for our Christmas dinner. I loved it. The evening would wind down with pie and ice cream and then everyone would head home. After a lovely Christmas.
After my Uncle married my Aunt we moved Christmas to my Grandparent's house. We were old enough that while it was a bit different and even a bit jarring - it wasn't the end of the world. We did our stockings at our house before we left - by then we were old enough that our Christmas presents weren't elaborate piles of 'toys' but electronics, cash, videos, etc. Making transport of such things simpler, if we so chose. We then went over to Grandma's around 10... sometimes 11 and enjoyed Christmas morning there with the family.
When I went away to college, I still came home for Christmas every year and the traditions we had were still held (for the most part) we still went to my grandma's in the morning and had Christmas dinner at her house. Football was still watched and family was still together. 2002 was the last Christmas that everyone was all together. After that my brother joined the Air Force and he was gone for the next 5 Christmases. In fact I haven't had a 'Christmas Day' with him since 2002. In 2004 my grandfather had Christmas up in San Jose with my Aunt and Uncle - he was attending a school for the blind that happened to fall during Christmas. I spent that Christmas with my mom, dad, grandma, and Loving Husband (our first as a married couple) at Grandma's house. It was small and quiet. New traditions began to form as older ones from childhood faded - like my mother giving my husband a tacky tie or putting bows on my grandmother's head. ;-)
Years to come we saw change. My brother was married in June of 2004 and I in July of 2004 and while Derek and Jennifer spent their Christmases together in Minot, Loving Husband graciously joined our family for Christmas Day every year from 2004-2007. We saw losses in our family as my grandfather died in 2005 and then my father in early 2006 and most recently my grandmother's passing in 2009. Christmas was forever changed - yet memories were ever fixed. While it is sad they are no longer present to celebrate the traditions and holiday with us - we have so many wonderful years to look back and remember with them.
Traditions I feel are important, but only so much as the memories that they create. A tradition shouldn't rule the holiday - it shouldn't be an item to be marked off a list. It should be a part of the joy and the fun of Christmas. Something to look back on and remember fondly. I'm trying to instill that in our home as well. Continuing on the tradition of 'one present' on Christmas eve, along with creating some of our own. Ace received an 'Advent Calendar' from his grandma last year and it is 25 mini-books telling the story of the birth of Christ - and I hope that is a tradition that can continue on for many years to come. A daily reminder of why we celebrate on Christmas day to begin with. Loving Husband and I since we were married have been exchanging stockings (and presents.) And since Ace has been aware we have made a point as a family to hang the first ornament on the tree together. It doesn't have to be a specific ornament - but just together starting off decorating the tree as a family I think it is a memory that will be nice to have in years to come. We celebrate Loving Husband's one family tradition as well - whenenver the first snow falls - the 'Deck Dive'.
All traditions begin somewhere - and I know in my family my grandmother played a large role in that. I love all the memories that I have because of her, my mother, and my family and I can only hope I can do as good of service for my family in years to come.