It all goes back to that Unity Candle ceremony.
When Susan and I got married in 1995, we lit a unity candle during our wedding ceremony. As music played (or maybe somebody sang), each of us started with our own lit candle, and with those we lit a third candle before extinguishing our own. The ceremony is supposed to represent that instead of “you” and “me,” it’s now “us.” I argued, unsuccessfully, that we should keep the original candles lit — after all, even after marriage, there’s still a “you” and a “me,” right?
When it comes to Christmas traditions around here, there’s some “you,” and some “me” that over the years have turned into “us.”
I don’t bring a lot of Christmas traditions to the table, but the few I bring, I’m pretty adamant about. Santa gets left a glass of milk and a plate of cookies, which he eats when he visits during the night. Santa doesn’t wrap the presents he leaves under the tree, but everybody else wraps theirs. Christmas begins at 6am sharp, Christmas morning, and nobody gets to open anything before then. For breakfast, my dad’s coming over and we’re having waffles.
Susan’s family, on the other hand, used to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve and slept in Christmas morning.
And now? Well, there’s “us.”
The week before Christmas, “the girls” get together to bake Christmas cookies. It started out as something Susan, her mom, her sister, and our nieces did. Eventually we added our kids, and now it includes my grandnieces and grandnephew, too.
All of my family and my wife’s family now come over for Christmas Eve. We exchange gifts with my wife’s family (who opens gifts on Christmas Eve), but not my family (who opens gifts on Christmas Day). Most years, we play Dirty Santa, too. I put together a Christmas Slideshow to play on the television in the background.
When it’s bedtime on Christmas Eve, everybody goes to their bedroom and shuts their door and nobody is allowed to come out of their rooms until 6am. Them’s the rules. At six, everybody comes out of their rooms, looks at what Santa brought them, goes through their stocking, and then proceeds to open gifts. In that order.
Somewhere along the way, we began putting up multiple Christmas trees. I don’t know when the tradition that “everybody gets their own tree” began, but it did. This year there are two trees in the front living room and one in the back. Some years, each kid gets a smaller tree in their own room to decorate any way they wish. Also, the trees seem to remain up much longer than they were in my house, growing up. I just go with it.
We’ve been doing all of these things for so long that combined, they’ve become “our” traditions. It will be interesting to see in years to come which ones our kids take away with them and which they let go of.