Traditions are a great way to create camaraderie among co-workers, or build stronger bonds with family and friends. Some traditions have been handed down from generation to generation, while others are started by someone who wants to create new memories that will last a lifetime. On occasion, traditions are kick-started by a commercial retailer (think Elf on the Shelf).
My family has several Christmas traditions, from the beef fondue we enjoy on Christmas Eve to waiting until after a breakfast of pecan coffee cake on Christmas morning to open the presents. Our presents are hand-delivered by the youngest family member, one at a time, to each recipient – no simultaneous ripping, shredding, or clawing at presents. We watch as each gift is opened and celebrate the joy we share as both givers and receivers every time a package is unwrapped.
Here are two of my favorite family Christmas traditions, followed by fun and interesting Christmas traditions from around the world that might inspire you to start your own traditions if you don’t already have any.
Unique, Personal Ornaments
But one of my favorite traditions that my mom started is the annual ornament. Every year since I was born, my mom has given me a new ornament so that when I grew up and moved into my own home, I would have enough personal ornaments to decorate a tree. Some of my earliest ornaments were lovingly handmade. Others were selected with me in mind. All of the ornaments reflected something in my life, from cherished childhood characters to foreign countries we lived in to things that embodied my hobbies and interests.
I have continued this beautiful Christmas tradition by giving my daughter a new ornament every year as well. We both have Barbie ornaments on the tree, received 20 years apart. Our Christmas tree is unique to us, as most of the ornaments have been received as gifts. Our friends know about our ornament tradition and, over the years, have given each of us a few ornaments that represent the friendship, a particular personality trait, or something reminiscent of an event or memory from the year.
Every ornament on our Christmas tree represents us in some way. Our tree symbolizes our extended family. No one else has a tree like ours. And we love it that way.
The annual ornament tradition was handed down by my parents to me and from me to my daughter. It is a generational tradition.
So my daughter and I started a new tradition to supplement it.
An Army of Nutcrackers
Since then, my daughter has received a new nutcracker every year in addition to an ornament. Some nutcrackers were delivered by Santa, some were gifts from my parents, some from me, some from friends; a few are moderately expensive collectibles (signed or limited edition Steinbach, Seiffen, Kleinkunst or Ulbricht), while others are mass-produced for consumer consumption at very affordable prices. Each one has some kind of special meaning, however.
Just like the annual ornament, the yearly nutcracker somehow represents my daughter – whether it physically resembles something that she did or liked, or merely evokes an emotion that was prevalent throughout the year, each nutcracker is unique and symbolizes the past year.
We now have what my daughter refers to as “a nutcracker army”. It is a glorious assortment that combines her special nutcrackers with the ones I have collected myself over the years, knowing that she will soon be leaving the nest and will take her nutcrackers with her. I love the nutcrackers as much as she does, and as much as the ornaments. Christmas would not be complete without them.
Global Christmas Traditions
I hope that you have your own holiday traditions that you cherish, and if not, that you think about starting a new tradition that will last a lifetime (and possibly for generations yet to come).
Here are some fun and interesting Christmas traditions from around the world to give you some inspiration:
- Make a gingerbread house – see if you can “top” last year’s house with a new design and more technically difficult elements every year
- Start a “Caroling Club” with friends, family and neighbors, and go caroling on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or the day after Christmas
- Play “Glass Pickle”, the mythical Germanic tradition of hanging a glass pickle ornament last on the tree in an obscure location; the first child to find the pickle receives an extra present (this tradition is not actually rooted in Germany, but rather blossomed as a “fake tradition” after Woolworth received ornaments imported from Germany in the 1800s and some of them were fruit and vegetable designs; someone made up the “glass pickle” tradition)
- Follow the Norwegian tradition of hiding your brooms on Christmas Eve after dinner so that the holiday evil spirits won’t be able to steal them and ride them around in the sky; add to the activity by making the brooms part of a “hide and seek” game on Christmas Day – whoever hides the brooms watches as the other family members try to find concealed cleaners
- Make a wish with British Christmas Pudding – the pudding takes hours to cook and everyone takes a turn stirring the batter and making a wish while it is cooking; before the pudding is done, a coin is dropped into the batter; whoever finds the coin on Christmas Day is believed to be granted his or her wish
- Make a Swedish Christmas Goat, using papier mache or some other craft materials, and decorate it in festive and fun ways; just keep it small enough to fit on your mantle or shelf, rather than following theGavle tradition of erecting a three-ton straw goat in the town square
- If you love Halloween, you might enjoy following the Austrian tradition of Krampusnacht (“the night of Krampus”) on December 5th next year, when you can host a masquerade and ask guests to dress up as devils, witches and other notoriously sinister beings to symbolize Krampus, the evil counterpart of St. Nicholas, who is known for punishing bad children; this tradition is popular in various parts of Europe and has apparently taken root in Los Angeles in recent years
- Instead of eggnog, serve the traditional Scandinavian Christmas drink glogg, a hot, spiced wine; there are several variations to the recipe, so you can create your very own Christmas concoction
- Follow the Christian Japanese example of spending Christmas Day doing nice things for others, and take your entire family to volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit the elderly at assisted living facilities, bring gifts to children in the cancer ward at the local hospital, etc.
Do you have any unique Christmas traditions to share? Add your stories in the comments section below.