Yahoo! News asked writers from the Yahoo! Contributor Network to share their personal holiday tales and traditions. Below is a story from a contributor.
[Your Voice: What holiday stories or traditions do you have to share? Sign up to contribute.]
My family had a lot of Christmas traditions when I was growing up. Many sprang from those of my great-grandparents. One thing that was always important to them was that family join together for Christmas dinner. They felt it was a crucial part of the holiday celebration.
Considering the size of our family, that was no small feat. While my great-grandparents’ house was large by Enid, Oklahoma, standards, it literally burst at the seams on Christmas Day. There were aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles and cousins several times removed. No one was left out, and no one was ever turned away.
My great-grandmother had one solid rule. At Christmas, all family slights or sins had to be forgiven; no exceptions. Angry words and hurt feelings were not allowed under her roof. She said that Jesus was a gift to unite us, and for us to do less in his name was unacceptable. It was one of the things I loved most about her.
Once my great-grandparents passed on, my grandmother picked up the tradition and carried it forward. She also instituted some of her own. My favorite was decorating the Christmas tree together as a family.
Elements of our Cherokee heritage were always included on the tree with mirror ornaments, symbols of animals, feathers or dream catchers. My grandfather always let me put this in a place of honor on the tree so I would appreciate where I came from.
My grandmother added to the dinner celebration too by adding her own homemade cinnamon rolls into the mix. It was the only time of the year that we would get to have her special sweet treat, and we looked forward to it with anticipation. I love it in particular because she would let me help roll out the dough and watch the rolls rise.
Our family always opened our presents to each other on Christmas Eve. Grandma said that was in honor of the night of Jesus’ birth. Santa’s presents were the only ones left for Christmas morning.
As we opened the gifts one at a time, we would go around the room sharing what we had received. While as a child I was often impatient to open all my gifts at once, I learned to appreciate seeing the faces of other family members as they opened their gifts.
Once I married and moved away from Oklahoma, I took many of my family’s traditions with me. However, my family also developed some of our own. Christmas was family time always, but we included friends as well.
We continue to this day the tradition of opening our gifts to one another on Christmas Eve. That is done here at Nana and Papa’s house in Virginia. We enjoy sandwiches and soup and hot cocoa beforehand. Once the gifts are opened, we watch a Christmas movie together. It’s a tradition we started when our children were little and one they want to teach their children as well.
Before bedtime, I make cookies with my grandchildren – – John and Katelyn. These are left with milk and a handwritten note thanking Santa for whatever he chooses to leave under the tree. We also make reindeer food from nuts and oats. We take it outside and sprinkle it on the ground for Santa’s trusty crew. Finally, I read my munchkins The Night Before Christmas or The Littlest Angel (their choice) and tuck them into bed.
On Christmas morning, everyone piles into my daughter’s house before the kids wake up. Luckily it is just blocks from ours and our son’s homes. There we watch Josh and Katie when they discover what Santa has left for them.
After presents are finished, we make brunch for our extended family (in-laws and friends) and just enjoy the time together. All day long, people pop in to join in the fun and the day isn’t complete without the sound of caroling around the fire.
Our Christmas dinner is a bit different from everyone else’s. We make our seafood favorites, rather than a traditional Christmas meal. My son-in-law’s mother makes melt-in-your-mouth crab cakes, while he makes fried oysters and clams that are to die for. I make my famous steamer pots, complete with crab legs, tiny red potatoes and corn-on-the cob. Of course, I also make my grandmother’s cinnamon roll recipe to keep her memory alive and well.
Everyone who drops in after dinner brings a dessert or wine and we spend the evening in Christmas revelry with eggnog and lots of goodies. It is our favorite day of the year because of all that we can share with those we love.
I now watch as my daughter, Chantel, and son, Kyle, pick up some of the family traditions and carry them forward. I feel blessed to have so much to be thankful for, not only this Christmas, but for many more to come.