Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Blending Christmas Traditions

When my husband & I spent our first Christmas together, some of the quirky little family traditions that I hadn't given much thought to suddenly showed up in stark contrast. You might not think that German Christmas traditions would be that different from the Canadian ones I grew up with. A lot of North American Christmas traditions come from Germany, like the Christmas tree. But that's where the similarities end, in my experience.

Dorky parlour games: a family tradition

My husband's first Christmas stocking was the one I crocheted him about ten years ago. He still thinks they're a bit weird. Weihnachtsteller is what he grew up with. A plate of chocolates & other goodies for each person appears under the Christmas tree on Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day), December 6th. The date of the big event is different: his family always celebrated the holiday on the evening of the 24th: December 25th was for skiing. He was horrified at how early I'd get up on the 25th but I just couldn't help myself. I still have trouble sleeping on Christmas eve. Turkey for the big dinner? Nope. Goose. Then schmaltz (goose fat) on rye toast for breakfast in the following weeks.

Having Sprout makes the whole issue that much more important because now we're not just doing what we feel like that year, we're creating our own family traditions. There's more onus on us to have consistent family customs around the holidays. We needed to make decisions like following the Santa Claus tradition or not.

Stockings were a big thing for me--that was non-negotiable. I have so many fond memories of opening all the little gifts that my mom stuffed into my (large, stretchy) stocking. Even the stocking itself is a lovely memory: my grandmother knitted one for each of her grandchildren, our names stitched into the yarn above the little Santa design & the bell attached to the toe of each one.

So for Sprout's first Christmas, my sister took up the torch from my grandmother, whose knitting days were past her at that point, & knitted a gorgeous stocking for him. It was so big he could fit inside it, as you can see.

He wasn't terribly impressed about being stuffed into this...
Of course, I know we don't have to do everything exactly the same each year & there's always room for improvement. I plan to try to make each Christmas a little greener than the last. Going as paperless as possible is part of that--I made fabric gift bags & wraps to avoid the mountain of trash at the end of the day. We also tried to choose gifts for Sprout without excessive packaging.

Opening up the gift bags on Christmas morning.
This year I've been thinking a lot about the activities we can do around Christmas, & not necessarily things we did as children. The miniature train at Stanley Park's Bright Nights Festival wasn't around when I was a child. Going to the Vancouver German Christmas Market is another new one--it's only been in Vancouver since 2010--but it's a way to expose Sprout to a little of his German heritage.

I guess how you might describe our blending of traditions is "Something old, something new, something German & something... blue?" Even after spending a dozen Christmases together, two of them with our little boy, we're still figuring it out. But whether it's turkey or goose, the 24th or the 25th, what's really important is spending time together with family. Not just the three of us but making time to see all our extended family. Then playing silly parlour games with them.

What about you? Have you come across any conflicts when blending two different family or cultural traditions? How have you worked it out?

This post is the ninth of twelve in a series on Christmas Traditions. Head over & visit my friends to see their take on traditions at Christmas. If you just joined in now, here's what you've missed:

Day 1 - November 26th - Julie Nowell on traditions in a new home
Day 2 - November 27th -  Jen at Mama Papa Bubba on crafty traditions
Day 3 - November 28th -  Lori at The Write Mama on her Christmas Village
Day 4 - November 29th -  Amy at The Connection We Share on her Experiential Advent Calendar
Day 5 - November 30th - Erin At Large on the Giving Part of Christmas
Day 6 - December 1st -  Jessica at North Shore Mama on a few of her favourite (Christmas) things
Day 7 - December 2nd - Suzanne at the Enchanted Chameleon on Christmas, gluten free
Day 8 - December 3rd - Hillary at Double the L Please on her time-honoured tradition of... BBQ

But wait! It's not over yet! Don't forget to visit these three for the next in the series:

Day 10 - December 5th - Eschelle at Mumfection on German pickle & candles
Day 11 - December 6th - Brandee at One Crazy Kid
Day 12 - December 7th - Tairalyn at Little Miss Mama on baking stained glass cookies


  1. It's a process to figure out the holidays when you have your child...still working on it! Great post!

  2. I found it a little challenging when we started our more concrete Christmas, not the lazy ones prior to children lol. Both hubby and I are "muts" really and what heritage we do have our parents never really talk about or enforce and I thought it was important for us to find our own way. so we took a tradition from both our families and just went with it. Everyone is happy and we feel like we have something solid for us to continue year after year :) As long as you love it, then it is perfect :)


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