Traditions on Christmas Day? Have they changed?

Christmas day presents

Santa in sled Traditions — Christmas Day is upon us. Are you ready? For once we, my wife and I, are ready! We have the presents purchased and wrapped. They sit under the tree waiting for the package distributor to pick one and call out a name. If tradition holds, whoever the present is for will be offered help in opening it. Then comes the cries of “Show us what it is. Hold it up.” Cameras will flash and it will be time for the next one.

Our Christmases around the world

I was sitting here thinking how Christmas Day events have changed for my family over the years. My wife and I spent our first Christmas (1974) as a married couple in Keflavik, Iceland. The second was in Iceland also. Our third was in San Vito, Italy in an apartment above our Italian landlords. We were two and a half. My wife was pregnant.

My son joined us for the fourth and fifth (1977-1978) in San Vito. The sixth and seventh were in Pensacola, Florida. The Eighth (1981) was my daughter’s first as she grew us to a family of four.  The next two were in Coco Solo, Panama. We have been in Maryland for all of them since 1984.

Christmas tree

Christmas traditions at our house

My wife and I bought a big artificial tree in Iceland and used it for forty years. It was always a challenge to find room in the government housing we lived in for the tree.  Some piece of furniture would hide in the bedroom or utility room while the tree decorated the space vacated.  Over several days before each Christmas, wrapped presents found their way under the tree. It was magic to the kids. It was late night wrapping that made the magic.

It became traditional for the kids to open one present on Christmas Eve. The rest waited for Christmas morning. Santa had to make a stop after all. Santa’s presents were the big items that required assembly. Santa’s helper had to pull tools and stay up late doing Santa’s work.  Christmas morning was hectic as the mounds of wrapping paper grew. The kids enjoyed their presents while we made dinner.

Today, the children are grown and have children of their own. They are creating their family traditions regarding Christmas *and other holidays*. Our traditions have changed to permit them to have theirs. We remember, in moments of nostalgia, past Christmases.

One of our traditions remains. Our smaller tree requires relegating a piece of furniture to another room. The tradition most missed is not being present when the sun comes up and watching the grandchildren discover what lies under their tree. We do get to watch them with the presents we bring with our visit.

Empty nesters, we accept the role of supporting cast ready for whatever role Santa needs filled. Has Christmas traditions changed for you? Use the comment to share your traditions.







  1. That’s so sweet – bittersweet, really. I’m wondering what the traditions were around you in Iceland and Italy. But, you had the same tree for 40 years?! Wow.

    We have so many siblings that I had nieces and nephews while I was growing up. My sister almost always came over to spend a few days at Christmas. Her girls preferred Christmas morning at Grani’s.

    I don’t have kids, but I always go to another sister’s house and we spend Christmas Eve playing family games (Pictionary, etc.) and then Christmas morning opening presents – and drinking coffee. Now that her girls are growing up, I wonder how things will change. This year, though, they are both back home from University, so the tradition will continue for at least one more year.

    • Dwane

      I had two younger brothers and one younger sister. My father was gone many Christmas and Mom relied on me to assist her with preparations. I am sure there were regular things we did when I was young that would qualify as traditions. I just don’t have those memories. Not that I miss the memories when I have 43 years of those with my better half, two children and seven grandchildren.

      It sounds like you have good memories with the opportunity for more. Having lots of family near will ensure that there will be memories to cherish.

      Belated Merry Christmas and have a safe Happy New Year.

  2. My little ones are still little. This was the first year my oldest daughter really got Christmas. It was so much fun setting out reindeer food and cookies for Santa. The look on her face when she came out of her room today and saw the presents makes all of the work so very worth it.

    We celebrate Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve and open up gifts then, with the Santa gifts reserved for Christmas Day. We play games into the night on Christmas Eve, waiting for the girls to finally fall asleep so Santa can get to work.

    Next year, I am going to pay a lot more attention to creating more lasting traditions now that the little ones are less little.

    The joy on their faces brings tears to my eyes. I want to gobble up every one of these moments as they are so precious and don’t last nearly long enough.

    • Dwane

      I had some of those moments Christmas Eve and Day with the grandchildren.

      Sounds like you have started traditions with the Christmas Eve activities and the games together.

      You are right, the moments are precious and don’t last long enough. As the little ones grow, new moments will happen to be as precious. Then there may be those with grandchildren.

      Belated Merry Christmas and Happy Safe New Year.

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