The Culture of Our Christmas Traditions

A Black Christmas, Hazel Ravu

‘Twas the night before Christmas and me and my mother are sweating in the kitchen trying to prepare as much food as we can. We’re hosting this year. That means a bunch of families, including a few expected unexpected guests are due to be arriving. On the day, me and my mother are back in the same positions, putting the final touches on every type of food you can imagine, excluding ‘traditional’ Christmas food. Salmon, rice, chicken, salad, oxtail, ribs. With of course a couple of roast potatoes on the plate to specify that it’s Christmas.

When the guests arrive, we eat. Not before singing Silent Night and saying a small prayer. Then, the drinks start flowing. The dads start singing and the kids start writing raps. I’m crying from laughter 90% of the time. The other 10% I’m arguing with my older brother. No presents have been opened, despite the pleas from everyone under 12. I don’t care, I can open the yearly novel I receive from my father on Boxing Day. Everyone’s in their best dress. No coming downstairs on Christmas day without a shower and a specially bought outfit.

The desire my mother has for me and a dress has admittedly caused a few heated discussions in the past. After a competitive game of charades, we’re forced to do a talent show for the parent’s entertainment. There’s stand up comedy, singing, piano playing, magic tricks. We even have a microphone. And a DJ. And party lights. I write a poem quickly on my phone whilst the others perform.

After the games, it’s a party until the last ones are standing, those who decided to retire are sleeping in there designated spot that me and mum organised earlier. 8 girls in my room, the boys downstairs, and the parents in the guest rooms. The house is a mess but it’s okay. Although it’s not because it’ll be doing the cleaning tomorrow. Christmas at our house is about sacrifice: the sacrifice of a lot of time, money, and energy.. But our Christmas’ is about coming together and come together we do.

A Jammy Dodger Christmas, Shannon Bowes-cavanagh

Tradition is a massive part of Christmas in most households. It makes the festive period that little bit more special and we look forward to participating in them each year. I usually have to spend most of Christmas eve evening driving my sister around looking at different houses Christmas lights. It started because when she was still a big believer in Santa, it made it very difficult for her to get sleep as I’m sure we can all remember. So, to distract her or tire her out, we would drive her to look at different houses. Now, although the magic of Father Christmas may have worn off a bit, she is still keen on a Christmas eve trip to look at lights.

Now that my family lives all over the place, we get together for a brunch at a hotel where we give my nan her presents (we don’t get to see her on Christmas day). The whole family will eat and usually drink quite a bit, exchange presents and wear Christmas jumpers. It’s special to us because my nan lives abroad so we rarely get to see her throughout the rest of the year. It’s also the only time of year where board games nearly cause an entire family fallout.

 We also, like most, leave out snacks for Santa and his reindeer however, in our house, these are a bit different. My sister hates mince pies so when she was younger, she insisted that Santa must hate them too and instead be a fan of jammy dodgers. No one in the family knows why in particular jammy dodgers but we all found it funny. We still put out jammy dodgers for Santa and his reindeer like we did when she was young, only now we eat them instead before she goes to bed.

From Christmas Flocks…to Christmas Pudding Jumpers, Maja Metera

When I was little, I would be the Great Organiser of the Christmas Eve which in Poland is the most important day of Christmas. I would go a week early with my grandma to my great grandmother’s house to make pierogi, decorate and everything. And that was the tradition – Christmas dinner with my mom’s family at her grandma’s. But when she hit 85, the tradition changes and my auntie became the one in charge. And that’s when Christmas lost magic for me.

One year my family was especially not happy for holiday season. I do not really remember what happened but it pushed my mom to decide to start a new tradition – contrasting with the old ones. We would go back home after dinner instead of staying the night and have breakfast the next day in ugly sweaters and PJs.

Given that my whole life I had to wear not-so-comfortable elegant clothes to both dinner and breakfast, it was a huge change. I have two – one is quite cute actually, it is red with white circle and reindeer horns in the middle. But the other that I got for a pound in a second-hand shop is a true masterpiece – it is poo-like brown with white top and a mistletoe bow. It is a Christmas pudding. Which does not make any sense in Poland but that half its charm. My parents have matching ones with penguins and we always take photos in them with a Christmas tree in the background which is the moment for which I wait every holiday cause it means that the uncomfortable officialities are over.

Boxing Day Dinner, Katie Waits

Whenever I used to tell my friends about my family’s Christmas dinners on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, I’d usually get puzzled looks – “but why? Neither of those days are Christmas Day?!” Well, on Christmas Day we’re often so busy Christmas dinner feels rushed. So, for the last few years, having Christmas dinner on the evening of Christmas Eve gives us more time to relax, enjoy it, and builds up excitement for the next day. As for the Boxing Day dinner, that tradition goes back a bit longer.

The Boxing Day dinner has been an important part of Christmas for as long as my sister and I can remember, and even before that. It all began when my older cousin was little, more than 20 years ago. My grandparents and my uncle used Boxing Day as a way to celebrate Christmas with my cousin, as they couldn’t see him on Christmas Day.

It has become tradition and so, on the 26th December, we go to my Gran and Grandad’s to have food together. The table is all set up, awaiting the dinner or buffet that my Gran has cooked. Over the years, we’ve all drifted into particular seats at the table. My younger self thought it would be fun to sit at the head of the table and, much to my delight, the adults allowed it. To keep with tradition, it’s been my seat ever since – but it’s also very awkward to reach, accessed by scrambling over other chairs, so maybe that’s why I’m still allowed to sit there…

Although it’s very similar to an ordinary Christmas dinner, our Boxing Day tradition means we get to see my cousin, and make the most of Christmas!

Unfortunately, Covid has meant we’ve had to cancel it this year – but I’m hopeful, once everything is okay, we can continue our beloved tradition.

Celebrating With Style, Megan Evans

What Christmas traditions do you and your family participate in every year? How did they come about and what makes them special to you?

Christmas in the Evans household has been quite similar every year, and even with the COVID-19 pandemic still transforming our lives drastically, we will continue to celebrate with style.

We always count down from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, because it just feels really warming and invites us to be a bit more merry, because as we’ve gotten older and priorities have changed, it doesn’t feel as exciting or real, unless we implement it into our routine.

In the morning, my Mum whacks some delicious croissants and boils a big pot of tea whilst we unwrap presents. We would usually prep the dinner the night before, and during the morning after unwrapping, we would typically dress ourselves in whatever gifts we’ve been given, which is usually a good pair of Christmas socks, some smellies and a nice jumper.

This is a special part of our tradition, because on a normal day, we wouldn’t go to this much effort. As it’s Christmas, it just feels a bit nicer to dress in a more festive way, and our gifts are usually thought out so it can impact the day. Let’s say I got given a box of chocolates, they would be devoured over a soppy festive film. If I received a perfume, it would instantly hit me with that festive feeling because of the day, and being surrounded by family. The scent will then transport me back to this day in the future, which will hopefully be as carefree and festive as possible.

Dinner is always that lovely traditional meal, with too much turkey to handle, a host of Brussels, cauliflower cheese, pigs in blankets, roasties, peas, carrots, broccoli and stuffing to feed a crowd of people. After eating we would play a host of games ranging from Monopoly, Pscyh, to a standard game of cards.

We love getting everyone together and letting off a bit of steam, especially given that it’s been a while since all members of my family are present and able to switch off completely from the bustling outside world.

The games after dinner became tradition because after eating, we would usually just chat with the festive music in the background from various artists across the world. We would then gain just a little too much confidence, to beat the parents at games, which ends in a battle between my brother and father, due to their ridiculous similarities. Christmas isn’t Christmas without a stupid game of charades, which results in chaos because at this point we are so stuffed with food and drink.

This year we decided to do Secret Santa, which I am sure will become a tradition for years to come. It means that we don’t have to worry about spending so much money on lots of gifts, and instead focus on one particular person and their interests. I had my mother this year, and she loves gin, jewellery and trinkets that dress up the house, so I utilised this to my advantage.

After games, we would usually stick on a film, and wind down. That usually involves eating cheese and crackers with a bottle of wine and a cosy blanket. We also make sure to eat dessert- as dessert goes very quick in the family. Even after a large meal, there will certainly be room for a mince pie, or two!

Now that me and my siblings are older, Christmas isn’t about the gifts. We love just having time with the family and enjoying company and making memories that will be continued to be remembered for life.