Christmas Tradition

It has come and gone and I can genuinely say that at one point I felt so overwhelmed with happiness there may have been tear shed-dage.  I know…What has motherhood done to me?

Christmas, for me, always brings up a lot of cultural conversations.  Each year, I’ll be sitting around a table around mid-December when someone will ask, “Isn’t Christmas Eve when Americans celebrate?”  To be honest, I don’t really know.  Perhaps it seems a bit odd that I’m dubious about this tradition in the good old US of A, but I can only really say what I know from experience.  In my case, this stereotype is pretty accurate.

Christmas Eve 1980-something: My Dad would be in the middle of trying to get us to shake our Christmas presents when my Mom would order us into our Christmas dresses around 3-4pm.  With slow-cooked baked beans in tow, we would pile into the mini-van and make a short trip to an extended family member’s house to celebrate with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  And with 25-ish cousins on my Mom’s side alone, these were not small occasions.  After celebrating with my Mom’s small army family, we’d then head to my Dad’s side, where my grandma would literally pinch our cheeks, before we went home around 10-11pm (or at least it felt that late, as a kid) and crashed for the evening.  End scene. 

Two words. Lite. Brite. photo via:

You Brits could learn something from this, since I’m pretty sure we always came home exhausted.  Having problems getting your kid to sleep because he’s too amped up about Father Christmas?   Visit your families on Christmas Eve for hours.  Make them run military drills with their cousins.  “Clean up the wrapping paper!  Move!  Move!  Move!”  Have sausage roll eating competitions with Uncle Bob.  Full bellies equal tired eyes or it could equal the wonderful gift of cleaning vomit out of a mini-van into the early hours of Christmas morning.  But that’s unlikely – I really think you’ll thank me in the years to come.

Since moving to the UK, Christmas Eve is somewhat of a nothing day, characterized by those state-the-obvious facebookers putting up statues that say something like, “OMG– It’s Christmas Eve!”  I spent the Eve running around town picking up last bits of pieces for our Christmas Day lunch, cooking and baking, and wrapping presents.  And we spent the evening lounging around with friends.  There was no familial merriment.  It was a day to get ready for THE day.

Maybe you’re asking what the Brits do on Christmas Day, then.  Here is our family’s break-down:

  •  9am – Up prepping the Christmas Ham.  (Well, more like 9.20am.  What? I’m not good with alarms.)
  • 11am – Christmas Day Church Service where the kids are always asked to show what presents they’ve received.  The poor little chap behind us was whimpering for the last 10 minutes of the service.  And we found out that the earliest risers were at 3.30am.  Seriously, people?   I’d have a jolly old assault charge on my record against Old St. Nick if The Duchess ever tried to pull that.
  • 12pm – Back home to finish preparations for lunch.  That ham needed a lot of TLC.  Between the number of times I tenderly cared for it by turning it and poured the resting juices over it, you’d think it had paid for some kind of Christmas Ham Spa Day.
  • 1.15pm – The Duchess is passed out in the front room (that’s my girl!) and we go in to wake her so we can open presents.
  • 2pm – Finally, eating our buffet style family lunch.
  • 3pm – Watch the Queen’s Christmas Day Speech Skype with family in America.
  • 4pm – Head to in-laws for present opening and Christmas dinner.  We had goose for the second year running.  How English!
  • 8.30pm –The Duchess sleeps for the 10 minute car journey, wakes up and then thinks it’s time to play.  I honestly had no idea that at 6 months old a person could get that hyper.  I’m telling you people, that child was wound up.
  • 10.15pm –She finally settles down and The Native and I watch a traditional Christmas Day film.  Super 8, in this case.  Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

    Happy Christmas, Liz! photo via:

    It was a day sprinkled with new traditions that will make up our life as a family.  Yesterday was the Christmas that will define us as a family in the years to come.  It will be the Christmas that The Duchess will reminisce about when she grows up.

    How do you celebrate?


5 thoughts on “Christmas Tradition

  1. Deborah

    In England do they always have Christmas Day services? I remember them talking about having Christmas Day service when I was in Australia, so I was just curious if it was the same there. We had church on Christmas Day this year because Christmas was on a Sunday, but you know we wouldn’t normally have a service if it wasn’t on a Sunday. It was funny people were so shocked we weren’t canceling service on Christmas morning (many churches did). I thought yes that is a great way to celebrate the birth of Christ, cancel our normal worship service so we can stay home and open up presents, celebrating all the consumerism that Christmas has become and then overeat. Sounds like that would make Jesus really happy. It was funny though because during all our discussions where people questioned whether we would have church or not I thought about how in some places they always have a service on Christmas Day.

      1. Deborah

        Maybe I should :)… I did really enjoy having church on Christmas. However since the husband is a pastor if we always had a service on Christmas morning that would mean we could never get to be with our family who are all out of town so even though it probably contradicts what I just said for now I think I may hold off on the revolution and just stick to staying up here when Christmas or Christmas Eve is on a Sunday. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed your first Christmas with the Duchess so much. I wish we were in F-town still so we could see you when you come to visit.

  2. Lanna HOffman

    This was the first year that we celebrated with both sides of the family on Christmas Eve and then had Christmas day all to ourselves, and I am telling you, that is our new way. It was the most restful and beautiful Christmas I’ve ever had. Although I also always find it a bit odd that we don’t have Christmas services in America. If Deborah doesn’t want to start the revolution maybe I will ; )

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Sounds glorious, Lanna. Instead of rushing out to see family, we actually decided to spend the morning and afternoon together as a family and it was so special. I think we will continue to keep that time as our time because it gives us the space to sit back and appreciate those wonderful little moments that make Christmas really special.


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