Where Did Your Holiday Traditions Start?

Canadian Thanksgiving is on the first Monday of October. This is when my wife’s family gets together out at their acreage to enjoy family camaraderie and at the end of Thanksgiving night a random bowl is brought around to everyone whose present and they draw names. The name drawn becomes the person whom you are to buy Christmas gifts for that year. In our small family the dreaded days follow shortly after Thanksgiving, as you are now responsible and held accountable for writing up your annual Christmas list.

The annual Christmas list is a list of items that cost $50 or less, usually around 15-items in total length. And you must have your Christmas list finalized and sent out to everyone, no later than Halloween, October 31st.  “What might be considered punishment is having to do chores all by yourself if you don’t get your Christmas list in, by the 31st. One year Kevin had to shovel manure in a early November snowstorm… all because he forgot to get his list in on time!” 

Also during Canadian Thanksgiving they elect an annual “Santa Claus” whose sole purpose on Christmas morning is to be the person retrieving and giving out presents. Each person receives one gift. Then everyone cordially sits down and one by one everyone opens up their gift. This goes on until all Christmas presents are distributed that morning. Usually its about 3 rounds of under the tree presents. 

Besides under the tree presents, there are the smaller stocking stuffers each of us gets for everyone else in the family. These are little tokens of appreciation for each other. They consist of things under $10 such as your favourite dark chocolate bar or the latest Louise Penny murder mystery novel or a new pair of funny socks or like one year the 32-year old brother-in-law received a pair of Superman underwear because he failed to send out his Christmas list! 

Thinking back to my first ever Canadian Thanksgiving circa 2007, I sat at the table with eight relative strangers. At the time I had just been dating their daughter for a short period of time. And between spoonfuls of mashed potatoes and gravy going into my pie hole all of a sudden I got this urge to ask, “Where do all these holiday traditions come from that you are describing?”

With hoards of smiles and laughter the faces all turned to me, as if I had just spit mashed potato across the table. As I sat starring at each face wondering what was soooo amusing, her mother looked across the table and says, “You mean, she’s never explained to you why we set up the Christmas tree on Christmas eve? And why we draw names at Thanksgiving?” Dumbfounded my head shook left to right, then I turned to my then girlfriend… “well… this is interesting. You have a story to tell?” 

She looked around the table at everyone and says, “Okay, please just let me get all the way through it before you start correcting me. Okay?” They all nodded in unison. 

“The annual Christmas traditions began waaaaay back when I was the first child my parents had. I was about 3 or 4 years old. That’s like 1981. It was the year before my sister was born. I JUUUUUUST LOVED LOVED LOVED the Christmas tree, the lights, the ornaments and well everything about Christmas. There we were a few days after setting up the entire house in early December when mom was in the kitchen and dad was sitting in the other room reading a book. I went into the room with the tree. And I started touching  the limbs of the tree. Then pulling on ornaments and you know stuff. Because I was an only child. Then all of a sudden I felt this urge to just well, you know, pull on the branches. So, I did just that. I started pulling and pulling and then… the tree just… fell with a CRASH-BANG-BOOM!!! Immediately I SHOUTED — MOOOOOOOM THE TREEEEEEE!!! Of course both my parents were already running at the sound of the BOOM when they reached me, I was laughing and crying because the tree was on the floor. I literally scared the crap out of myself!  As they came to realize what had happened… The scolded me and well that’s where all our Christmas Traditions began from.”  

What Are Our Family Christmas Traditions? 

  1. Every October, we choose whom our Secret Santa will be 
  2. By October 31st, Halloween, we submit to the rest of the family our Christmas List 
    1. Anything on the Christmas List is strictly off-limits to be purchased in the interim 
  3. On Christmas eve, we decorate and put up the family Christmas tree 
  4. We enjoy a Charcuterie/Tapas style Christmas eve dinner 
  5. We reminisce and tell each other stories of what we are grateful for that year 
  6. We play Christmas music and celebrate the holiday season 
  7. Later in the evening, after dinner we watch a Christmas movie 
  8. Around 10:30pm, everyone is handed a song book and we sing Christmas carols  
    1. Every year we finish the carols with The 12-Days of Christmas 
  9. Everyone sneaks away to gathering presents
    1. They are placed under the tree or in our stockings 
  10. Everyone says good-night slightly after midnight 
    1. Usually the first person awake on Christmas morning is the designated coffee maker