Our Christmas Traditions
Christmas is very nearly upon us and hopefully you are finding a little time in between the present wrapping and the food prepping to unwind a little. It’s so easy at this time of year to get caught up in the more commercial side of the holidays and it’s important to embrace those little traditions that make Christmas so special and that we continue year after year. To get us in the mood I asked the Making Stories team if they would like to share their favourite Christmas traditions with us.
I love winter and the holiday season and try every year to combat some of the self imposed holiday stress with traditions that are fun as well as relaxing. One of my favourite times of year is Winter Solistice. I love the significance as well as the symbology of the darkest and longest night coming to an end. It is a beautiful reminder of the light we all carry inside us and that we can use that light to brighten and warm the darkest of times. In the spirit of shining a light in the darkness I make beeswax candles every year a week or two before Winter Solistice. It is very slow, repetitive work which gives it a relaxing and meditative quality. The whole house warms up and smells like beeswax and it’s so fun to see how the candles turn out. Come the 21st we invite all our friends over for a little celebration to cheer on the return of longer days. I make glühwein and we set out lots of delicious snacks. The children are all running around and playing. It is a wonderful way to enjoy some cozy times with friends before everyone goes their separate ways for the holidays. Then when it is time to leave we give the candles as gifts along with a few treats so everyone literally has a light to shine through the rest of the long winter.
It’s no secret that I absolutely love this time of year! Spending time with those I love is something I enjoy all year, but I somehow find myself cherishing our time together even more when it includes drinking mulled wine, making music in front of a fireplace or going on snowy walks. Besides the tradition Malte and I started a few years ago of omitting traditional Christmas gifts in favour of organising 6 dates each, one for every month of the new year, our family doesn’t have all that many traditions and is usually all about just enjoying a couple of cosy, relaxed days amidst loved ones. Within our circle of friends, there are a few things we’ll usually do in December that I really love, such as making advent wreaths, visiting our favourite Christmas market or the annual Secret Santa shenanigans, but what makes this time of year so special to me is mainly how most people we share our life with prioritise spending time together a little more.
I must admit that Christmas is a bit of a bittersweet time for me. I love the coziness of the holiday season, and (specifically now with a toddler) enjoy creating memorable traditions to look forward to each year. But it’s also the time of year when homesickness hits the hardest and I’m keenly aware that much of my family is very far away. So some of my favourite Christmas traditions have to do with combatting my homesickness (since we all know there’s no real cure!) These include hanging the stockings my mom knit for us, baking cinnamon buns on Christmas morning like we did all through my childhood and making popcorn & cranberry garlands for our tree- which all my German friends think I’m crazy for doing!
Aside from this, one new holiday tradition we’ve started in past few years is taking a quick mini-vacation (just renting a holiday house somewhere close by) with a few friends after New Years. This is something I really hope we’ll continue to do, as it’s the perfect way to really relax and recover from all the holiday excitement before properly jumping into everything that the new year will bring.
David, my partner, and me started our first joint Christmas tradition a few years ago and it’s quickly become one of my absolute favourites. One Saturday in December, usually the first or second one, we invite all our friends over for a “Christmas Cookie Extravaganza”, a day of making and baking cookies in our apartment. We make mulled wine and non-alcoholic punch, and everyone brings ingredients for their favourite cookie recipe. Over the course of the day, countless baking trays with cookies are being made and decorated, tons of sugar and mulled wine is consumed, and the day inevitably ends with ordering pizza.
In my family, we’ve been pretty particular about how the morning of the 24th December has to take place (in Germany, the evening of the 24th is the time of giving the Christmas presents). I’m not sure if this counts as tradition or just convenience:
In the morning we carry the previously bought Christmas tree out of the cellar. It gets unwrapped and put in the stand (when I was a child, that was the time when my dad would carve the stomp of the tree with a rather dangerous looking gigantic knife since it would never fit into our (very) old and tiny stand. Now we have a new one, which makes this part much easier. We always get the smaller trees since they are easier to carry and less expensive. So now it gets put on a stool with a Christmas blanket and the very top of it fixed to the ceiling because of children and later animals.
Now comes the decorating part which was always the task of us kids and my mom (if she wasn’t working that day). I’ve heard that this is usually the time when the first arguments begin since opinions can differ on how to execute the job. We avoid this by just decorating it the same every year: Silver and plain glass ornaments, real candles and the ‘special’ handmade ornaments my sister has made for us for the last 10 Christmases. My favourite has to be the angel made of uncooked noodles. Because time flies when you have fun, the decorating ends pretty much around lunchtime. Then we’ll have ‘Würzfleisch’ (a kind of Ragu in small glass bowls with grated cheese on top) which my mom prepares the day before. Now the preparations are complete and everybody is free to what they want till ‘Bescherung’ (exchanging the gifts).
We’ve been doing it like this (almost unchanged) for the past thirty years and I’m still not tired of it. Maybe that’s what classifies it as a tradition?
We have lots of slightly strange Christmas traditions, many revolving around food and drink, but I think my favourite one has to be the Christmas Imp. This started with my Grandma, she had a small handmade green imp decoration with pipe cleaner legs covered in felt that sat on her tree. When my sister and I would go over we were told that Mr Imp had his eye on us and if we weren’t good we wouldn’t get any presents come Christmas day. My mum obviously thought this was a genius idea because she soon had one on her tree and over the years the Christmas Imp soon because an important part of decorating our Christmas tree. When it came time for my sister to move out and go to university abroad and spend her first Christmas away from home, my mum and I sat at the dining room table and made her her own Christmas Imp out of pipe cleaners and felt, being careful to make him look as much like the original as possible. Fifteen years later he still sits on her tree, keeping an eye on my nephews!
This year I moved away myself to Canada and away from my family in the UK. I’m spending my first Christmas without them and it’s such a strange feeling. A couple of weeks ago I received a parcel in the post from my mum and dad with a few Christmas treats and decorations to help us with our first Christmas tree, and nestled at the bottom was my very own Christmas Imp. Mum had got out the pipe cleaners and felt again to recreate him and I admit I may have got a little weepy! The people I’ve told the story of Mr Imp to have often compared it to ‘Elf On The Shelf’, so I checked out that fellow to see what he was like. Our Christmas Imps are way creepier! But we love them anyway!
What are your Christmas traditions!? We’d love to hear them so please feel free to share them in the comments below!
Until next time, woolly greetings,