Family wrapped in love: Christmas traditions that help define the season

STAFF WRITER John Coffelt From baking cookies for Santa to attending a candlelight service, Christmas may mean something a bit different to each of us. But most would agree that spending time with family is essential to our holiday traditions. Or, the words of Clark W. Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “The most enjoyable traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.” Here is a quick look at some of our readers’ and staff’s most beloved Christmas traditions. Reader Michelle Nelson said that she and her husband wanted to start new traditions for their new family, so they started buying new pajamas for Christmas night. “My husband and I have three children: Alexandra, 13 years, Jonathan, 12 years and Michael, 8 years old,” she told the Times. “I guess it started about 11 years ago.  My husband and I have our family traditions we grew up doing, but we wanted to add one of our very own. During the Christmas season we love to watch Christmas movies in our jammies while drinking hot chocolate and egg nog,” Nelson said. “So we just thought new pajamas will be the Christmas Eve gift for all of us. Even though we all know that pajamas will be in our boxes, they still get wrapped up and it’s still a joyous moment.” Reader Kimberly Snider gets an annual ornament for the children. Others, like Marlena Martin, who decorates her tree with her family after Thanksgiving, and Marianne Myers, who hides a Marvin the Martin Christmas ornament for the family to find, also take joy from the central tree. “Every year we take our children to pick their own ornament for the tree. By the time they are adults and have their own first Christmas tree, they will have enough ornaments to decorate with what they picked out throughout childhood,” Snider said. “Elf on the Shelf has been a big hit in our home the last few years,” Snider added. “We also do all the traditional Christmas rituals: drive around seeing all the lights, letters to Santa, bake cookies and reindeer food to leave out on Christmas Eve.” For readers Kelli Bender Robertson and Jill Turner, it’s a Christmas reading of scripture and the birth of Jesus. Stories are a recurring theme in locals’ holiday traditions. Amanda Crosslin Willis wrote on Facebook, “My youngest daughter reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve.” Reader Jennifer Hood’s holidays involve special meals with family. “We do Christmas dinner with one set of parents and Christmas morning breakfast with the other set. Kids help to make it extra special.” For our outgoing editor Leila Beem Núñez, Three Kings, or Los Reyes Magos, is as important as Christmas. Just after Christmas, Epiphany marks the arrival of the three wise men. In Puerto Rico, and much of the Latin world, the day brings with it its own set of customs. As a kid, Nuñéz would on Three Kings Eve (Jan. 5) go out with my parents in the yard to collect some grass to put in a shoebox to hide under her bed to feed the Kings’ camels with water. Upon waking the next morning the camel food would be gone and in its place, presents. “It’s a kind of extended Christmas,” she said. “It was always of fun to wake up and jump out of bed to see what was under it. And as a kid, of course, it meant extra presents.” She added that in Puerto Rico there are carolers with native instruments and parades throughout the whole season. For one reader, a sweet Christmas breakfast is a tradition the family has looked forward to each year. “I always get up before everyone else on Christmas morning and make muffins,” said Pam Craddock. “For all the traditions that come and go as our kids get older, this has been the one constant. She added that the children are older now and don’t need as much. “It’s nice when they head to the kitchen Christmas morning for muffins before they even think of opening a single present.” For John Matthew Sain it’s one word: Festivus, a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 in the hit sitcom, Seinfeld, as an alternative to the commercialism of the Christmas season. Jennifer Knight’s family drives around and look at Christmas lights, then goes home and watch Christmas movies. Reader Cherl Boswell said Christmas lights around the community are an attraction every year for her family. “[We enjoy] driving around with the family looking at Christmas lights,” Boswell said. “We did this tonight and plan on doing it a couple more times .” Kathy Jo Meeks holds a cookie decorating party with her girls’ friends. Others enjoy a more crafty holiday. Reader Christian Laura Ransom does “Christmas crafts with the kids then [rides] around finding Christmas lights and local shows.”