So it’s that time of year again, the Christmas tree is up and the house is ablaze with lights. I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by. It seriously only feels like yesterday that I was decorating the tree, pulling out the Christmas CDs and hanging up the stockings.
With the start of December upon us and the festive spirit taking hold, I thought I would take the focus off the crazy Christmas to-do list and share with you some of the Christmas traditions that make this such a fun time of year for me and my family.
Our Christmas tree is put up four weekends before Christmas to mark the beginning of advent.
When I was growing up, we actually didn’t put up the tree until Christmas Eve. Instead, as my parents are both German, we followed the custom of lighting a candle on an advent krantz (which is a like wreath that you place on the table with four red candles on it) on the four Sundays before Christmas. We then decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and it stayed up for the 12 days of Christmas before being taken down again on 6 January.
I actually combine these traditions and put up both the tree and advent krantz at the same time. I then pack them both up after New Year’s Day to start the year afresh.
Each year, my girls get to pick out a special new ornament for the tree. My plan is that I will pass these ornaments on to my daughters when they are older and perhaps have a family of their own so they can remember these special times.
Of course, my girls also enjoy opening the door of their daily advent calendar – particularly this year as I splurged a little and bought them one from Smiggle!
My husband answers to the name of Clark Griswold in the weeks leading up to Christmas!
The front of our house is totally covered in Christmas lights, with plenty more found in the garden. I think this year my husband put up about 20 strands of Christmas lights, with 600 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 12,000 LED bud lights on the front and roof of our house, not to mention another 50 metres of LED rope light! Then there’s the net lights on trees, countless flashing candy canes, stars and mini Santas and two light up reindeers in our garden as well as a massive inflatable Santa and light up Christmas tree on our front porch.
It looks totally amazing and I’m proud of his community Christmas spirit!
Well before Santa Claus makes his appearance in this house, my girls receive a visit from St Nicholas. This is another German tradition I grew up with. Before going to bed on 5 December, they each place out a small Christmas boot for St Nicholas to fill with sweets and chocolates. They also leave a carrot for St Nicholas’ horse and some water for the man himself.
Heading out to visit Santa and explore the city at Christmas
Each year, we have our family photo taken with Santa at the nearby shopping centre – this has become a family event as when the girls were younger they never wanted to sit on Santa’s lap alone so we had to jump into the photo with them. Who knows, maybe we’ll still be taking these same photos when they are teenagers or beyond?!
In December, we make a trip into the city to see the annual Myer Christmas windows, where the girls usually have a ride on the Santa Express train ride – although I’m wondering if it might be too tall to board this year due to height restrictions!
Here comes Santa Claus … twice!
Santa technically visits my girls twice on Christmas Eve – once at my parent’s place earlier in the evening and then again at home while the girls are asleep.
Christmas Eve is traditionally the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families, followed by a traditional Christmas lunch on Christmas Day. As a child, my siblings and I would wait together in one of our bedrooms while Santa visited to leave his presents and have a quick chat with my parents about whether we had been naughty or nice. Once Santa was gone, we would race down to see what he had left for us under the tree and stay up late into the night playing with our toys, listening to Christmas music, eating chocolates and other treats, and just enjoying each others company.
My girls get to enjoy this custom at my parents’ place on Christmas Eve and then experience the excitement all over again on Christmas morning when they see what Santa has left for them at their own house. How lucky are they?!
I never had a Christmas stocking as a child, but there were always plenty of presents under the tree! I think I got my very first stocking when I moved out of home to live with my now husband as he still had his from when he was a child. It’s a tradition we have continued with our own family, and now even the dog and cat have a stocking!
Santa sacks on the other hand are completely new to both of us – but I must say that I totally love the idea so went out and bought three last week (yes, even one for my bub-to-be for next year …well, they have to match!).
I have explained to my girls that Santa has asked us to leave the sacks under the tree before they go to bed on Christmas Eve so he can fill them up with presents when he visits that night. I’m still undecided about whether or not to wrap the presents and pop them into the sack or just put them in as is and maybe just wrap anything that’s too big and needs to stand next to the sack. The jury is still out on that one … what do you do?
I always try to make a few Christmas-inspired treats – my usual favourites are chocolate truffles and gingerbread. It provides some great family time as the girls really enjoy baking in the kitchen – plus it keeps them busy on Christmas Eve before heading to out to the celebrations at my parents’ place.
Spiced German gingerbread, such as chocolate covered Lebkuchen or pfeffernusse, are other big favourites in this house but I tend to buy those rather than make my own.
These are just a few of the Christmas traditions we follow in our family. As you can see, it’s a mixture of both old and new customs.
However you choose to celebrate Christmas, the main thing is to relax and enjoy spending time with much loved family and friends.
Merry Christmas everyone … or Frohe Weihnachten in German!
I’d love to hear about your Christmas traditions. How do you celebrate Christmas? What are some of your family’s traditions?