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How do our site readers far and wide celebrate Christmas? Spending time with loved ones – whether decorating the tree, singing Christmas carols, or waiting for Santa Claus – appears to be the holiday activity of choice, judging by your emails. In fact, the vast majority of those who shared holiday traditions with us said you worked hard to downplay the season's commercialism and focus on what matters most: family. We hope you'll enjoy reading how our site readers celebrate Christmas as much we did. Happy holidays!
"We spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother's. First we have a present-opening frenzy, eat goodies until we think we will burst, and then laugh ourselves silly while we sing Christmas carols. Then we usually get all dressed up in our Christmas best and go to church as a family for the 11 p.m. service. Most of all, we just enjoy being together."
"When I was growing up, my favorite part of Christmas (other than the presents) was the family get-togethers. My grandparents on my father's side had seven children; each sibling alternated hosting the Christmas party.
On Christmas Eve, we would all get together and eat dinner, sing carols, and open the present from the person who drew our name. The best part of the evening was when we got home. My two brothers and I got to open one of our presents from under the tree.
On Christmas morning we would wait until Mom and Dad got up to open our presents. After they had their coffee cups filled and we had our hot cocoa, we would begin passing out the presents one at a time. Everyone watched while each person opened their present. My brothers and I got the privilege of picking which presents got opened when. These mornings will be forever engraved on my mind and heart."
"Church on Christmas Eve, then Christmas morning brunch with my parents at our house where we exchange gifts and spend the day together. For Christmas dinner and other festivities we go to my in-laws' house for the big celebration. We have a huge dinner with up to 11 grandchildren, 10 aunts and uncles, and, of course, the grandparents.
The gift giving and games usually last until 10 p.m., and by then the kids all crash. It's a crazy time, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love having my daughter see her extended family as often as possible, especially those who are from out of town. Even if we didn't exchange gifts, just having the family all together is reason enough to celebrate."
Oh Christmas tree
"When I was a child, Mom and Dad would get the ornaments out of the attic and set them next to the tree on Christmas Eve. Sometime during the night, Santa would come, decorate the tree, fill the stockings and place them by the fireplace, leave our presents, and eat the cookies we left. I intend to keep the tradition of having Santa decorate the tree with my own daughter. I hope my daughter will be as awestruck by her first sight of the tree as I was."
"A special tradition that I remember and will continue in my own house was the annual trip to cut the Christmas tree. We used to spend hours sometimes walking around in the woods, searching and searching for the perfect Christmas tree. I will always cherish those family trips."
"This Christmas we are going to making a visual spectacle of the house. We have already gotten lots of garlands for the stairs outside and we are going to get a live tree to plant for our 8-month-old daughter, just like we did with her big brother."
"We began giving our kids one ornament each year starting when they were babies. We try to get one that reflects something they did that year. For instance, my son was on our town's All Star baseball team, and we found him a baseball glove and bat ornament. It's fun to get the ornaments out every year and reminisce. And, when the kids get married, their box of ornaments goes with them to start their own tree!"
Gifts from the heart
"In my family, we draw names shortly after the holidays for the next year. We do our best to make it, bake it, sew it, or grow it. We each give a homemade gift to one person. With most of my siblings (there are six in my family) now married and with children, making gifts gets harder and harder each year. But over the years, we've gotten very creative: Converting old reel-to-reel home videos to VHS; my brother giving his hard-earned airborne army wings to my mom (following the army tradition that a soldier gives his first wings to his first love); a homemade hammock. This tradition has added a very special touch to our family's Christmases."
"In Malta, since most of the people are Roman Catholics, Christmas is a time of great joy. Houses, shops, and streets sparkle with lights. There are night masses on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Homes are decorated with Christmas trees, paper decorations, and wax babies representing the baby Jesus.
I have already started preparing for Christmas for my toddler; buying decorations, etc. And I know that he's gonna love it. He loves music and I'm sure he will enjoy all the Christmas carols."
"In the years we lived in South America we decorated our tree with little people shaped from leather, dressed in the local costume, or made our own from salty dough."
Reading favorite Christmas books
"Starting on Dec. 1, my mom would read a Christmas story every night until Christmas Eve, when she would read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." After the story on Christmas Eve, we would gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols until it was time for the little ones to go to bed."
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care ...
"We hang our stockings on the night of Dec. 5. St. Nicholas comes in the night and fills them with goodies to hold you over until Christmas. He also delivers coal if you have been bad. I definitely plan on continuing this tradition with my little boy once he is born. I doubt he'll be here in time for this Christmas, but there's always next year."
Christmas Eve pizza and finger food
"My family always has a big celebration with the dinner on Christmas Day. So, to keep everyone from going insane, we have a relaxed Christmas Eve. We do the traditional things like singing songs, opening a few presents, and reading Christmas stories. Our unusual tradition is eating pizza. It's easy and the kids love it!"
"Every year when Christmas comes around, the whole family helps decorate the tree and the rest of the house. When evening comes we make finger foods and put them on a blanket on the floor. Then the family sits in front of the tree and has dinner there, listening to Christmas music or watching some holiday movies. We call it our "finger food picnic" – it's simple, but it brings the family together for an enjoyable evening!"
"My favorite holiday tradition is getting dressed up for church on Christmas Eve. After church my husband and I take our son (he's 19 months old now) to my mom's and grandparents' house for dinner and to open presents. It's the only time of year the whole family is there together."
"I hope to begin our own traditions this year with the cookie plate for Santa, stockings (my mother was a grand master of stockings, including knitting them!), going to midnight mass, and having a special breakfast – with Christmas music, of course. We won't have all the relatives around like I had growing up, but we will make it special in our own way."
A living nativity scene
"I have two girls, ages 6 and 7, and an 8½-month-old boy. It takes a lot of effort to downplay the 'toy gimmies' and make the focus a spiritual and family event. Last night, however, my youngest daughter came out of her bath with a blue towel on her head looking for her son 'Jesus.' She then went to her baby brother and called him Jesus."
So, now that the parts for Jesus and Mary have been cast, this year my girls are going to get to re-enact the nativity scene for our extended family. I'm looking forward to teaching the stories (I just hope I won't be the donkey!)."
New Year's baby
"We plan to take a picture of our son every year at exactly midnight on Dec. 31. That way he'll have a record of himself from the beginning of every new year."