What are your Christmas customs?

Do have special customs you observe for Christmas?

Anything ethnic or cultural you do?  Special foods?  Music?  Practices?

Let us know a few of the things you do that make the celebration of Christmas special for you.

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  1. Petrus says:

    I’m italian so Christmas eve is 7 different kinds of fish. In my family it represents the 7 sacraments. On Christmas day we have just a big Italian feast, with plenty of wine and after dinner liquors. And of course on Christmas eve we go to Midnight mass at my local church.

  2. Mark says:

    We put up the nativity scene on a table about two weeks before Christmas, and slowly, inch-by-inch, first Mary and Joseph and then the Shepherds make their inexorable journey there. Then for twelve nights the three wise men inch closer and closer…

    I’m sure everyone else puts the crib up too, but it’s been something of a tradition in our household to slowly animate it!

    Must dash! Midnight Mass (forma extraordinaria) at…er…12! ;-)

  3. David G says:

    In Polish families, there is a traditional meatless dinner – the “wigilia” – and prior to the meal, which starts when the first star is seen in the sky, the family shares an unconsecrated wafer known as the oplatek. Each member of the family shares a piece of his or her oplatek with every other member of the family while expressing their wishes for one another for the upcoming year. And we always set an extra place at the table for an unexpected guest.

    Afterwards, the Midnight Mass, where we can still find traditional Polish hymns.

    Merry Christmas, Father Z!

  4. Geoffrey says:

    Today is a day of preparation… As I write this I have the yams boiling, and I am about to start the cranberry sauce and stuffing for the turkey. The homemade eggnog is chilling in the fridge, and the Christmas dinner wines are waiting to be opened.

    Tonight we will go to “Midnight Mass” at 10pm, which will be celebrated by our bishop. After we will return home and place the infant Jesus in the creche, perhaps drink a bit of eggnog and snack on a few Christmas cookies before retiring. I plan to try and wake up for the Urbi et Orbi Blessing at 3am local time, to try and receive the blessing and indulgence.

    In the early hours of Christmas morning, I will stuff the turkey, which will be roasting while we all open gifts. After dinner we will make calls to family living on the east coast, and in the evening, relax with dessert and a glass or two of port.

    I’ll also be praying the Liturgy of the Hours privately, at the appropriate times. Christmas music and films will be playing throughout.

    A Blessed Christmas to all! :-)

  5. Paul from Cork says:

    Merry Christmas, Fr Z.

    A strong tradition in Ireland is to place a candle in the window. The story goes that the Holy Family wander through the countryside every Christmas Eve looking for somewhere to stay the night; the candle is to indicate that they would receive a welcome should they knock on the door. I just took the doggie for his evening walk through the city and many candles were twinkling, including one in his own house…

    Traditionally, the candle is lit by the youngest member of the family who also puts the baby in the crib…


  6. This is great! Keep ’em coming!

  7. Andie says:

    In Louisiana, Christmas Eve means sea food gumbo. I couldn’t tell you why, but that’s what my mama said and the gumbo pot is on the stove as I type (mmmmmmmmmm).

    In my father’s youth in Peru, they opened gifts at midnight on Christmas eve. My mother can’t quite deal with that, so we compromise and open one gift each tonight, right before midnight mass. Christmas day breakfast is panettone (mmmmm).

    It’s a multicontinental Christmas at our house. :)

  8. Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. says:

    I learned of this custom about ten years ago and have kept it ever since in church and rectory. The Bambino is placed in the manger, but not directly on the straw. First, an appropriately sized corporal is placed over the straw and then the Bambino is placed on the corporal. Nearby, either as part of the manger or next to the Bambino is a wooden cross. This has become for me and for many a powerful reminder that this tiny babe would one day offer himself on the Cross for our salvation, a sacrifice renewed daily on our altars.

  9. Daniel Anselmo says:

    Quite off topic, but I want to share what my spritual director told me about Christmas: “When you see Christ in the paten, remember the Child in the manger”. (I remembered it because of Fr. Bailey’s comment).

  10. Will says:

    Midnight mass is the sine qua non tradition in my family. Of course, my parish has midnight mass at 10PM, which boggles the mind.

  11. Irene M. says:

    Christmas in my family means attending mass on Christmas Eve (the midnight mass is too late for the little one). Presents are opened on Christmas morning with a lunch of pork tamales immediatly following.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. andrew says:

    Chirstmas is my favorite time of the year, and my family has a whol lot of traditions that we keep.

    For me, as soon as Advent starts, i stop listening to any non-Christmas/Advent music. I love Christmas music, and collect as much as i can.

    My family attends the Christmas Eve vigil mass, because all of us kids couldn’t make it to midnight mass. The youngest is getting old enough now that that may soon change. But we like seeing the childrens’ production of the Nativity story at the Christmas Eve mass.

    After mass, we go out for pizza, after which we drive around and look at Christmas lights for a while. When we get home we usually play a family game and watch a Christmas movie or something Christmas-related on TV. Tonight we were blessed with wonderful news reports of the Church growing in China, and an inspirational story about the new Cardinal Deli’s efforts to defend the faith in Iraq. Our grandmother always sends a small pachage of gifts for Christmas eve, which we open after all that.

    I go to bed listening to my favorite Christmas carols, and am usually waken up pretty early by my little sisters for Christmas presents. We open “Santa’s” presents before breakfast (cinnamon rolls! mmm), and then the presents from family. Then we all help out preparing an amazing christmas dinner of cornish hens and everything else, followed always by apple pie for dessert.

    And then i get to take a short break before my birthday four days later, on the feast of St. Thomas Beckett :-)

  13. Franciscus says:

    In the Philippines, and among we of the Filipino diaspora, the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve mean dawn Masses (Misa de gallo/Simbang Gabi), which are well-attended – usually the entire community turns up. The Mass was in Tagalog, and this year it (The NO – unfortunately, I live in the Diosces of San Bernardino – ironic that it is much easier to find a TLM in Mahony’s jurisdiction, which borders our Dioscese) was very reverently celebrated, the Modernist architecture of the chapel we were allotted (church in the round, anyone?) was a bit of a problem. A common belief is that those who complete all nine days of this Novena get their deepest prayers granted.

    As for Christmas itself, it is traditional for there to be a midnight Mass – which I shall be attending in about four hours. Afterwards, a huge noche buena – a great feast – is held. Unfortunately this year, with my relatives out of the country, there is no feast this time.

  14. GOR says:

    As a child in Ireland (many moons ago) the candle in the window mentioned above (lit by the youngest member of the family) was a tradition in most Catholic homes. Then Midnight Mass which was always celebrated by the Parish Priest (a former professor at Maynooth).

    Father never gave a homily at the Mass. After wishing everyone a Happy Christmas he always concluded with: “Now go home quietly and don’t wake the people who are sleeping”.

    Here in the US it is our family tradition to say the Rosary prior to opening gifts, as a reminder of what Christmas is really about – the greatest gift of all.

  15. Melody says:

    When growing up our family would always arrange the nativity scene under the tree on top of a white felt cloth. I’m not sure how this got started or if it was all just an idea of my grandma’s.

    While sitting on the floor to open my Christmas presents, I could not help giving the ‘baby Jesus’ a glance, so I think it works.

  16. Jasonov says:

    My family doesn’t come together for any of the holidays anymore, and on top of that they are Protestants. However, my great grandmother was from Hungary and my great grandfather from the Czech Republic. I’m a fourth generation descendant of Irish immigrants. So, I try to borrow as many of the customs as I can and bring them harmoiously together.

    The Irish/Celtic customs I observe are:

    Having the Christ-candle which is bedecked in holly. this year I bough a 3-footer. I also have a garland of fresh evergreens hanging above a holy picture in my private oratory, which symbolizes Christ or an aspect of Christ’s life in some way. Particularly I use holly, mistletoe (representative of the holy cross), cedar, and laurel. We also have warm meade.

    The Slavic Customs:

    Oplatki or “Christmas Wafer” is dipped in honey and eaten. Apples are hung from the Christmas tree using red thread.

    United States Customs:

    The Rituale Romanum approved for the Dioceses of the USA (aka The Book of Blessings) has blessings for a Christmas Tree (always live), the Christmas meal, and for a nativity scene. The rites have been adapted for use of laypeople. I usually have Catholic friends join me in asking God’s blessing on the tree and nativity scene using these rites after Midnight Mass.

    Though I have evergreen garland hanging around during lent, I wait until Christmas eve to decorate it with ribbons or bells. Since waiting until the last minute to buy a live tree isn’t the best idea (unless you are Charlie Brown) I buy mine during Advent and decorate it with purple or rose-colored ribbon (respectively). On Chrismas the colored ribbon is replaced with white.

    Living in Florida my family is always sure to have plenty of citrus fruit lying around during Christmastide. Watching Gone With the Wind is a MUST on Christmas- sometimes it’s the only time during the year that the movie would be shown on t.v. But regardless, I have the DVD.

  17. My family has the wonderful custom of visiting the graves of deceased relatives on Christmas Day.

  18. These are very interesting. Let’s hear more from others!

  19. Jim says:

    My paternal great-grandfather came over from Scotland in the 1870s and settled in Illinois. A staunch presbyterian, he would gather the family together on Christmas eve and read the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. This was followed by a dinner featuring a standing rib roast of beef and Yorkshire pudding cooked by my great-grandmother Helen, who was from England. My great-grandfather died shortly after I was born in 1942, having attained a ripe old age. The tradition was handed down and has been carried on in our now-Catholic family. We read the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke last night, but have substituted turkey for roast beef as both my wife and I have spectacularly high cholesterol. Merry Christmas!

  20. Neal says:

    My father is Danish, so we had the tradition of using real candles in the tree instead of electric lights. We would light them, and then walk around the tree singing carols before we opened the presents. This was all fine and good when we were kids, but when we grew up we had to invite our girlfriends and it got a bit embarrasing. This all goes down on Christmas Eve, by the way.

  21. Norman Lee says:

    My family visits relatives. Its one of two occasions in the year where we do that, the other being Chinese New Year.

    Also, the gregorian chant schola I’m with meets on xmas day for vespers and then have food and wine after that, inviting friends to come along. So its wine and song … . This year we did the extraordinary form.

  22. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Since my pastoral mandate has me living in a situation in which it seems (and almost is true) that every person is from a different country (many dozens at the moment), what we did for Christmas is sing our own local Christmas hymns and tell stories.

    A religious told this story of their congregation’s experience a few years ago. While three of them were sitting at table at Christmas, a sudden presence came among them that was so powerfully tangeable yet invisible that they all looked at “it”, really, “Him” [Jesus], and moved as one person to make room for Him at table. They were all shaken, but felt a real reverence and bond of charity with the Prince of Peace.

  23. Fr Martin Fox says:

    As a boy, I remember going to Midnight Mass with my family, then upon arriving home, dad would say, “wait here; I’ll go see if Santa came yet.” A bit later, he’d come back, all out of breath, saying “yep! Santa was here!” And we’d all go in and open presents right then. Mom and Dad would be able to sleep a little later on Christmas Day, when we’d have a feast, of course, usually turkey.

    My own customs: always a candle in the window, which come from Ireland: I also understood this was to be a signal to a priest passing by that he might come in and offer Mass — this from the dark days of persecution of the Faith.

    I try to wait until near Christmas to put up the tree, but it gets earlier all the time, and I wait until just before Christmas to decorate it, a few days before; and I keep the tree up past Epiphany. And the party for the parish staff is on Epiphany.

    For Mass, it’s “pull out all the stops”; same for Easter.

    And, for whatever reason, I like to throw on all the lights in the house on Christmas Eve, and have it all lit up until I go to bed after Midnight Mass. Seems to me everything should be lit up on Christmas night.

    Finally, after the last Mass of Christmas, my personal custom is to do very little: “peace on earth to men of good will!”

  24. Michael says:

    Polish traditions: Salmon patties, pierogis, oplatek (holy wafer mentioned above).

    Irish traditions: At least one argument.

    Family tradition: Gifts opened in order from oldest person to youngest person. (our party of nine ranges from 94 to 2!)

  25. bryan says:

    Midnight Mass. Preceeded by the lessons and carols at St. Augustine in So. Brunswick NJ. That’s the ‘center’ and summit of my Christmas.

    Family is small, so…

    Turkey, stuffing, the whole groaning board, as it were.

    Listening to carols all day in the background.

    Opening gifts in front of the creche.

    Watching the rerun of the Holy Father’s Urbis et Orbi on EWTN.

    Did I say turkey, stuffing, etc?

    Remembering those of our family that have gone before us and are, hopefully in Paradise.

    Watching “A Christmas Story”. Can’t help it…grew up listening to Jean Shepherd every night on WOR-AM. It’s innocuous enough, and has become a tradition…


  26. Maria says:

    Well, my family is Hispanic and we’ve been in Northern New Mexico for many generations and our customs are still largely Spanish in influence. For nine days before Christmas, we have Las Posadas, which is basically a reenactment of Jesus and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem. They travel from house to house looking for room at the inn, they’ll sing old Spanish hymns at the doorway and it culminates on Christmas Eve when they arrive at the church just before Mass begins, where they are welcomed.

    We put up our nacimientos (nativities), trees, etc probably about the same time as most people. On Christmas Eve, there is a tradition of lighting farolitos, (the candles in paper bags, incorrectly called luminarias) to light the way for the Christ Child. One of the most historic neighborhoods in town puts on a huge display now, and thousands of people, tourists and locals walk the street taking in the sight. It is lovely to see. My family is small so we go out and have a nice dinner, we try to make it to Midnight Mass but my now my parents are older so we don’t make it all that often and go on Christmas Day. But in year’s past, my mother’s family would get together and we’d have a big Christmas Eve with chile, posole, beans, and just about every home-cooked NM specialty possible.

    After Midnight Mass, we open presents. That’s pretty much it… I may be leaving something out… as I am exhausted after attending a beautiful Midnight Mass in our Cathedral Basilica last night.

  27. Adam says:

    Our biggest Christmas tradition is that we all gather around and listen to “Robert Earl Keen – Merry Christmas from the Family.” No lie.

  28. TNP says:

    The star doesn’t go on the tree until we return home from midnight Mass. Then we, parents and young adult children (unmarried), gather together for some rum-laced egg nog as we discuss memories from Christmases past. Gifts are then assembled under the tree before we go to bed.

    On Christmas morning no one is permitted downstairs until everyone is awake. We go down together to put baby Jesus in the manger and sing Happy Birthday. Then we open our gifts.

    Breakfast is traditional: a simple breakfast casserole.

    Dinner is also traditional and much more elaborate: homemade ravioli, meatballs, braccioli, and falsa magra in homemade spaghetti sauce.

    Much of the day is spent enjoying each other and sharing thoughts of days gone by, hopes for the future, and gratitude for the present time we have together.

  29. Good to see another Dane in the mix, Neal!

    We also have Danish Christmas traditions. On Christmas Eve, we have a big “smorgesbord” meal (many, very Danish, open-faced sandwiches), accompanied by Aalborg Aquavit for the adults, followed by the ever-popular rice pudding dessert. There is always one, whole, blanched almond hidden in the pudding, and whoever gets it wins the “almond prize.”

    After dinner, we light candles and sing carols around the tree, usually with violins and piano accompanying in our family, and open some of the packages. (That’s a compromise between the Danish side, who open all the presents Christmas Eve, and the American side, who open all the presents Christmas Day.)

  30. Cristhian says:

    in my country we launche fireworks at 12 midnight. So you could figure out that i was playing with these little artifacts all the night.

  31. giovanni says:

    My Americanized family tradition is Christmas Eve dinner at the Country Club! (At least I had the salmon). This year midnight Mass was said according to the Roman Missal (1962), a full church and absolutely gorgeous music…the much discussed St John the Beloved. My personal tradition is to stay awake for the few hours ’till the urbi et orbi and papal blessing. Tonight roast beef and a good red wine with my sis’ family.


  32. Patrick says:

    First and foremost, we would make sure we went to midnight or early Mass. My mother, being of Irish heritage would burn a candle from sundown until past midnight so that there would be a light for the Lord to follow on His way here.

    The other thing I most remember, was that although a wreath would be on the door starting in mid December, the tree would not go up, nor would the decorations within the home would go up until Christmas Eve. Not like today, where it seems that most folks can’t wait until Thanksgiving to start decorating. Advent is Advent, not party time. It was common not to put the tree up until Christmas Eve. Today we don’t decorate or put the tree up until after the fourth Sunday of Advent.

  33. spanishgrad says:

    My family isn’t particularly religious, so our most important tradition is that before we all go to bed, my father reads us “The Night Before Christmas” (usually out of the copy that I made in 1st grade). Now that I’m married, this can happen via phone if I’m visiting my husband’s family. My family even stayed up until my husband and I got home from a fantastic midnight Mass last night (incense, 4 acolytes, chant, the whole package for the NO!) so we could all listen to it. Our other non-religious tradition is that we all decorate the tree together: my mom takes the ornaments out of the packages and tells us where & when it’s from (family vacations, special gifts commemorating achievements or events, etc) before we hang them up, so we can reminisce about family events together.

  34. Nora Cannon says:

    Lots and lots of traditions! The Advent wreath is blessed and put up first, along with decorating the whole house with purple and some pink on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. The wreath can take hours depending on how many children have (differing) opinions about Jesse ornaments and garland. Most years we celebrate most of the saints days of Advent. Ceratinly Nicholas and Lucy get their own special menus every year, no matter who else gets bumped by nursing home visits and other service projectws ( nobody gets bumped by Christmas parites in Advent!!!).

    A pregnant Mary figure stays in the center of the wreath until Gaudete Sunday, when a crystal nativity replaces the paper mache. The tone of the house then changes, with a building replacement of the Advent decorations with Christmas ones. Come the Greater Ferias, all holds are barred on Christmas preparations, but they are carefully preserved as preparations, not celebrations. You can snatch as many cookies and candies as you like from the tins, but there will be no offerred plate of goodies until after the turn of the liturgical day on the 24th.

    Christmas Eve is a penetential day until Mass. No meals are served, though I keep a pot of soup and sandwich makings out. I don’t slap hands that find other stuff to eat – and there is plenty – the point is to remember that this day is different, not to impose, especially on kids, disciplines for which they are not ready or which are so uncomfortably different from the culture as to place an unwarranted burden on those who bring friends or dates over to be with the family.

    After the Vigil Mass (too many littles for Midnight) we have a grand buffet. If there are enough folks, we have 7 seafood dishes, but no matter the details, it is all luxurious celebratory finger food type stuff (stuffed mushroomes, spinach pastries, scalloped oysters, fine cheeses and olives, pates, the first display of Christmas sweets – that kind of spread – plus cocktail sausages, sliced fruit and carrots and other kid friendly treats), which is eaten over several hours while we open our presents to each other. Each gift can take quite a while, because it is passed, admired, tried on, assembled or whatever before the next one is opened. Because there is food for the littles, and no sense that we are living in time, we simply enjoy the bounty.

    The split between presents and Santa is a product of decades in which there have always been a fair number of under 10’s, who benefit from separating the excitement of gifts and Santa Clause into 2 events. When all has been opened, we hang stockings.

    On Christmas morning, I have given up on any kind of breakfast plan – we dive into fruit and nuts and candy and Santa, then I serve brunch.

    Mid afternoon, we have a great dinner feast to kick off the season. Every year it is different, but selected with great care, long dinner table discussion, and anticipation during Advent. This year it was an Italian leg of lamb, with all the Italian trimmings we love. Last year it was partridges and pears; the year before, Alsatian goose – and so on. Since our oldest got married, we have repeated a few of his favorite remembered menus for Christmas, so that our beloved daughter in law could experience them, but in general every year is different and reflects our experiences of that year.

    During Christmas dinner, we finalize plans for food, parties and special events to cover the next 12 days, deciding when to make up the last of the marzipan, what movie it would be fun to see, and in general how to be totally countercultural in wringing a full 12 days of legitimate Christmas celebration out of the season. We wear all of the Christmas clothes that folks mistakenly got out for Advent and plan for our parish’s big 12th Night Party when the Magi bring the final gifts of the season to all the children.

  35. Dave says:

    Christmas Eve….
    big feast (Italian) with the whole family by mom followed by coffee with Christian Brother\’s brandy (with a slice of lemon). Around nine or so, Santa comes and helps us pass out our gifts, and to take pics with the youngins. Then it\’s back to more coffee and brandy.

    Christmas Day…
    Another big feast followed by another round or two of puncino, (sp?) the coffee drink mentioned above.

    Merry Christmas!

  36. Margaret says:

    I’m afraid ours is rather lame. Midnight Mass, then to bed. In the morning, the youngest puts the baby in the crib and we all sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY to baby Jesus. Then presents, then breakfast, starting with birthday cake.

  37. Margaret says:

    Oh, and the advent wreath stays on the table, but the used candles are replaced with new white ones, and a big gold bow adorns the center. That, and all the rest of the Christmas decor, stays out until at least Jan. 6, often longer because I’m disorganized. :-)

  38. Joshua says:

    Christmas traditions: first of all, I nearly always return home for Christmas (there’s no Thanksgiving Day in Australia, so the family gathering takes place at Christmas time), and my sister comes over too.

    We always have a simple fish dish for dinner – the same every year, no change allowed! – on Christmas Eve.

    If I’m home, I go to Midnight Mass at the local Carmelite monastery, and often serve the Mass.

    On Christmas Day, I have to get up early and drive back to Carmel to serve the Dawn Mass (one year, the priest said the Day Mass as well, Deo gratias, but I hardly ever get the trifecta!). Mum prefers to come in the morning now, she finds Midnight Mass too tiring.

    Then I come back home, and we wait for my sister to come over, so we can open the presents under the tree, which has been put up and decorated a few days previously. (I usually put on the TV in the background to catch some of the Papal Midnight Mass, which screens here at 11am.)

    Served around noon, Christmas dinner is the full turkey, ham, and Christmas pudding feast (Mum serves cream, brandy cream, cinnamon sauce and custard with the pudding alone!). After that comes the washing up, and a snooze all afternoon on a full stomach…

    Our final family ritual is to watch The Queen’s Christmas Message in the early evening.

    At least it was cool for Christmas in my hometown in Australia – 20 C (that’s 68 F). In Perth, where I live now, it was 40 C (104 F) yesterday, and 43 C (109 F) today.

  39. Father J says:

    Well I have just observed one of my family’s traditions and one that I have continued in every Rectory – Boxing Day Lunch; cold mutton and turkey slices with bubble and squeak (made from Christmass lunch leftovers) served with homemade mustards and a selection of chutneys and pickles!

    Yesterday I said two Masses, the early (TLM) and the midday followed by mulled wine with the Parish and then luncheon with the family. We gather from 1pm sharing news and sampling salmon blini’s and champagne and exchange gifts, at 3pm we listen to the Queen’s Speech and then sit down to lunch. We had turkey and pheasant this year, mashed swede and carrots with garlic, leeks in a cheese sauce, sprouts, red cabbage, roasted parsnips and potatoes with rosemary, sage and thyme, mashed potatoes with basil, sausage and apple with sage stuffing, and “pigs in blankets” (pork sausages wrapped in bacon). We had a choice of three deserts this year, a chocolate roulade, Christmass or Figgy pudding with either brandy butter, brandy sauce, clotted cream or custard (creme Anglais)! To top all that off, we had a large selection of cheeses – English traditional varieties and French – with water or wholemeal biscuits, grapes and fruit. A place is always set at table for “the stranger” (whose birthday it is) – just in case! The table is dressed with a Bambino enthroned centre, with angels all around and the best family silver candlesticks. Grace is sung before the meal and thanks offered after. Then the presents, distributed earlier are opened and Fr Christmas makes yet another visit for the very young ones (of which there were eight this year)! The rest of the day is spent sleeping, picking at food, drinking, sharing stories, news and games.

    At six o’clock I slope off somewhere quiet in the house to say Vespers and this year was joined by my nephew who invited himself! A vocation… I wonder…? Then first thing, after the Office and without breakfast – but packing any leftovers from Christmas dinner – on St Stephen’s day, I drive back to the parish to offer the 10am. I then have any parish staff and any lonely parishoners (people without people) back to the Rectory for coffee and lunch.

  40. Tim D says:

    In Wales, the old tradition in rural areas (albeit amongst Anglicans and Calvinists) was to have a “plygain” service at dawn. Parties of singers would sing traditional Welsh carols. It is easy to see the surviving pre-Reformation sentiments in the carols, e.g. “O rasol Fair Forwynig, Mam ceidwad bendigedig” = O gracious Virgin Mary, Mother of the blessed Saviour. Traditionally a goose was roasted for Christmas dinner rather than a turkey. An ornament (also a New Year’s gift) could be a “calennig” — an apple studded with almond slivers supported on wooden legs and with a miniature candle and holly on the top. Supposedly these date back to early Celtic Christianity. Sadly most of our old traditions have been swamped by materialistic and anodyne commercialism although there are still some who value our old traditions. Nadolig llawen i Bawb (Merry Christmas to All).

  41. Fr. Peter says:

    Among Ukrainians, Christmas Eve is a fasting day – so no meaat or dairy products can be eaten. On Christmas Eve, with the first star, a 12 course meal is served in honour of the 12 apotsles. The first course is always kutia – boiled wheat with honey and poopy seeds and the head of the house greets everyone and wishes them a festive holiday, throwing a spoon of it onto the ceiling. If it sticks it will be a good year (this is not appreciated if the ceiling has been freshly painted!!) The family then sings the traditional Christmas carol…God eternal, has been born to us… The family then attends Great Compline and the Divine Liturgy.

    I being the priest in the family…fast since I will be saying Mass…after which I hurry to the Traditional Latin Mass at Midnight…

    On Christmas morning there is another Mass to serve and then the Traditional Latin Mass in the afternoon…

    God is good…

  42. Maynardus says:

    Growing up (in the era of vinyl phonograph records) my Father would always begin Christmas (and Easter) morning with selections from Handel’s Messiah, culminating in the Hallelujah Chorus just before we left for Mass. Since he usually cooked on the holidays, he’d be dashing between the kitchen and the living room (to change records) while my mother got the kids dressed for Mass. I have continued that tradition in my own family, made much easier thanks to CDs! (Sometimes I even cook on Christmas too!) One other different tradition comes from my wife’s family – she was raised protestant – of having a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake after our fish dinner on Christmas Eve. The kids really love it and it helps remind them whose day it really is.

  43. Little Gal says:

    “throwing a spoon of it onto the ceiling. If it sticks it will be a good year…”

    Fr. Peter:

    Has anyone been known to get a little mischievious a & mix a little glue in with the boiled wheat so as to ‘assist’ good fortune?

  44. Susan says:

    I am an all-american mutt and we have many of the same traditions as others. One in particular that I like, is keeping a statue of the baby Jesus in the middle of the our Advent wreath on the kitchen table. We put a piece of hay underneath the Baby Jesus daily during Advent for each sacrifice or extra prayer we said during the day. On Christmas Eve, we move all the presents to the sides and set Jesus underneath the tree as the most important present. Also, the dessert for Christmas dinner is always a birthday cake, decorated with a small statue of the Baby Jesus and of course, ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ and we all sing ‘Happy Birthday” to Jesus. The kids love these two traditions.

  45. susan says:

    I am an all-american mutt and we have many of the same traditions as others. One in particular that I like, is keeping a statue of the baby Jesus in the middle of the our Advent wreath on the kitchen table. We put a piece of hay underneath the Baby Jesus daily during Advent for each sacrifice or extra prayer we said during the day. On Christmas Eve, we move all the presents to the sides and set Jesus underneath the tree as the most important present. Also, the dessert for Christmas dinner is always a birthday cake, decorated with a small statue of the Baby Jesus and of course, \’Happy Birthday, Jesus\’ and we all sing \’Happy Birthday\” to Jesus. The kids love these two traditions.

  46. Steve Girone says:

    Lots of traditions, but here’s one…we drive around the neighborhood looking at
    the lights, giving awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place (awards made by the kids).
    But we also give an award to every house with an outdoor natvity displayed.
    Sad to say, but the number of natity scenes drops every year.

  47. Christine says:

    We are Slovenien so we MUST have Potica (pronounced poteetsa), a rolled nut pastry with so much filling that you can’t see the dough! Iced, and with nuts on top. Also must have a ham.

    At my house I have a special Christmas tree with just holy cards, and religious ornaments, and small pictures of deceased family members. There are white lights, and real candles on the tree. A beautiful Baby Jesus with his arms extended out to you rests at front center, on rich fabric. Everyone who visits says that this is their favorite tree, and the most beautiful of the several trees I decorate. I think so too. People love moving around the tree to look at all the holy cards, very old, or very new. Several people have started this tradition in their homes.

    On Christmas Eve, we break out champagne to toast Almighty God for sending His Son. Anyone can make a toast. People thank God for the sacraments, the Blessed Mother, Pope Benedict, etc. It is very serious, but very joyful. This is why we are getting together on this night, to thank God!

  48. Cally says:

    During Advent we sing \”O Come O Come Emmanuel\” before grace and eat with only the light of the advent wreath. On Christmas Eve we put in new white or red candles and switch to a Christmas song.

    At school we go all out for the \”Anticipation of Christmas\” Mass the last day before break. You wouldn\’t think that anything could make a gym a reverence inspiring setting for Mass, but after a work party that stretches from noon (it\’s a half day) on Thursday well into the night, it\’s beautiful.

    On Christmas Eve, we open our ornaments (we always get a new tree ornament that reflects something important about the last year) and add them to the tree.

    A few days before Christmas we drive into town to see the lights. This year we walked around singing every Christmas and Advent song we knew to the silent and nearly deserted streets-interspersed with \”Wow…look at those really bright blue ones\”.

    For my New Mexican grandfather we light luminarios Christmas Eve, Christmas night and New Year\’s Eve.

    Very early Christmas morning, I slip out and begin walking toward the river in darkness and silence. As I walk down the hill, I light one of the old purple candles from the advent wreath and begin to sing advent songs-\”Holy Darkness\” then \”O Come O Come Emmanuel\”. When I get to the river, I use the flame from the advent candle to light the Christmas candle and sit by the river, reading aloud parts of Isaiah, the Christmas story in Luke and whatever else feel appropriate and singing whatever Christmas songs come into my head. Aside from a few geese and, this year, two perfectly still and alert coyotes, I am alone with my God in this last hour or so of night. It\’s my favorite tradition, even though it\’s not a tradition in the sense of \”everyone in my family has done this since the 14th century or something\”; it\’s just a personal tradition. Ii helps me start Christmas with a remembrance of the waiting vigil of advent, of the deep peace of Christ, of the quiet joy that is the base of the more outwardly excited joy of later Christmas morning.

    Then at dawn, I run back to the house and my siblings and I sneak downstairs to hang our parent\’s stockings, start the bacon and make the coffee because at 7:30 it\’s stockings and presents time!

  49. Diogo Teixeira Santos says:


    I hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas, and I wish you all the best for A.D. 2008.

    I’m Portuguese, so religious costoms are followed:

    We set up the tree, sometimes with candles, and the nativity scene behind the tree. Then, around it, we put all the presents we share at exactly 12 pm of Christmas Eve. In Christmas Eve we have codfish for dinner, and all those lovely sweets, like “portuguese way” french toasts, “pão-de-ló”, “bolo-rei”, etc. The familly gathers together, and sometimes we go to Midnight Mass.

    The Christmas day, we eat lamb or piglet.

    Yours in Christ,


  50. Allison says:

    One tradition that we have started that has not been mentioned above is writing out thank you notes to neighbors displaying outside Nativity decorations.

    The children help make the scrolls and tie them up in ribbons and at night, while playing Christmas Carols in the van we anonymously drop the Thanks Yous in their mailboxes.

    We thank the neighbor for their Nativity and their witness to keeping Christ the focus of Christmas. Sadly, we have only found half a dozen this year in a neighborhood of several hundred homes. I’m sure many have their creches inside for protection.

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