As Christmas comes and goes, families often enjoy spending time together. But what is there to do after the Nativity story has been re-enacted, the presents have been unwrapped and other holiday activities have been completed? Three readers share their family traditions and ideas for how to make the most of what family time remains after the official Christmas celebrations have wound down.
The Christmas chaos begins before the sun rises as bleary-eyed mom and dad gather the kids ages 2 to 18 for prayers before setting them loose on the presents. It’s amazing how quickly it’s all over; the sun is coming up about the time breakfast is served. While some houses might be settling down, we’re just getting going.
Our family is mixed, and depending on the year, we either need to drop off or pick up our oldest boys from their mother’s home. Fortunately, Grandma’s house is on the way, so we stop and visit and grab a snack regardless of whether we’re coming or going. We often overlap with other aunts and uncles and cousins so we can swap Christmas Eve stories while the kids compare loot, and everyone has a hug for Grandma.
Then comes the golden afternoon hour during which I work on food to take down to the evening meal with the other grandparents. Everyone else competes for the best position near the Christmas tree to read the books they unwrapped — though this often leads to Christmas napping in the twinkling light.
Dinner is a time for more family, more presents and giant pots of soup with fresh-baked bread. We eat, sing and talk until the hour catches up with everyone and tired parents and children wind their way back home through snow, rain or sun.
The rest of the holiday break follows very much in the same relaxed stride. For us, the most important things are the friends and family we hold dear and the time spent together. Music fills the house, games and puzzles occupy any available surface, and that prized reading position rarely goes unfilled — sometimes by more than one reader — down to the last sleep before the new year.
— Jana Stocks Brown
The beginning of one of our family’s most loved traditions is often recalled with reminiscent smiles as we remember “the year we went sledding in Erda.”
The outing was impromptu. The day was sunny, snow was ample, and the little-used roadway gracing a nearby hill wasn’t plowed. The suggestion of a sled ride sent everyone scurrying for equipment.
The hill was perfect. Kids, adults and adults holding toddlers and small children trekked up the slope to slide down again and again — flying solo or forming long sled chains that broke apart with great hilarity. Soon, contests ensued to see who could slide the farthest. Finally, my toddler’s blue lips reminded me that sledding must end soon.
My sister-in-law and I headed to my home to fix lunch. Everything was spur-of-the-moment, and we wondered how we’d feed the throng. The freezer and food storage yielded the makings of hot chocolate, grilled cheese sandwiches, pork and beans and frosted graham crackers. It was far from gourmet fare, but my exuberant guests ate it with relish. That golden day was about good company — great food was secondary.
In years since, the next generation of children dance about, excitedly awaiting their turn to float across the sparkling expanse of snow in the field by our house, pulled by a four-wheeler. Today’s outings bring smiles for that long-ago golden day.
It is good to plan for traditions, or they may never happen. But now and again, an impromptu idea spawns traditions for years to come.
— Diane Sagers
Years have passed since my five sisters and I first began meeting a few days after Christmas for a progressive dinner. We called such a get-together a “Festivus,” after something we’d seen on the TV show “Seinfeld,” and celebrated with an array of delectable foods. An eggnog salad became a tradition. We would also sip on warm tomato juice enhanced with shrimp. We called it “sip and chew.”
We tell family stories at Festivus, and we laugh and reminisce about Christmases past. We recall the morning we awoke and were confused that Santa not only ate the fruitcake but also took the plate with him — our trust in him was renewed when he returned it the following year. Reliving memories is a joyous after-Christmas tradition.
Our brothers and our sisters-in-law became a part of our yearly progressive dinners, and then we included our husbands, calling it “Festivus for the rest of us.” Later, our nieces joined us, and we renamed our gala “Festivus for the best of us.”
After my husband and I moved from our hometown, we occasionally returned for the holidays. We became a part of Festivus whenever we could. One year, we showed up on my sister Vickie’s doorstep and surprised her. Her greeting was: “Oh no! I don’t have enough plates!” It gave us a good laugh.
Vickie’s unique sense of humor always facilitates laughter. We were most assuredly welcomed to our Festivus tradition. Stories, food and laughter are superb ways to celebrate after-Christmas traditions. Enhanced relationships, love and happiness ensue from Festivus, and we thrive on remembering fond experiences.
— Jelean Reynolds