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Published on December 24th, 2013 | by Becky Castle Miller

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(Blog) Christmas Trappings

In my article “You’re Not Ready for Christmas, And That’s Okay,” I mentioned letting go of some Christmas traditions this year.

I am sentimental and idealistic, and I love traditions. (When I have the time and energy for them.)

My family’s Christmas Eve traditions are limited…when I was a kid, we often got to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and late at night, my dad would slip me a big bag of gifts he’d bought for my mom’s stocking and ask me to wrap them.

My husband’s family has a long list of Christmas Eve traditions. They eat sausage and potato soup for dinner, dress in their new pajamas, read the first Christmas story together from the gospel of Luke in the Bible, sing Christmas carols, and pass around a tray of Christmas cookies…often six or more different types. (My mother-in-law loves to bake.) Then Matthew would often go to a Christmas Eve party thrown by the parents of his best friend, where they would eat meatball grinders.

My family’s Christmas plans changed year to year depending on where in the world we were living (military family) and what our responsibilities at church were (pastor’s family). Matthew’s family has a regimented Christmas Day:

  • Kids may not go downstairs till everyone’s ready. They pose on the stairs in their pajamas.
  • They open their stockings, knitted by his grandmother, which always contain oranges in the toe
  • They have grapefruit, egg strata, and stollen for breakfast.
  • Mulled apple cider simmers on the stove.
  • The youngest child who can read distributes the gifts.
  • At least one person gets a “Big Tree Gift,” an above-and-beyond surprise that is always given as the last gift.
Christmas traditions - not ready for Christmas - Christmas Eve service candles

That is my two-year-old, Estel, trying to stick the electric candle up her nose at tonight’s Christmas Eve service. Good thing we didn’t use real candles.

This year, Matthew’s mom arrived on the 23rd. It’s her first time visiting us in the Netherlands. With her jetlag and our new-baby-sleep-deprivation, we agreed to take it easy this Christmas. We voted to move many of the Christmas Eve traditions to Christmas night, though we’ll still do some Christmas morning activities at the right time. So far, she’s only baked one type of cookie. I managed to make sausage and potato soup with some ingredient substitutions for items I can’t find here.

We sang Christmas carols as we biked home in the rain from church tonight, and my seven-year-old daughter suggested that we decorate the bakfiets like Santa’s sleigh and go out bike caroling tomorrow…I think that may need to become a new tradition.

It’s after midnight here now, and I haven’t wrapped any gifts, so I should go do that…

What are some of your Christmas traditions? Which ones are you keeping this year, and which ones are you letting go of?


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About the Author

Becky Castle Miller

is the Managing Editor of Wyn Magazine. She is an American expat in the Netherlands, a writer/reader/editor focused on helping women make better lives.



  • Nichole

    I would love to have more traditions, but it seems like we just go from house to house starting Christmas Eve until a week or so after Christmas. I rarely even make it to church. I really want that to change. I’d like more time for reflection. And I’d like to go for a walk after dinner and play games when we come back.

    Sometimes, though, I really have to cut back on baking and distributing treats, decorating, gift purchasing (the list dwindles some years) and wrapping fancy, and festivities in the weeks leading up to Christmas. If other people are disappointed, they don’t let me know but I am a little disappointed if I don’t go “all out” and listen to all my songs and see all my movies and see at least one Christmas show and one decorated place and do a round of caroling. But I’m trying to let go of all my expectations and kids really help with that. This is the first year since I’ve had kids that I’ve had a big tree and put up ALL my ornaments.

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