Friday, December 23, 2011


...........what's your favorite custom?   Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?   Do you have a special meal?  Do you celebrate with a tree or forgo a tree for some reason?

Christmas is such a special time and I'm getting so tired of hearing story after story in the media about the stresses of Christmas and family.  Every single day for weeks, they've had all sorts of reasons to stay in bed starting December 15 and only getting out of it on Dec 31.  Instead of focusing on the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning and all the preparations,  I hope you're all enjoying the lead up and would like to share some customs.  Thanks.



Always On Watch said...

We open presents on Christmas Eve with family and on Christmas Day with our favorite neighbors (since 1980).

I hosted the Christmas Eve family buffet from 1987 (Mom died earlier that year, and she had hosted that buffet since 1953) through 2008. Of course, once Dave had that terrible stroke in 2009, I no longer host the family buffet. My signature dish was Pineapple Cheese Casserole -- to accompany the Honey Baked Ham, of course. We went easy on the dessert (homemade Christmas cookies) and always had a red sparkling punch (no booze) and brandy-spiked egg nog. After dinner, we had the Christmas carol sing-along; I played the piano and led the sing-along.

A Christmas tree? Always -- of some size or another. But we gave up on having a real tree when I was a child: my allergies and my uncle's allergies.

Now, we go to my younger cousin's house for Christmas Eve. She serves mostly the same kinds of foods -- except for the punch. Instead, we have wine.

After the buffet at my cousin's house, we open presents. She is a step-grandmother, so there are some young ones around. Even better, my cousin's adult son is there. He's a Marine now and returned from Afghanistan a few months ago after 9 months there. We've been celebrating Christmas with him every Christmas Eve since the day he was born and have watched him grow from a brat into a fine young man.

After the Christmas Eve festivities are over, Mr. AOW and I go driving around to see all the beautifully decorated homes in nearby neighborhoods. Ever since 2009, I've been the one behind the wheel. **sigh** I used to love his doing the driving while I put CD after CD on to reverberate through our car's speaker system.

So many in our small family are gone now: Mom, Dad, my favorite aunt (died a few weeks before Christmas in 2010), my grandmother, Uncle John, Aunt Edith, etc.

On Christmas Day, my neighbor prepares a standing rib roast. That man is a real chef! His wife leaves most of the cooking to him. After dinner, we exchange gifts -- and have a Christmas carol sing-along, with my former piano student, now an adult with three children of her own, at the piano.

Always On Watch said...

My favorite Christmas custom?

1. The music, of course! I put on choral music (some obscure groups, some not) and the Dean Martin Christmas albums. I also have a wonderful Christmas album performed by Ed Ames, and another wonderful Christmas album, that one from Ed Ames. I love his versions of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Joy to the World!"

2. Driving around and looking at the Christmas lights.

3. Playing arrangements of Christmas carols on the piano. Unfortunately, I can't sit very long at the keys now -- thanks to that car accident in 2005. All the pieces require the damper pedal, and using that pedal forces too much weight onto my left hip.

A Christmas custom I inherited from Mom: putting up a cord from the living room banister to the curtain rod all the way across the room and putting the cards we receive on that card. Much nicer that stringing garland!


Okay, I've blabbed enough.


Except to say....Merry Christmas to all here at Z's site -- especially to you, Z. I know that Christmas for you just isn't the same now that Mr. Z is no longer by your side (physically, that is).

Always On Watch said...

Mr. AOW has a story about his own personal Christmas miracle.

Brooke said...

Christmas Eve is spent with my Grandma on my Mom's side, dinner, and presents.

On Christmas morning, the kids get up and wake us up so we can see what Santa left, and then we have dinner, ect all over again at my Grandma on my Dad's side.

This Christmas, being Sunday, we will have a church service in the afternoon between.

Rita said...

When we were little, my parents would finish putting out all of the presents and could not wait, so they would wake us up in the middle of the night. As we got older, our Christmas turned into Christmas Eve night.

We didn't have a lot growing up, but they always made sure Christmas was special.

Our decorations were thin, we had a small cloth angel that we'd top the tree with. When I was a young teenage, we pulled out the ornaments and a mouse had eaten the angel's face off leaving a gaping hole.

So it became our family tradition to place the screaming angel on the top of the tree and scream bloody murder. We still talk about the screaming angel. We don't have her any more. We put her on a small Christmas tree on dad's grave after he passed away.

Funny how a screaming angel can bring back such fond memories.

And the smell of coffee grounds. Mom always made her coffee when they would wake us up. The year she bought me a real tiny tea set, I asked her to put water in the tea pot and she returned it to me with coffee in it. My brothers pulled up in the new Radio Flyer and sat and had tea with me.

Coffee grounds still bring back those wonderful memories.

And for us oldsters on here, do you remember the smell of a new transistor radio?

Ah, the good old days.

Merry Christmas Z and friends.

AOW, the Pineapple Cheese Casserole sounds interesting. Have you posted that on Z's food blog?

BB-Idaho said...

It is the time of year when all three of our adult kids come home.
The youngest grandchild passes out
gifts on Christmas eve. Since she
is but 3 years old, each gift diplays a picture of the recipient.
It is the time of year when grandpa
beds down in his library while visions of sugar plums....

Joe said...

"Christ" is the English term for the Greek Χριστός (Khristós) meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ), usually transliterated Messiah.

"mas" is from the word "Mass" as in feast or celebration.

Therefore, "Christmas" is a celebration (and/or feast) of the Messiah's birth.

Everything else is not what Christmas is about.

Family is important. Gifts are important. Sales are important. But none of them is what Christmas is ABOUT.

Christmas is ABOUT the birth of Christ.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

I have a migraine right so I will get back to you. I am sure it's from all the stressa dn running around.

Silverfiddle said...

We usually go to Christmas Eve Mass and then open presents. We have dinner on Christmas Day.

My favorite Christmas songs are from my Parents' generation, Mich Miller Singers, Perry Como, Ray Conniff... And I've passed it on to my kids!

Rita said...

Tennesse Ernie Ford, The Star Carol.

Z said...

AOW, thanks, that was fun to read (except the reminder about Dave's stroke, of course)
I'm glad you'll both be so happily occupied!
I think Ames' "Do you hear what I hear?" is one of the very best of that song.
(by the way, he attends the Hollywood Republican group events which I sometimes go to....I've always wanted to say "well, ED AMES, my cup runneth over!" I have restrained myself :-)

and, no, CHristmas for me is certainly not the same. And no, he is no longer by my side in any way.

Brooke, have a great time with the kids and family!

Rita, you had an EDVARD MUNCH SCREAMING ANGEL?! That's a wonderful family history story!

BB...what a sweet idea to have pictures so the little one knows who they belong to! Sounds happy!

Joe, of course; I hope none of us forgets what they call "the reason for the season" while we enjoy family and friends.
SOme families have a little birthday cake if there are small children still around and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus...I think that's a good conversation opener for the children...

Lisa, I suffered migraines for years; I hope it's gone soon. xx

SF: Mitch Miller was something MY parents loved to put on at Christmas! I first heard "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by them.
Perry Como's wonderful and Dean Martin's Christmas songs are terrific, too. enjoy!

I have to admit I might do NOTHING on CHristmas EVe. That was my husband and my Christmas since he was from Germany. And we had people over every Christmas EVe for Mr. Z's incredible STUFFED GOOSE and his cheesecake. (I did the rest)
Mom has 30 of us at her house Christmas Day...and that's just immediate family, an uncle and his family! (I hope)

It'll be a very weird Eve for me...

Z said...

Rita, that's one of my favorite carols...I arranged a four-part harmony to that and sang it with 3 singers a few years ago. It was goose-bumpy, and a lot of people haven't heard of it.

I just GOogled for T.E. Ford's rendition but found that he did an album called The Star Carol but I don't see a video of his singing it :( I did listen to Simon and Garfunkel's rendition and that was nice.

Ticker said...

Christmas celebration has changed over the years but basically it has always been about the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Growing up Mom , Dad(if he wasn't working 3-11 shift) and I always sat on the sofa with the light of the tree illuminating the room. The Manger Scene was the center piece on the coffee table in front of the sofa and Mom read the Christmas Story from one of the Gospels. After I was older and could read fairly well(around 7) I got to read the Christmas Story which was always a thrill for me. We opened Santa's goodies on Christmas morning. Then it was off to Grandma's house for dinner.

That tradition continued until I left home and had my own family. When we would visit with Mom and Dad we would gather in the living room and read the Christmas Story before retiring to bed awaiting the time for opening presents that Santa brings. Candle light service became a new tradition as well as the caroling time with folks from the church.

Years later in my home, we began opening presents on Christmas Eve and then traveling to one relative or the others home on Christmas morning for Christmas there.

The kids are grown, family dynamics have changed as family members have died. We decorate our tree or trees as has been the case for a number of years now. We have one tree where the gifts are placed and a tree that is made for just enjoying, sometimes decorated with ornaments dating back to the 40's(my childhood) and with ornaments from my daughters childhood. Other times it has a theme or color theme. An angel from my childhood tops the tree regardless of the theme. She has watched over Christmas for over 6 decades and I hope she will continue to top the tree for years to come.

Christmas dinner is now at Pop and Nana's house (that's us) with me doing the cooking and Nana doing the cleaning up with the help of the other kids of course. I spend the week before Christmas baking cookies and other goodies for friends and family.

This year the kids will be scatted around the country from Texas to North Carolina and only a few will join us here in Georgia on Christmas Day.

It will still be the Birthday of Jesus with Santa as a memory of days gone by but we will continue to enjoy and count our blessings.


DeanO said...

It's one Christmas present on Christmas eve. It's stockings first then breakfast. Mostly to keep the kids (nieces and nephews) in anticipation. It's one gift at a time so we can see who got what and from whom; and nothing gets lost. It's a big dinner in the afternoon and always "A Christmas Story" on TNT

Bob said...

Bah, Humbug!

And, I mean it.

Open gifts Christmas morning, big dinner, play with grandkids, talk with family. Good times, now, but not always.

Pris said...

I put on The Messiah, every year on Christmas Eve during the day, while getting last minute things ready for Christmas day.

There's a hill across the street from us, and every year on Christmas Eve, there's a group of four people with their brass instruments, a light on each one, which appears on top of that hill, and plays carols which you can hear all over the neighborhood.

It's a great tradition and has gone on for years. Lovely! We respond after each carol, by flashing flashlights up at them in appreciation.

Our children and grandson come over on Christmas morning, and we all open our gifts. After that I fix a big breakfast for all of us.

Later in the afternoon, our family and my sister's family get together for Christmas dinner, and good time is had by all.

We love Christmas, and are so grateful our family members are here, to share this meaningful and beautiful Day.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Always On Watch said...

I love your screaming angel story.

Two of our kissing angels got knocked off my our cat Cameo (See top post at my blog). Now the kissing angels are called Headless and Assless. LOL.

Here's the recipe I mentioned:


6 Tbs. of plain flour

2 large cans of pineapple chunks

1 cup of sugar

2 cups of crushed Ritz crackers

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 stick of butter


Drain pineapple chunks well, and then dry with paper towels.

Mix 6 Tbs. of plain flour and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl.

Add drained pineapple to the flour and sugar mix.

Add 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese to the flour, sugar, and pineapple mix.

Place in a 9 x 9 greased baking dish (Spray Pam) and top with crushed crackers.

Melt 1 stick of butter, and pour over cracker topping.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Always On Watch said...

Great story about that brass quartet!

The little country church up the street from us used to have a late Christmas Eve service, and everyone there (and in the neighborhood) went outside at 12:01 AM on Christmas morning to sing "Silent Night" under the starts.

Sadly, the minister died. The new minister isn't into traditional anything.

cube said...

The entire family has Christmas eve dinner at my mom's house. On Christmas day, we usually have a roast beef dinner with just Mr. Cube and the girls. It's the one day when pajamas are not frowned upon after late morning.

Always On Watch said...

Mr. AOW's stoke and all the aftermath control our lives. We both hate "the new normal." And we're not going to pretend that we like it, either.

But this year, he IS much better. So, we get to do more for Christmas.

Rita said...

AOW: The kissing angels story mad me laugh. Thx for the recipe. I'll write it down and try it some time.

And since Joe is obviously right, Christmas SHOULD be about the birth of Christ, I was appalled watching the idiots trampling over each other this morning in Indianapolis when the new Air Jordon shoes came out. Apparently Jordon or Nike are the new Messiahs. How sad.

And for another bit of lightheartedness for the holiday, here's a story we still recount in our family.

My dad was born on Christmas Day. Since we routinely celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, we would sometimes have a small birthday party for Dad on Christmas Day. When my niece and nephew were little, we mentioned something about having a birthday party for Grandpa on Christmas. My nephew said, "It's Jesus' birthday too." His sister was around 6 at the time and said, "Well HE'S not going to be there." We can all still picture Jesus sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad blowing out the candles.

Love the innocence of kids.

Rita said...

Z: That's funny, I had never thought about the Munch connection before.

And I would love to have heard you sign The Star Carol. We had Ford's album for years and I can still remember when someone dropped and broke it one year.

Several years back someone in the family found it on tape and made copies for everyone.

That music will always be Christmas to me.

Always On Watch said...

I still have that Ford album. It's on plastic vinyl instead of that breakable stuff.

Z said...

I'm recording WHEN LOVE WAS BORN soon...I hope to put it on the blog whenever I get around to recording it.

AOW, very cool that you still have that album!

Rita, I just remembered I do have THE STAR CAROL on DVD, but have no clue how to translate that from there to here! I WISH I COULD, it's absolutely GORGEOUS with the four part harmonies!

tha malcontent said...

I'd like to wish you and yours a very Merry and blessed Christmas as well, my friend.

Lisa said...

OK Headache gone. Wasn't one my worst ones,thank God.
For years we had the traditional Italian Fish Dinner for Christmas Eve at the in laws but the last 2 years my nephew hosted it after not doing it for a couple of years. I make the antipasto and the shrimp cocktail.
For Christmas day I spend with my family at my brothers. We started a tradition of saying a few words about friends or family who are no longer with us.
Hey I hear you and AOW now on the radio. Pretty cool.
Christmas I am making Lasagna and Prime Rib. My husbands gets a beautiful Prime Rib from his company who caters to high end restaurants and it is yummy. All you do is heat it up in the oven for about 2 hours.

Pris said...

AOW, yes we look forward to that quartet every Christmas Eve. When they're done playing, they yell out, Merry Christmas!
We yell it back to them and we can hear others up and down the street doing the same. Such fun!

I'm so glad to hear Mr. AOW is doing better this year.

Pris said...

"I'm recording WHEN LOVE WAS BORN soon...I hope to put it on the blog whenever I get around to recording it."

Z, I hope it's sooner than later.

Z said...

Mal, thank you so much. The merriest of CHristmases to you, too, my friend.

Lisa, SO glad the headache's gone!
And your dinner sounds fabulous.
fish is a very typical Christmas food for Italians, isn't it. A lot of the Food Show Italians are having pastas with squid and then stuffed squid, etc. mmmm

Pris, I'm going to try! :-) Thanks!!