Looking back at my childhood Christmases, some of the key things I remember are those things we did every year: helping my mom set up the nativity scenes and decorate the tree, going to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, opening gifts in a specific order. Since my family lives in Texas and my husband’s family lives in Richmond, we knew as soon as we got engaged that we’d be traveling for Christmas and we’d have to be creative with family traditions if we wanted to do them annually. There is certainly nothing wrong with having different traditions for different places, and we do have some of those, but we really wanted to have a few things that could be consistent.
Here are three non-location specific traditions we’ve had since getting married and why they work for us.
Orange Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast
For as long as I can remember, my mom has made Pillsbury orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning. My husband and I spent our first married Christmas visiting his family in Richmond, while we still lived in Northern Virginia, which was my first Christmas away from home. On Christmas morning, I walked into the kitchen to find that my mother-in-law had made orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast just for me! Now that we have our own home in Richmond, you can bet those are on my shopping list the week before Christmas!
Are you familiar with Christmas crackers? They’re a British holiday tradition that we discovered from friends in Northern Virginia and we love the silliness of them. Each cracker (or popper) contains a paper crown, a joke or piece of trivia, and a small inexpensive trinket. Our tradition is to pass out a cracker to each person on Christmas Day (usually right before dinner or opening gifts); we stand in a circle with arms crossed, holding one end of your cracker in your left hand and one end of your neighbor’s in your right. At a given signal, everyone pulls to pop the crackers. We’ve had fun telling our jokes, and always wear our crowns for the rest of the day! Since they are widely available on Amazon or at places like World Market, we can have them whether we are in Texas or Virginia. This is a tradition that is truly ours and both sides of the family enjoy doing it when we celebrate Christmas with them.
Christmas Eve Service
We both grew up going to Christmas Eve service, so there was never a question that we would continue this with our own family. Even if we were to wind up on an exotic vacation one Christmas, this is a tradition that we could continue either by attending a local church’s service or by following the liturgy ourselves.
Traditions provide the framework for our memories, which can make creating them nerve-racking. But if you focus on what gives you and your family joy, whether it’s an orange cinnamon roll that takes 20 minutes to prepare or an elaborate holiday meal you work on for days in advance, those memories will be sweet nonetheless.