Lisa at The Preacher's Wife is hosting some holiday themed posts leading up to Christmas. I'm a little late to the party, but arriving nonetheless. The first theme is How We Do Christmas: Quirky Family Traditions. Yes, this is where Santa gets talked about, but this is not the place for debate! Let's just have fun with traditions.
German's *other* family (his best friend's family) always got together the week before Christmas to bake cookies. My grandmother's were both bakers as well, so this tradition is something we love to continue. The girls and I always make gingerbread men and stars and sugar cookies. We try to invite one of their friends to come and help decorate the cookies. We also make butter cookies and shortbread--basically anything German can put in the Pampered Chef cookie press and have fun making all shapes of goodies.
We drive around and view Christmas lights a few days before Christmas. Decorating with outdoor lights is not as prominent here in England as it is in the US, so sometimes this is a challenge. It is growing in popularity. Our first year here we saw maybe a half dozen houses decorated. This year I can see that many from our house, so there should be plenty to view when we go out nearer Christmas.
The Christmas Party:
Every year we attempt to host a Christmas party sometime in December that is filled with games and fun. I have, unashamedly, (ahem)*borrowed* games that a couple used in our Sunday School parties back in our Alabama days. We have a great *open the box* game that everyone always participates with great frivolity. We often have a relay race with obstacles of tasks that have to be performed. All are quite silly (sing Jingle Bells with marshmallows in your mouth) and lead to hilarious stories after. We will have our party this year, but with a much smaller group so the relay is out. I'm still working on finding another suitable party game for a small group.
Whilst the games are the highlight of the party, I love preparing the food. Party foods are my favourites. I'll make spinach dip served in a bread bowl, queso dip, shrimp cocktails, smoked salmon & cream cheese on crackers, bite-size pecan pie tarts, pumpkin bread, and hot cranberry punch. Everyone is asked to bring their favourite snack foods as well. What would you bring to the party? (I might get some new ideas!)
The girls get to open one gift on Christmas Eve (the only gifts under the tree), which are always new pajamas. [Selfishly, this ensures nice pics on Christmas morning.] They look forward to seeing what the new pjs are each year. Then after they go to bed all the gifts appear under the tree.
We have never made any emphasis on Father Christmas one way or another. He is just part of the game of Christmas. The girls set out some of the aforementioned cookies for him and may or may not have made a request of a gift from him (this year they have, last year they told us on Christmas Eve what they thought he would bring--they were wrong!) We don't put their gifts under the tree until Santa comes, but they have always known the gifts are from us. They do know that some kids believe differently and that they are not to ever say he isn't real. The girls have three gifts each to open from us plus their stockings. Currently we open gifts first thing in the morning because the church service we attend at 1030 has the kids bring one of their gifts to show off (and to allow the Pastor to play with them).
Jesus' Birthday Cake:
We always bake a cake for Jesus to be our dessert with Christmas dinner. Usually one of the girls will ask us to sing. The rest of Jesus' birthday party is just being together as a family, usually playing a few games or enjoying watching the girls play with all their new stuff.
The day after Christmas is a holiday here as well. Last year we took the girls to their very first in-the-cinema film. The local cinema has closed, so I'm not sure what we will do this year. Our main focus is to enjoy family time since Daddy's work will then get busy again (next holiday is not until Easter).
We aren't very quirky in our traditions. We just love having down time as a family. Be sure and check out the linked sites at Lisa's place to see how others are celebrating.