Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Childhood Christmas Traditions

Back in my day, this was the pinnacle of Christmas fashion.
Growing up, I always felt like my family didn't really have any Christmas traditions. My friends always came back from the holiday break talking about how they had gathered with their extended families, sipped eggnog, and sang carols. My Christmas wasn't anything like that. Not at all. We didn't eat chocolates out of an advent calendar, put a mischievous elf on the shelf, meet up with distant relatives, or wear matching sweaters. Santa came, sure, but I didn't really view his visits as a holiday ritual. They were simply my right as a well-behaved child.

But looking back, I realize that even though we didn't engage in a lot of customary Christmas past times, we still had traditions. Oh, did we ever. Here are just a few of them:

1. Setting up our fake Christmas tree

Image via Balsam Hill

To my recollection, in the eighteen years that I lived under my parents' roof, we only owned two Christmas trees. When one was out of commission, we sprang for a fancier model, but they were both fake -- fake as all hell -- and they were both a pain in the ass to set up. We would store our tree in our attic, which was a place that, as a young child, I believed to be the home of a tiny, evil man in a derby hat (this is just one example of the kinds of terrifying, detailed stories my dad told me when I was a kid). I would cower, petrified, in a corner as my dad and sisters nearly broke their necks trying to take the tree down the ladder. My dad would set the whole thing up like a super hero and my sisters and I would be in charge of the decorating. I don't know where my mom was during all of this -- probably buying us tacos or something. Thanks, Mom.

2. Listening to Mannheim Steamroller

My dad always played Mannheim Steamroller while we decorated our tree, and to this day, it is the music of my nightmares. I genuinely believe that when one enters the gates of Hell, they will be greeted with a mashup of Mannheim Steamroller and Lowrider. There is just something about that synthesized sound that makes my ears cry, and that was the case even back then, but props to my dad for never giving in to my incessant complaining.

3. The Drive-Through Nativity

Image via Photo Pin

At my hometown church, we did a lot of weird things, but the Drive-Through Nativity was by far the weirdest (and my most favorite). It combined two of our nation's most beloved things: Jesus and the business model for the American fast food industry. My family would drive into the church parking lot and line up behind several other cars to watch the story of the birth of Jesus. We were handed a tape with a guided audio track, and we would drive slowly as we approached stations depicting scenes from the nativity. The best part: it was all live-action. That means actual humans from our church were playing these biblical characters...for hours. They were supposed to stay in character the whole time, but there was always some sleepy six-year-old sheep who was totally OVER IT or a shepherd who was eating a granola bar. My sister and I would laugh hysterically from the backseat at the awkwardness of it all while making up new narrations for the characters ("Hi, my name is King Herod. *fart sound*"). At the end, we were handed a plate of cookies for the road, and it certainly felt like we had earned them.

These traditions from my childhood were some of my most treasured, but they honestly don't even begin to scratch the surface. I can't leave out our traditional Christmas Eve meal (cold cuts and cheese served on a platter from HEB) or our ceremonial gift-opening tradition (hoarding all of our gifts in laundry baskets) or our traditional Christmas song and dance (i.e. complaining loudly to our parents about having to go to the Christmas Eve service at, we were brats).

While my family's Christmas traditions were a bit on the unconventional side, I still completely treasure them -- so much so that I've actually been listening to Mannheim Steamroller the entire time while writing this post. Excuse me now while I drain the blood from my ears.

Does your family have any slightly eccentric holiday traditions?


  1. As a half-Jewish/half-Christian kid in Texas, our set-up was definitely unusual. We had a "Hanukkah bush" propped up on the dining room table, in a room decorated in blue and silver, and in the living room, our tried-and-true Texas style Christmas tree, complete with red chili pepper lights. No Manheim Steamroller and no drive-through baby Jesus, although those both sound lovely:).

  2. The drive-thru nativity sounds like it was a great time! lol A church near my friends house has "The Journey To Bethlehem" but they make you walk outside. It's actually a lot of fun. There are guards and everyone gets an "identity" so if you're stopped by the guards you have to know the information on your paperwork. It's pretty neat. And of course, there's a bake sale inside as a reward for battling the frigid cold.


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