When you’re far away from home and celebrating Christmas in a new country, traditions become more important than ever. 

Our tree here is trimmed (somewhat more safely than the above picture would suggest!).  We’ve decorated and purchased gifts and baked cookies.  We’re thick in the swing of Christmas, although it’s a different feeling than ever before.

There are some that we simply can’t do: we can’t make cookies with our old friends on Christmas Eve and deliver them to our local fire station.  We can’t spend Christmas Day at Matt’s parents with his cousins and their kids.  Although I think the kids are sad about those things, we’re working really hard to focus on all the FUN parts of Christmas in a new country.

Being in a new place makes the traditions we CAN still uphold even more precious; the familiar makes the holidays feel like home, no matter where we are.

Christmas Calendar

Our Christmas Calendar is the tradition that starts our holiday.  On December 1st, we begin “decorating” our little tree — each night, one of the children takes a tiny ornament from it’s little pocket and pins it on the tree.  The calendar was a gift from our dear friend’s mom, who made it by hand.  We love that calendar, and as the tree gets more and more full of ornaments, the kids get more and more excited.

We’ll also celebrate with Sibling Gifts on Christmas Eve.  There is an undercurrent of excitement in every hushed conversation between children and parents, as the kids plan just exactly the perfect thing to get for each brother and sister.  We’re almost ready for that, although we still need to make one last trip out to get the final few items.   I love the effort going into each decision and I really love the grand ideas; we did have to talk Quinn down from wanting to get Owen a horse.  Although he would certainly be excited, I don’t think we’re quite at that level of gift giving.  The thought was sweet though: there are few things on this Earth that would make Owen more excited.

And we’ll be sure to keep our more simple traditions: Italian food for dinner on Christmas Eve and my Mom’s Irish bread for breakfast on Christmas morning. 

Although they normally come visit us the day AFTER Christmas for a few days, this year my parents will be here for Christmas, so we have a new and exciting event to anticipate!  And we’re also trying out some new English Christmas traditions, a few of which I already think we’ll take home with us when we eventually return to the States.

abel and cole mince pies

The traditional English Christmas dessert is Mince Pies, and they are EVERYWHERE this time of year.  None of us had ever had them before, so a few weeks ago I ordered some so we could try them out in advance.  They are delicious!  Five out of six of us are BIG fans, but Gabe declined to try them.  I think the name throws him off; although we assured him there is no actual MEAT in the pies, he’s not completely confident that we’re correct about that. 

christmas crackers

Another big Christmas Day tradition here is Christmas Crackers.  The crackers are basically decorated paper tubes that have a joke, a party hat, and a prize inside.  They go at each place setting at the table when we sit down for Christmas dinner, then you and the person next to you each pull an end and the person who comes away with the larger half wins the prize inside.  We’re all about adding a competitive aspect to Christmas dinner here, so we’re definitely going to have these! 

It’s an interesting balance we’re trying to strike: upholding our old and much-loved traditions while embracing the new ones we’re learning about. 

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

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One thought on “Traditions

  1. Mish

    So far the only tradition that holds water is that Mom ends up putting up, decorating, and (probably again) dismantling the Christmas tree! LOL


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