I'm curious to know how everyone else celebrate Christmas, especially the gifting part. My Christmas here is so vastly different from what I've had in South Africa.
Christmas has always been my absolute favorite holiday. Why? Because it's a time of giving and I'm a big giver. I love to spoil others and put smiles on their faces. It brings me great joy to see how happy someone is with something that I gifted them. I don't care about receiving gifts. I'm far more interested in giving to others. That's what makes me happy. I put a lot of thought and planning into gifts (not just Christmas ones). I like to give gifts that I know the recipient would like or something that they really wanted. I don't have to break the bank to do so. Most of you know about my shopping skills by now.
Christmas in SA
I come from a large family. My mom had 9 siblings and each sibling had at least 4-5 kids. We spent most of our time with my mom's family. I always used to joke about how much her siblings love each other's company. Then again, my siblings feel the same way. Our family's extremely close. We do most things together. Aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it. We had many traditions that got passed down from one generation to another. We also created many of our own traditions. Our extended family spent ALL holidays together. Doesn't matter if we liked each other at the time or not. We all knew the importance of quality family time.
Christmas in our household was pretty much the same every year. We'd start cooking at least 2 days before Christmas. We had all kinds of meat like roast beef, corned beef, cow tongue (I eat it, but I'm not crazy about it. It's not strange to me, because I grew up eating it), fried chicken and oodles of different salads. Dessert was always trifle and fridge tart (icebox cake). We're in the southern hemisphere, so Christmas is during summer. We'd have long tresle or picnic tables in the backyard to accommodate everyone.
On Christmas Eve my parents would go to midnight mass. I'd be up until late finishing all the deserts and we'd have Christmas music blaring on the radio. You just didn't do the festive season without Christmas carols. Christmas morning we'd get up bright & early, shower and get dressed in our new Christmas clothes and head to the early church service (our parish had 2 services). We knew that if we went to the first service, we'd be home earlier to open gifts...lol. Then everyone would come to my parents house (straight from church) to open gifts (once we had kids, they opened their own gifts at home then come open their other gifts at my parents' house).
As kids, we only got one gift. It was always a big ticket gift and everyone was happy. We didn't have Christmas stockings. We never knew about it, until I moved here. Once we had kids, I always bought each child 2 gifts. That's just me. I go all out for Christmas, especially for my family. I bought gifts for some of my colleagues who were close friends and for my BFFs. I always got the best gifts for my parents. We are big sports fans and I'd jump through hoops to get my dad original sports jerseys. I once had a customer in the UK who worked at a football (soccer) club. We became friends and I got her to buy my dad an original Man Utd football jersey and had her ship it to me, then I shipped it to him. I spared no expense, because a gift from the heart (one given with love) is always appreciated. Besides, it made my dad happy. You can't put a price on happiness.
I also support different Christmas charities. No child should be without Christmas gifts. That's how I feel. When I do Secret Santa, I make sure to buy kids name brands or high end items that they might not have gotten otherwise. I always choose the teens, because everyone else is just interested in shopping for the little ones. Teens are often forgotten and they're usually the ones who have to try to fit in with their peers. So I make sure to buy them really nice things (I'm the shopping queen after all..lol), because we all know how teens like to compete and some people can be cruel to those who aren't as well off as they are. So I try to help those teens 'fit' in, in my own small way. I also buy many extras that's not on their wish list, just because. It's Christmas after all. My own child gets so much, so why not do the same for those in need? Make them feel loved and special too. This is one way of showing God's love to others.
Lunch was at noon (that was our set time for Sunday lunches too. We do lunch instead of dinner in SA). After lunch we'd all go to one of my mom's siblings' home for the rest of Christmas day. It was either our house or an aunt/uncle's house (we'd rotate every year). The whole family would get together. The men would bring the liquor and we'd all hang out until the wee hours of the morning (2-3 am). Now you know why we cook so much food. Everyone needs to be fed while we hang out. I remember my one uncle always showing up at family events with a tote bag. I eventually learned that he was carrying his booze in the bag...lol Bottles of hard liquor. My family was always game for a party. They still are :)
My aunt's birthday is on Boxing day (day after Christmas for those who don't understand). So we'd all get up early (hangover and all) and head to my uncle/aunt's house for another day or celebrations. This is how my family rolled all festive season long. Everyone would go on vacation together, because everyone was off work for at least 4 weeks (summer break). Businesses closed. Some professional businesses had skeleton staff. At my last job I always chose to work during the holidays. There were so many public (federal) holidays during the break, that I was off more days than I had to be at the office. Also, the day before any holidays, we'd only work half day. I took my leave at other times of the year. We also had many beach days, because we lived right by the ocean. You can get in your car and be at the nearest beach in 10 minutes. We had 2 oceans, so there were lots of beaches to choose from. Fancy restaurants always lined the beach roads, so you could go have your fun in the sun, then hit a restaurant for food and sundowners (early evening drinks).
My Christmas here is the complete opposite. DH is an only child and we only see his very small family at funerals. So we celebrate all holidays on our own. I can't blame him for his family, but boy do I get mad at him about us having to open Christmas gifts after dinner. Who does that anyway? Sacrilege! It used to be that we had to wait until MIL came over for dinner to open gifts. I still don't understand that part, because she always brought tons of gifts for us and we had gifts for her, so why couldn't we just open our own gifts in the morning & do her gifts when she gets here? Then MIL passed away and we still have to open gifts after dinner. Ugh!! So DS just gets to do his stocking in the morning. I told DH that we're the last people on earth to open gifts, because even the people in Hawaii have already opened theirs. Come on! Christmas day is almost over by then! Where's the fun & excitement for DS? After opening gifts, we take a drive to go look at Christmas displays and then have an early night. We're just a load of fun (snark)...lol
I didn't know about Christmas stockings. I've never had one. I still don't have one. DS went without a stocking the first Christmas. I think it was MIL who asked me about DS's stocking, so I went to the Disney store and bought him a Mickey Mouse stocking. He still uses that stocking. I have to say that the quality is excellent, because it still looks great. I wash that stocking after use every year and it still looks almost new.
DS has never really cared for the stocking contents. Probably because I don't really know what goes in a stocking. So I've started adding just one big gift to the stocking for him. He loves this. I also saw how overwhelmed he was by the amount of gifts on our first Christmas here. DH's 2 aunts and 3 of his cousins all gave DS gifts. Then MIL came with a truckload (DS is the only grandchild) and add in our gifts. So I started switching things up for him. I saved most of our gifts (yep, 'm guilty of buying him a lot too) and every night from Christmas until New Year, I'd place a new gift under the tree for him. And yes, I do allow him to open it the minute he gets up...lol. He loves it! It's like having Christmas for a whole week. I sure wouldn't mind celebrating Christmas for a week :) No, it has nothing to do with Kwanzaa. In fact, I've never heard of Kwanzaa until I moved here. I still don't know what it is. I think it's a West African thing. I'm South African and none of the southern African countries know of Kwanzaa (as far as I know).
I don't even think DH owns a stocking. I've never seen one. We just give each other some gift cards and a few small things to put under the tree every year. I still cook and bake as if I'm feeding an army for Christmas. I can't unlearn it. We eat leftovers until we get tired of it, then freeze the rest. I do make our traditional desserts. I must have trifle and of course we must have Christmas crackers. DH doesn't really care for the crackers, but it's traditional for us. We wear our crepe hats from the crackers too. I'ts just fun.
I would've loved to have started our own traditions, but that sadly didn't happen. I'm big on holidays. I want it to be a fun, memorable event. I'd be fixing big Christmas breakfasts, make cocktails, play some games etc. It's a holiday after all. We ought to enjoy it. If it was up to me, I'd say let's book tickets to go have a month of fun in the sun with my family. I know that DS would love it, but DH wouldn't want to go. Heck, I'd be packing my our bags a whole month in advance...lol.
This is why I always send my family gifts too (okay, I just like to spoil them...lol). I know that they're always excited and happy to receive gifts, especially the kids. They don't care if I bought their gifts at 90% off, because they know it's going to be a nice item(s). My oldest brother and his kids are just as much fashionistas as I am, so they like it when I send them new clothes. They'd be shocked to see me dressed down (sweats, jeans, tees) here, because I used to look like a million bucks just to go buy a loaf of bread at the store back home. Everything on me had to look perfect. They know I always send them cool things. I like to buy brands that they don't have there or cost a fortune there, like Victorias Secret, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, WHBM etc. I remember one year I sent my nephews each a few Ralph Lauren t-shirts. They didn't know the brand at the time, but a year or 2 later, it debuted in SA. Guess who were the coolest dudes in their area...lol? Not to mention it was a lot more expensive than it is here.
Every year I send my uncle (my mom's only sibling who's still alive) and aunt a bouquet of flowers and chocolates for Christmas. They love it. I don't think anyone else gives them gifts (besides their kids), so I make sure that they know we still love them, despite being thousands of miles away. My cousin in NY never sends the family anything. They're just cheap that way and the family hates it. My mom's family is very generous. We're always there to help each other.
So my questions are:
- How do you celebrate Christmas?
- Do you have family traditions?
- Do you & your spouse exchange gifts?
- Do you have a Christmas stocking?
- What do you fill your spouse and children's stockings with?
I'd like to learn how others here celebrate Christmas - even those in other countries too.