Everyone has different holiday traditions – based on everything from personal traditions, to family traditions and cultural traditions. I’m also saying “holiday” and not “Christmas” not to be politically correct either. There are quite a lot of holidays that all seem to happen in December – including:
- November 27 – December 5 (Hanukkah 2013)
- December 5: Sinterklaas (Dutch)
- December 6: St. Nicholas Day (Various – mostly Europe)
- December 1 – 25: Advent
- December 23: Festivus
- December 24: Christmas Eve
- December 25: Christmas Day
- December 26: Boxing Day (primarily UK)
- December 26 – January 1: Kwanzaa
- December 31: New Years Eve
So as you can see – saying “Happy Holidays” is hardly an inappropriate greeting, especially if you don’t know which holiday someone celebrates in December!
All that aside, while I am an Atheist, I still celebrate Christmas. Many Christmas traditions have Germanic origins. In fact Santa Claus himself is a mix of the German tradition of St. Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) & the Christkind (Christ Child), among others. The Christmas tree, Advent Calendars, gingerbread all come from Germanic traditions – many (especially the Christmas Tree) originating from the symbolism of evergreen trees in pre-Christian winter rights. Ancient Germanic tribes worshiped trees as part of their pagan rituals.
Because of this, and because of my German origins, and the fact I was raised by my German grandmother, gives a different meaning of Christmas to me. For me, t was never about the birth of a baby from 2,000+ years ago (although I was familiar with the story). It was about the gathering of family and friends, of putting aside differences and quarrels and coming together to share love and each other’s company. I now know my family did that for me, so that the holidays were always special. It was the one time of year we didn’t fight or argue, and so I have many happy memories about this time of year.
As a child my grandmother would put up the Christmas tree on my birthday (December 2), and it would stay up until February 2 (her birthday). She also had a Advent Calendar that she made for me – it had many little pockets and each day I could get the little treat inside. Sometimes it was candy or chocolate. Sometimes it was money or even a tiny toy. She also observed St. Nikolaus with me, and if I put my shoes outside of our apartment on the night of December 5th, when I woke up on December 6, they were filled with little goodies. Finally it all culminated on Christmas Eve – when my Uncle and Aunt would arrive and we’d have a grand feast followed by opening presents (as far as I know, children in Germany don’t wait until Christmas morning to open presents). We always had a lovely package from our German relatives too, so there were always lots of gifts to go around.
These days many of my family members I grew up with are gone, and I celebrate with my husband and his family instead. However, I keep a few of my childhood traditions – like putting up the tree on my birthday, and keeping it up until my dearly departed grandmother’s birthday. I like to bake and cook some of the things she used to make around this time of year – like either a Leg of Lamb or Sauerbraten and Key Lime Pie (her specialty). Also with my husband we always have our own little celebration on Christmas Eve and I play some of my favorite holiday music (ok, it’s not actually holiday music, but we only ever played it around the holidays – it’s an old album of German Folk Songs by Freddie Quinn). I may not be able to go home again for the holidays, but my memories will always live in my heart.
So which holiday(s) do you celebrate? What are you traditions? Please share in the comments below – I’d love to hear about them!