Traditions are a wonderful thing. They are a glue that binds families together. Doing the same thing every year has a certain appeal of continuity.

A fellow blogger, writing at Field Notes from Fatherhood — — summed it well. I just want add my two cents.

When I was growing up, we picked out our tree a couple of weeks before Christmas, put it up the weekend before Christmas and decorated it Christmas Eve day. We went to Midnight Mass, came home, wished each other a Merry Christmas and somehow presents magically appeared under the tree while we slept. Of course, it was just my Mom and Dad and me, so guess who most of the presents were for.

After a quick breaksnack, we headed off to Grandma’s for the real feast … donuts and breads and rolls for breakfast followed by antipasto, capon, turkey, ham, ravioli, manicotti, ziti, meatballs, sausage, brassiole and a thousand other palate-pleasing offerings. And it was topped with a dessert table of pizzelle, honey balls, rum pastries, cannoli, salami cake, rice cake, ice cream and my favorite, the endless supply of hard glazed cookies.  It was a food junkies heaven!

Then it was off to see my Mom’s  side of the family, which was for visiting, not eating {as if we could have eaten any more}. Then to my godmother’s and home. It was a full day.

Karen’s Christmas experience was somewhat different. At best they would have a tabletop tree with just a few “more practical” presents. Being a single mom, her mother often worked Christmas Eve and/or most of Christmas Day to pick up some extra hours.

So after we first got married, we decided to pretty much follow the plan of at least gastronomical opulence. I already told you about her first pre-marriage tree, so a real tree was in the offing for sure. She had never had a real tree before that. We, too, went to Midnight Mass, but we had presents under the tree well before we left. Karen decided she would make breakfast for us — the beginning of the egg casserole — and after a plate full or two and coffee we got down to serious gifting, or more appropriately, unwrapping. After another plateful of casserole and a quick “nap” {hey, we were newlyweds} we headed for Grandma’s to meet up with the rest of the family to eat and catch up. Then it was off to her aunt and uncle’s and then her Mom’s for a simple nightcap to the day.

The kids started coming and work schedules changed. Christmas No. 2 was slightly different. To get Christmas Day off, I worked Christmas Eve so Midnight Mass was scrubbed, and our outside the home visits were shaved to a few hours. Oh, we still made it to Grandma’s with the baby in tow. And we did stop in at her Mom’s and Aunt Marie and Uncle George’s.

I remember the first year we didn’t go to Grandma’s. We had just moved to Ogdensburg, NJ, about 35 miles from Paterson, NJ. There were two toddlers now. Grandma’s was my “tradition” but I knew it was impractical to go there. So Karen, wisely, said, “We’ll start a new tradition centered around the kids.” And we did. Christmas was for the kids. Those toys were meant for playing. If anyone was disappointed we didn’t visit them on Christmas Day, they were welcome to visit us in Ogdensburg. And sometime during the Christmas season, we would see the moms and dads and aunts and uncles, but not on a prescribed schedule.

That new tradition blossomed as the family grew and we headed to Illinois. Karen’s egg casserole was complemented with nut bread, Irish soda bread and other tempting treats. Gift giving was a family affair, and each of the urchins would usually join me in showering Karen with her gifts, acting as the elves, the guides, the hint givers. But that’s the story of another blog.

As with all traditions, they evolve. As the kids got older and moved out, our routines started scaling down — although somehow those closest to us at the time would always find their way home for Christmas morning breakfast, and those further away would replicate the repast. As each one left we told them to start their own traditions.

There is no “right way to celebrate the holidays. There is no wrong way. Have a family feast. Go out for dinner. Watch hokie Christmas movies all day. Go to a football or basketball or hockey {remember that sport} game. The key isn’t where you go or what you do … it’s who you do it with. Which is just another way of saying … Make your own memories!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Make sure you see people through eyes of love, not eyes of judgment.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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8 Responses to Traditions

  1. Deanna says:

    I think we all had the same favorite part – mom’s story!


  2. Great post. I recently blogged about (relationship) traditions and your writing hit home.

    – K.


  3. mmtread says:

    Thanks for the link, dear sir. I’m glad you thought my post worthy. Man, the Italians really know how to eat at Christmas! Well, all the time, really. A few years back we spent the holidays in Italy, and Christmas dinner was absolutely amazing. You can even find the menu at if you’re interested. Again, thanks for the link, and have a great Christmas!


  4. joe nozzolio says:

    Loved your recollections of Christmas traditions. My Italian grandmon had the Christmas Eve 7 fishes meal. Unfortunately, my mom who was Ukranian didn’t particularly like fish, so she stayed home and kept me with her, while Dad went by himself, along with his siblings (my uncles and aunts.) Not until many years later when our neighbors who were born in Italy invited us to the Christmas Eve (7 fish) meal did I know what I had missed all those years. After my grandmom passed, my aunt Madeline continued the tradition, and my bothers faithfully attended. I was by then in Pennsylvania, and unable to, Now, we’re in the deep south, and any mention of “7 fishes” evokes comments like “how do you cook cat fish seven ways?”


    • Grandma used to have fish as well. I’m not a big fish fan, so I zeroed in on the macaroni. I remember going with her to buy baccala, I couldn’t understand how a piece of cardboard would taste good. When I got older, I understood. Have yourself a Merry Christmas!


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