Festive traditions 

– why they still matter!

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Mark Coster

Founder of Pixooma

Whether we're aware of it or not, we all have festive family traditions and established routines.  Sometimes these stem from our childhood and we rigorously stick to them, sometimes without even taking the time to acknowledge their significance. I like to think that they give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. They might also connect us to our cultural heritage and our history. As well as reminding us how we used to celebrate with different generations of our family.

In order to prepare for this blog, I had the opportunity to analyse some of mine and Jo’s Christmas traditions and behaviours. Some of them were a little quirky, whilst others just make complete sense – well to us anyway! From the type of tree and its position within the house to decorations, present location and the timing (and content) of lunch, we all have areas of festive preparation and performance that we cannot possibly compromise on or change.

As we’re getting ever closer to the big day, I thought it might be interesting to share some of mine and Jo’s uncompromisable Christmas traditions. Remember, we’re going back to the 1970’s here in some cases to track where a few of them began, so don’t judge us too harshly for their complete naffness.

I don't recall, but my brother still remembers me crying as one year one of my presents apparently was gloves!

Trees

Social media has been filled with pictures of beautifully resplendent Christmas trees for several weeks now. When Jo was little, her tree never went up until she had broken up from school, this was usually around the 20th December. For my family I think it was earlier in December generally and it was always in the lounge. In our house now it goes in the same place every year – in front of the bay window in the lounge, anywhere else and we wouldn’t be able to see the TV, or have anywhere to sit!

Whilst Jo always had a real tree in her childhood, I had an artificial one, mainly because the one and only year that we had a real one, my little brother (who was about 3 or 4 at the time), sat next to it and pulled all the needles off. Jo and I now have an artificial one that we’ve had for 18 years and it’s still going strong. We tend to put it up a few days before Christmas, not for any other reason than we don’t usually get round to it until then.

And when it comes to dressing the tree, we don’t have any amazing heirlooms, other than a fairy from when Jo was in her twenties. Over the years we've added to our collection of decorations - built upon the first two sets we bought when we met. Jo has made a few of them and most of them we can remember where we bought them and why. My parents however have quite a collection of memorable and in some cases ancient ones. Who can forget the nativity that sheds yet more glitter every year and the balding fairy, which my brother drew a moustache on when he was a child. Up until a few years ago my parents still put this fairy on their tree, moustache and all!

Presents

As a child I had a stocking in my bedroom, and our 'main presents' under the tree. Whilst Jo had a pillowcase with every present in it at the foot of her bed. Along with my siblings, we would pester our parents from 4am onwards, but we were never allowed to open any until they were up and we’d had breakfast. In Jo’s case, things were a little different. Her little sister always woke up first, checked out the pillowcase contents and then told her what she had before she had a chance to look, as they always got the same. My best present was a Commodore Amiga. And as for the worst, I don't recall, but my brother still remembers me crying as one year one of my presents apparently was gloves! When she was little, Jo loved her Sindy related presents.

Food

Christmas lunch always used to be around 1pm in my family, and it’s pretty similar now. Growing up for Jo and I – and even now – it's normally Turkey on the day, followed by a Christmas pudding which is set alight all shared with family. Even now, we still have crackers, with the hats that never fit and the jokes that generally are as old as time. And afterwards lots of board games – Monopoly was a favourite of Jo's family, whilst mine played anything and everything. Then more food in the evening, cheese and crackers, meats, nuts (chocolate brazils), the odd sandwich and perhaps some Christmas cake and a movie perhaps? Who can forget the Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street and of course It’s a Wonderful Life? I’m not saying that current festive movies are rubbish, but somehow, we still revert to the old(er) favourites.

To me taking part in holiday traditions and rituals, or establishing news ones, helps Jo and I to feel like we are part of something bigger. They give us a sense of where we came from and why we’re here, plus sharing experiences—like foods, sights, smells, and activities—links us to our past and to each other. What traditions from your childhood do you hold onto, which have you let go and how are you trying to create new ones or do you prefer to blend yours and your other halves together?

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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