Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Traditions We Love...

Christmas is always such a special and warm season for us because it's all about family time, generosity to others, and cuddling up indoors. It always makes me feel really nostalgic, as I remember all my past Christmases, and of course becoming a parent now it is extra special to know that my daughter will have the same memories too.

Growing up, we had our own family traditions of a big Christmas dinner at my grandparent's old ranch house. They were quite simplistic back then. I've found that since re-settling in Canada and introducing husband-ji / my inlaws to Christmas, I have incorporated more traditions for our family. We also usually have our Indian relatives visit us for Christmas, so I make sure to take them around to various Christmas events around town. And now that we have Maya, we've added on a lot of kid-friendly traditions (like meeting Santa!). So, Christmas for us has been a combination of old and new, as we build our own family culture and traditions.

Here are some of our favourite traditions:

Advent Calendar
My mum got Maya an advent calendar this year, and it has literally been the highlight of her life! As soon as she finishes breakfast, she likes to open the little door and find her chocolate - and not just any chocolate, it's a Santa chocolate. She just squeals with delight! I think this is a tradition we will carry on for years to come!
One tradition I love doing is purchasing a new ornament annually and then writing the year on the bottom of it. Every year it's a fun search to find "the" ornament for the tree - a new edition to our collection. One year, husband-ji bought a jellyfish ornament from the Aquarium, and this year we got a beautiful hand-crafted wooden ornament from the German Christmas Market. It's sentimental when we decorate the tree to take out each ornament and say, "Hey, remember when..?"

Set up our Christmas Tree and decorating the house
It's such a great family activity to decorate our Christmas tree together - it's all hands on deck! It is a very sentimental activity for me, as I've saved all my grandmother's Christmas ornaments and nativity sets which date back to the 1950's. This year, we put on some holiday music and danced around as we set up our tree!

Sing Christmas Carols (at home)
This is a new tradition we just started this year, thanks to Maya! She loves to sing, and she has been learning all her songs for her Christmas performance next week. I remember singing them in school too, but I've lost all the words so I decided to re-learn them so we can sing together at home. I printed out the lyrics off the internet and we often sing them together during the day as I'm doing some other chore. Somehow, singing always puts you in a bright mood...but I wouldn't dare do it in public!

Send out 100 Christmas cards
Sometimes we do a special Christmas card photo shoot in November, but if we can't get our shit together, we just use a nice family photo from that year. I always like to send out beautiful Christmas cards as a way of sending love and thanks to everyone in our lives. We send our cards to friends and family, or anyone who has helped us that year. I always make sure to keep one for myself as a souvenir! I love addressing all my Christmas cards after my daughter has gone to bed, over a cup of hot chocolate, and under the warm glow of the tree. It's pretty amazing who's on our mailing list - people from India, Hong Kong, New York, Italy...a lot of international stamps!

Hang up Christmas cards we've received
I love to display the Christmas cards that others send to us, but we don't have much counter space. I like to hang a piece of simple string in between two frames and hang the cards over it, like a laundry line. It makes me feel good to collect the cards and display them in a prime spot where they can't be knocked down. I keep our Christmas cards up well into January.

Go Ice Skating
This is a nostalgic activity for me, and both my mum and grandfather always used to take me ice skating when I was little. In the Winter, all the ice rinks will be out and it's the perfect season to go and refresh your skills!

Make Gingerbread cookies
This year was the first year that I've done this, as Maya has become such a great baking buddy. It is really fun to use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes together.

Get a picture with Santa
Maya gets so excited to meet Santa at the Mall, and I treasure collecting these photos every year. Each time she has such a fun expression, and it's a great souvenir for her grandparents'. Santa always gives her a peppermint candy and I love to use Santa as a negotiating tool - "if you're naughty, Santa won't bring you presents!"

The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain looks over our city, and at Christmas they have an amazing winter wonderland theme that is great to visit with kids or visiting family. They have reindeer, ice skating, tobogganing, sleigh rides, and a gingerbread village. We started doing this a few years ago while relatives were visiting and it always gets us in the Christmas spirit! It's like visiting the North Pole for the day!

Donate books to the Children's Hospital
This past month, we landed in the ER with Maya because she came down with pneumonia and it scared the wits out of us. While we were there, we saw a few child cancer patients in the ER and I felt so sad for their families and all they were going through. The nurses and doctors took such good care of her that I wanted to give back in some way. I went back to their website and found that they needed donations of children's books for their patients. I think most children's hospitals would readily accept some wonderful books for the poor kids who are stuck in their hospital beds, and cannot do not much else. Please do consider looking up one in your respective areas and donating.

Watch Christmas Movies
With the weather so crappy outside, most of the time you'll want to stay home in your pyjamas and watch movies on your days off work. My favourite Christmas films to watch are Home AloneHome Alone 2The Santa Clause, and Love Actually. Maya has been loving watching kids' films like Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas  and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas too!

Read Christmas Stories
I have been scouring the library for great Christmas books for kids and they are so hard to find! I saved all my grandmother's storybook collection from the 1950's - which are absolute gold - so I tend to read those to Maya during Christmas season.

Make Orange Pomanders
This is something I always remembered having in our home growing up. You stick cloves into an orange, preferably into a pattern, and then hang it up in your home (you can use a needle and thread, or even better, a ribbon!). The scent is so spicy and lovely.

Ride the Miniature Christmas Train at Stanley Park
Twice a year, we ride the miniature train at Stanley Park - once at Halloween, and once at Christmas. I know this is something we'll only be able to do when Maya is young, so it's something I hold on to dearly. It is perfect for kids under age 5. The Christmas train ride is worth going because their gardens are full of a fantastic light and toys display that kids love. Every year it has a theme - last year it was Frozen (ugh!). It's a fun family activity and as we countdown to Christmas!

See the Nutcracker Ballet
This is a tradition that I remember my parents' doing with me and it was magical. I first saw the Nutcracker performed in London and it felt like going to a royal ball. We haven't done it yet with Maya, but I would love to. Maya has been taking ballet classes, so I know she'll love it. I think I might take her next year.

Take a family photo in front of the Christmas Tree (on the 24th or 25th)
We started this tradition a few years ago and we have kept at it, despite how hard it is to get a family picture with a young kid and a tripod. We usually put cartoons on and then put the tripod in front of the TV to get Maya to look!

Visit a church
Christmas is the holiday of the year for any church, so it's lovely to drop by for one of their many Christmas services. They have really wonderful music too. Even if you don't want to stay for the service, you can light a small candle for your relatives under the Virgin Mary.

Have a big family dinner
We usually have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas, depending on our family's schedule. My mum makes an excellent Christmas dinner, so she takes great pride in making a ton of dishes and decorating her table. After dinner, we have a big dessert and exchange gifts. There is always lots of wine involved!

Boxing Day Shopping
Boxing Day in Canada is the equivalent to Black Friday in the USA, although it is more nobody gets trampled! Yes, we do it in an oh-so cool, calm and collected Canadian fashion by simply doing our shopping without any violence. People usually shop for bargains or use their gift cards that they received for Christmas, or do exchanges. A lot of people don't go out because it is hard to find parking in the city. I like to go out to buy myself a purse, or some baby clothes for Maya, and husband-ji loves to look at bargains since he has such expensive taste! Ha ha!

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens
In Vancouver, our local botanical garden puts on an amazing lights show that is well worth the visit. They decorate the whole gardens with over a million lights in unusual designs, and the lights flicker on and off with music. It is a very kid friendly family activity, and great to show visitors of the city.

Needless to say, after Christmas is over, we're like....


What are your favorite Christmas traditions, dear readers?
Have you made your own traditions or do you use some from your family too?



  1. Alex,

    What a lovely post, Maya is so adorable sitting by the Christmas tree. Love all these pictures of all your activities. We have some of the same traditions that you all have, decorating tree, listening to Christmas music and always having a big Christmas dinner with family. We always go to church on Christmas Eve and enjoy listening to the church choir singing. When I was Maya's age my parents always took me to get my picture with Santa. My Grandmother would always come to our house to bake cookies, fudge, divinity, and popcorn balls! What fun we had together. These are all memories that I have always had with my family. I wish they were still alive to celebrate. These are all great traditions for You, Husband-ji and Maya to carry on for many years.

    May you all have a beautiful Christmas with your family. Enjoy and have fun together.


  2. To me, my favourite tradition is watching Christmas movies. And it's really funny as my favourite movies are Home Alone and Home Alone 2 too!! Not a year without watching them at least once (even at the Age of 28 lol). Another tradition is that I decorate the tree at my parents house while listening to X-Mas Music at the 24th Dec. Of course an Advent calendar is a must for me every year as well :)

    Now that I am older a Thing that has become tradition during Christmas time is going to the Christmar market and meet friends for mulled wine, hot Punch or hot chocolate at least once a week.

  3. wow, christmas in india! i was under the impression christmas wasn't that popular in india(especially when compared to diwali), or at least in south india. it's so cool you still get to have the lights and the family time around the world. i would definitely say christmas movies are my jam. the stop-motion picture ones make my holidays every year! my family doesn't really join me, but nothing can stop me from binge watching rudolf and the year without a santa clause. my favorite christmas character is hermey the dentist elf!

  4. Oh no, I didn't know Maya had pneumonia last month, poor thing. We all had a bad lung infection in september and it was awful.

    Your Christmas traditions are great, we always give the kids advent calendars. You have inspired me to make a pomander.. I was wondering, what kind of dishes you prepare for Christmas ? (this year the 25th is a Friday - veg day for hubby).

    Take care, Pad

  5. Awesome Christmas tree! Wow! -Raj


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