Top 12 Favorite Christmas Traditions

I can be a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I have the typical complaints about shopping and crowded streets, but most of all I don’t like the break in my routine. I haven’t written much here or in my novel lately because I’ve been busy—gasp—socializing. As in, real life real time real people interaction, flesh and blood and all that. Also, I travelled to Oklahoma twice in the past month and got sick in-between, so I haven’t exercised in forever. But hey, that extra blubber is part of what makes the holidays feel so warm.

Also, I’m not a Christian, but since this holiday has been hijacked long ago by secular forces, I don’t feel compelled to abstain from it. I don’t celebrate Easter because I do believe Jesus is the reason for that season, for the most part.

So enough preamble. I’d like to share with you my favorite things about this holiday. Let’s begin the countdown:

12.  Playing the Nutcracker for five minutes. Then I get sick of it, but those five minutes are kind of okay. My brother’s wife once forced him to see it, and he complained that he would rather have his balls nailed to a wall than watch that again. Nutcracker indeed. I, however, am a little bit more tolerant. Five minutes.

11.  New ornament. Each year I buy a new ornament and label it with the year. Some of them have been relevant to the theme of that year, others are just last-minute buys. This year’s is a pig that I thought was a javelina, but who knows:


10.  Re-reading last year’s Christmas cards. I save them each year for making my list for next year. This year I’m on top of things—I saved the envelopes too so that I have the addresses. You’d think I would have come up with this brilliant idea long ago, but I’m slow on the uptake.

9.  Ridiculous Christmas clothing. The star at the top lights up. Oh yes it does. And I wear it in public. I also have a pair of panties that says, “Be naughty, save Santa the trip.” Oh yes it does.


8.  Giving gifts. I don’t really like this part because of all the usual reasons, but it forces me to think about all the people in my life. There’s a big part of me that wants to give a random gift at some other time in the year instead, but I haven’t done it.

7.  Rain. We don’t get much of it, which is why I love it. At this time of year in Tucson we get a nice all-day rain from time to time. Yeah, I know. Those of you from cold climates hate me now.

6.  Christmas night lights.


5.  Christmas lights. We don’t get into the decor like we used to. My husband is the only one who will get up on a ladder, but he has had vertigo recently. So we did the most half-assed job because after he wobbled a little bit, I demanded in a semi-hysterical suburban housewife voice that he get down from the ladder. Last year he put up the lights while I was away in Oklahoma, and he fell. Luckily he didn’t fall into a cholla and he came away with a few scraps, but nothing serious. Still, I’ve been hounding him to let it go, let it go. While it’s not worth spending the holidays in the hospital, I have to admit I like that little bit of shine coming in through the kitchen window.

4.  Sweaters. And I’m not even talking about Christmas sweaters, which I would wear if I had one (see Christmas t-shirt above). I hardly ever get to wear sweaters, and I just love them. Here in the desert, there’s a small window of opportunity, so I grab it.

3.  Challah bread. What? I know, it makes no sense. Nevertheless, it looks so festive and I don’t care that I’m mixing things up. Besides, my husband’s Jewish, and so was Jesus, so I figure it kind of works. I love the whole process of making this bread, especially the braiding.


2.  Las Posadas. I’m going tonight! This is hands down the best Christmas celebration ever. I hardly know the woman who invited me to this beautiful fete because I usually get the invite from a woman in my writing group and we tag along with her. This year, my friend is out of town, but the hostess tracked me down to give me the invite. Now I feel super special. Her graciousness makes me get a little misty eyed. How many people would track down a stranger to invite them to a party? Merry Christmas indeed! I can’t wait to get to know her better.

For this Posada we all meet and follow a procession house to house while carrying candles and singing “Feliz Navidad.” It’s led by a live mariachi band! I love trying to sing in Spanish, listening to the Mexicans to get the pronunciation right while following along on a printout.

IMG_0078 IMG_0064

And then we end up at the host’s house to finish the evening over tamales and her special concoction:


I have no idea what’s in here, but it’s delicious. The kids then knock around a piñata and we all get hammered while we listen to the mariachi band.

1.  Christmas tree. I never had a real one growing up, so this always feels special. I love the scent filling up the house, the magic of it. I even love the struggle to get it on top of the car (we put it in a junky sleeping bag to keep it from scratching the paint) and then pissing everyone off as we drive 25 MPH all the way home. :


 What are your favorite holiday traditions? And/or what are your least favorite?

22 thoughts on “Top 12 Favorite Christmas Traditions

  1. Awesome! You have a list? I just put up a tree and let the family do the rest. Typical holidays and typical gifts; lots of XBOX games and dolls, some books, and many, many electronics. Christmas is just another holiday I get through these days, exacerbated by the kids’ birthdays, which are also in December. I have tried to combine the birthdays and the holidays, but apparently there some kind of unwritten law about that. Love your list, and your non-traditional traditions, those are the best and, who knows? Maybe in the future your traditions will be traditional…not that the idea helps with your aversion for the traditional…at all.

    Wait… Jesus was Jewish?!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me it’s watching as many versions of A Christmas Carol as I can (and reading the original). And listening to my iPod’s Christmas music playlist.

    I figured out how to make gift-giving nearly painless. Give everyone varieties of — or all the same of — Booze or Beer or Wine or Books or DVDs or CDs or Meat (like steaks or smoked sausages). Each year I have a theme (this year I’m doing wine again), and I give varieties within that theme (this year the men get some type of nice red, the women get a nice white).

    One visit to a good liquor store, book store or butcher, and I’m done. And no crowds in those places usually.


    • That’s a good method. I do similar things with people in the neighborhood. That challah bread, for instance, or gingerbread. But with people living out of town I usually try to find something online so I don’t have to wait in line at the post office. Although this year I sent a miniature painting to an aunt who just sold all her possessions to go sailing around on a boat. I did a little painting of a storm on a canvas that’s about 2 in. X 2 in. (intended to save space since she has very little on her boat). I titled it “Lost at Sea” since we had just talked about that movie. With it I sent a copy of Moby Dick.

      If you decide to send some wine my way, my husband likes white, but I’ll take the red. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My favorite… Christmas lights, Christmas trees, gatherings, the reminder to connect to my fellow human beings, and the wonderful people who volunteer to help the less fortunate.

    My least favorite… the greed, the Christmas songs, the cynicism, the manufactured controversy over saying “Merry Christmas”, and the fact that Christmas seems to start earlier every year thus giving me a greater exposure to all the things I don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a good story relating to saying “Merry Christmas”. So my friend works as a waitress in Oklahoma City. She said “Happy Holidays” to her tables and several people corrected her—”No, it’s Merry Christmas” they said. Another reminder that she’s in the Bible belt. Her response, “I wanted to wish you Happy New Year as well!” Perfect.

      In other places, it goes the other way around. “How dare you assume I’m Christian?”

      I think everyone should go spike their eggnogs and chill out.


  4. 12… I’m amused that your list of “favorites” begins with one that’s “kind of okay”. 🙂

    I don’t celebrate Easter because I do believe Jesus is the reason for that season, for the most part.

    I thought there were some notable pagan roots to that one, too. Easter bunny, fertility…candy, for whatever reason… Got any good sources or details to share?

    Anyway, insofar as you’re right about “the reason”, sounds good to me. Not that I’m attached to it, anyway.

    2… I love trying to sing in Spanish, listening to the Mexicans to get the pronunciation right while following along on a printout.

    I had a couple of years of Spanish in high school. My vocab was weak (and now is worse, obv), but I could conjugate verbs endlessly, and my pronunciation was pretty good.

    More recently, I had a friend whose first language is Spanish. She was studying lines to perform in a Spanish-speaking play. One day we were hanging out, and I helped her rehearse.

    She got a kick out of the fact that my pronunciation was very good, but I had no idea what I was saying, so my intonations were all wrong. Apparently, there were a lot of double entendres and otherwise funny parts – completely lost on me. (IIRC, she kindly explained a few of them.) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, “kind of okay” is where I begin things with holidays. 🙂

      The Easter thing. I wasn’t thinking of it historically, just that it appears to be a bit more serious and taken more seriously amongst Christians I know. The Easter bunny stuff is the reason I’m reluctant to call it a purely religious holiday. On the other hand, when I see the Easter bunny I always want to get a big hug…is that participating in the degradation?

      I took Spanish in middle school and don’t remember anything at all except a few lines in a stilted female voice from the audio dialogues we had to listen to. I just mumble stuff so no one can hear me until the chorus, which I then sing loudly.


  5. Very cute pig ornament!
    I am a terrible Scrooge. I don’t have a tree because of the cats, but I enjoy getting a wreath to make the house smell nice. My favorite part is listening to Christmas music: Windham Hill’s old CD Winter Solstice (their best), Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas, and Bing Crosby 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I too have a mixed relationship with Christmas. I truly enjoy the cozy gatherings especially amid the cold winter nights as it encourages me to connect with people that I have lost touch with. That said I find the aspect of giving gifts to every last relative kind of “economocentric“ as opposed to expressing generosity or love. For example, I get a cousin a gift card and he or she gets me the same. In these cases it just feels like we are involved in a market exchange.

    Challah is delicious. I have never made it, but I used to work at a bakery that specialized in making it. One of my Christmas traditions has become making bread pudding with Challah, Egg Nog and Raisins.


  7. Definitely Christmas lights for me. I’m sorry to hear about the vertigo and that they’re not as well placed as they could’ve been. When I moved to an apartment and gave up on external decor, I’ve been putting lights up in select rooms. Nothing like turning off the lights and seeing bursts of colour.


    • That’s awesome. I did a similar thing…I had a half-broken string of lights, so I strung them up in the bathroom behind the shower curtain to get that little bit of use out of them. It’s a strange place, I know, but now I get Christmas cheer while I’m sitting on the pot. 🙂


  8. There’s a tradition in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK of showing ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (James Stewart) in a cinema just before Christmas. I great film with an ethical/spiritual message! I went this year and the cinema was jam-packed and we all clapped at the finish!


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