By Andrea Arnold

Traditions, whether they have been passed down through many generations or have been more recently added, are a way to honour and remember people and events from past years. Some are goofy and fun, some involve a certain type of food, and others have more serious and somber memories attached. But the common ground all traditions share is that they unite those who honour them. We are in a season in which many old traditions are honoured and some new ones created. Some locals have shared their family traditions with us.

Christmas Eve Presents

For the Lipke family, Sabrea remembers that her parents allowed them to open one gift on Christmas Eve. She thinks this tradition was born out of necessity as a way to get the kids to stop begging to open a present. Whatever the reason for it, she has carried it on with her own children. 

“It’s usually new pajamas,” said Lipke’s daughter Denika. “Makes sense, because then we could wear them for Christmas morning.”

Christmas Steve

Ellise Gustafson-Randall’s tradition didn’t start with her grandparents. It was created due to her little brother Gabe’s inability to clearly speak (understandably) at the age of two or three. He declared that December 24th was “Christmas Steve,” and it stuck. So much so that Gustafson-Randall’s young daughter is now referring to it as such, and no one is making the correction.

Family time takes all shapes

Ally Metcalf says that one of the family traditions that they have held on to, is that of her husband Jeveree’s family. They would make the trek out into the forest to find the perfect Christmas tree. This is a venture that the couple continue to do with their three children, ages five and under. Jev says that his family would also pick a day sometime during the Christmas season, and host a large ‘bachelor’ dinner. They would invite those who would be alone at Christmas. He and Ally have continued to open their home in the same manner.

Christmas Dinner

At Shona Thorne’s home, Christmas Dinner is anything but traditional. But, it is to their family. Approximately 25 years ago, after a boisterous and enjoyable Christmas Eve celebration, Thorne woke up and said to her husband, “I do not feel like cooking Christmas dinner today.” 

To which he replied, “me either.” 

So they decided to ask the family what they wanted for dinner, allowing each to pick their favorite item. 

“None of us really like turkey anyway,” she said. “This has become a buffet of all of our favorite things.”

They have a long standing and strict tradition that has been passed down through many generations regarding the opening of presents, albeit slightly modified.

“We never, ever, ever, open Christmas presents before the 25th,” said Thorne. 

Her grandparents in Scotland didn’t open presents before Boxing Day. On Christmas Eve they would decorate, on Christmas Day, attend church and have a family meal and then on Boxing Day, distribute gifts to service people, as well as exchange gifts with each other. As time has passed, this has changed and many people in Scotland observe Christmas Day as the day to give gifts.

Christmas Pickle

The Norton household began enjoying what is thought of as the German Pickle tradition only a few years ago when daughter Kelly gifted her parents, Jan and Guy, with a felted pickle. The Norton family has some German heritage and Jan says they are having a lot of fun playing the game that legend has it, originated in Germany. 

“Someone hangs the pickle nicely hidden in the tree, when no one else is about,” she said. “The first person to find the pickle on Christmas morning, traditionally gets to open the first gift. There are variations of this/has good luck, receives an extra gift, etc…”

Norton said that she wanted to refresh her memory on the details about the German tradition so she did a Google search. She found that although there are German stories that may have contributed to the creation of the tradition, it seems as though it may have been the brainchild of an American in the 1880s. 

Norton found out that Google reported that around that same time, the department store Woolworths began selling blown-glass ornaments imported from Germany, some shaped like fruits and vegetables. Around the same time, the ‘German tradition’ became popular in the United States. However, when asked, most Germans had never heard of the tradition. 

“Sadly, but more likely a Woolworth’s Department store sales tactic to sell more glass ornaments,” said Norton. “Still, it’s fun!”

Blend of traditions

Amanda Befound and her husband Kian have blended two very different seasonal celebrations, honouring the heritage they both brought to the marriage.

“Kian’s Jewish heritage comes from his mom’s side,” said Befound. “His Oma was a European Jew and his grandfather was German. They fell in love and married in the time of Nazi occupied Germany and came to Canada in the 50’s with three kids in tow (Kian’s mom was one).”

The family continues to celebrate Hanukkah, The Festival Lights, by lighting their menorah at sundown on the first night of Hanukkah and again every evening for the 8 nights. 

“It’s important to have the menorah in our front entrance window, close to the mezuzah we have beside our doorstep,” she said.

After lighting the candle the family says the prayer ‘Blessed are You,Lord our God, King of the Universe,who has sanctified us with His commandments,and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light’ and tell the Hanukkah story.

On that first night of Hanukkah, the family usually shares a big meal, and as strange as it is, they choose to celebrate with a more of a traditional Christmas feast with a turkey and all the fixings as they love Turkey dinner. 

“It’s important for us to carry on this festive tradition, so our children and those that come after, know of God’s miracles,” said Befound. “Also to remind them that God will provide, in darkness and in times when it seems impossible, God will provide.”

The family also celebrates Christmas. Befound was raised in a Christian family and has many fond memories of our Christmas traditions.

“We do the big decorated tree, the house is decorated to the nines and I’m sure my kids can recite the Christmas story from the Bible from memory now.”

Their Christmas dinner however, looks a bit different than what is expected. This is when the family enjoys latkes, matzo ball soup and other Hanukkah type dishes. 

“When we lived close to family, we hosted the big holiday feast at our house on Christmas Eve,” said Befound. “This would include Kian’s Jewish side and my Mormon side. Everyone would bring a dish and we would sit all day talking and eating and enjoying the little ones. I miss that.”