Fame Day: Christmas Traditions

It’s actually pretty hard to write a Fame Day post for Christmas since it’s now pretty much synonymous with materialism, something that most people agree “eats you from the inside out.”

But dang it guys! I really love Christmas! I love all the lights everywhere draining energy and creating light pollution. I love the repetitive Christmas music on the radio. I love giving and (gasp) even receiving gifts (though I try to only purchase gifts from businesses I feel happy supporting ex. fair trade, local, etc). So much about how Christmas is marketed goes against the things I want to be socially conscious about, and yet I can’t seem to help loving it. I think this probably comes down to the many fun traditions my family has had, and the way the season forces us all to drop everything going on in our lives just to spend time together.  

So I’ve decided that for today’s Fame Day post I’m going to share a few of my favorite traditions, and I would really love if you could tell me a little bit about yours.

For those of you who don’t know, my family is massive. John calls it my “tribe” because there’s a whole pile of us and we love getting all up in each others business. Even when we are far apart we stay pretty connected.  On average, my immediate family gatherings hover somewhere around 25 people. So I’m sure you can imagine how huge extended family gathers could get.

When I was a kid we would spend Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family, who are of Norwegian heritage. So that meant eating one of the heaviest meals of the season: kumla.

Pretty well everyone who married into this side of the family hates this particular dish, which is really surprising. I mean, who wouldn’t love a ball of potato goop wrapped around ham fat and boiled until it turned a lovely grey colour? Luckily, kumla was usually also followed by lefse, a dessert that was considerably more popular.


Beautiful lefse, before it’s been stuffed with butter and sugar. By Lance Fisher – IMG_0676, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

My mom has 11 siblings, so even though many of the families wouldn’t be able to make it to the Christmas Eve celebration this was still a packed out event. My Auntie would host it in her beautiful home, built in the shape of a barn and therefore featuring a massive common room that could fit all the family. We would eat, exchange gifts, sing some of grandma’s favorite hymns and Christmas songs, and catch up with the many cousins. In the years since my Grandma passed away the Norwegian family Christmas has been set aside. This is probably for the best, since it allows my aunt (who must have spent days on preparations in the previous years) to focus on her children and grandchildren. But the tradition has left me with a permanent appreciation  for the connections of extended family. It also means I have a safety net of family almost anywhere I go. Seriously. Pretty well every time John and I travel somewhere I’ve been able to tell him, “Hey, I have some family members who live here.” I’m not sure why he still acts surprised.

For the last few years Christmas day has also been spent with extended family, but on my dad’s side. Since I was about ten years old most of my, considerably older, (half) siblings have been married off and celebrating Christmas Day with their own families. This meant our family Christmas celebration was often postponed to sometime after the 25th. Instead, we usually spent Christmas day with my Grandparents and some of the family on my dad’s side. This meant getting more than one epic turkey meal, PLUS we got to eat some candy out of Grandma and Grandpa’s turkey jar.

At home later that night my dad would put on one of our favorite Christmas movies, usually It’s a Wonderful Life. We would then have the pleasure of imitating Jimmy Stewart for the rest of the holidays.

Usually it’s a few days after Christmas that my immediate family gathers together for a day, and it really does end up being a full day event. Usually there is some tobogganing, a white elephant gift exchange, reading the biblical Christmas story, singing carols and just general hanging out. Then of course there is food prep (more turkey, sometimes even one my brother-in-law’s parents raised), eating and clean up. There is also the very important tradition of hiding some turkey gristle on my brother’s plate, usually under his mashed potatoes. It involves several people creating a distraction and some pretty impressive slight of hand by whoever has been entrusted with the special role of gristle-hider.

Now that John and I are married I get to add one more dinner to my week of Turkey extravaganza, as we split Christmas between our two families. I’m also excited to think about what traditions we will built over the next few decades as a new family ourselves.

I get that there is a lot to hate about the materialism of Christmas. It’s also a pretty big gong show for the environment with all the crap that goes into the landfills and all the energy we end up using. Not to mention that the way it lines the pockets of big box stores makes me want to scream.

But there is also something pretty wonderful about a lot of our Christmas traditions, mainly because we have very few things left in the western world that tell us to drop our busy schedules and spend more time with the people we love. So ultimately that’s my favorite part about the Christmas season. Being with my family. Thank you guys for making my Christmases so very lovely.

So what about you? What is your favorite part about Christmas? Do you have a unique tradition that isn’t usually reflected through typical portrayals of Christmas?

3 responses to “Fame Day: Christmas Traditions

  1. So happy to be part of your family.

  2. Pingback: Culture War Correspondence: Valentine’s Day | Culture War Reporters

  3. Pingback: 5 Classic Films I’m Going to Force my Kids to Watch | Culture War Reporters

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