In France, it’s “Joyeux Noel;” China, “Sheng Tan Kuai Loh;” Brazil, “Feliz Natal;” and in the United States, “Merry Christmas.”
No matter what language you use, the meaning is ultimately the same: Best wishes over Christmas. And like the variety of languages used to spread Christmas cheer, this holiday is celebrated differently across the globe – some differences only slight, others more pronounced.
For The Lakeland Times’ Christmas Eve edition, we will be publishing an article describing some of these traditions carried on around the Northwoods and the world.
More importantly, we want to hear about the traditions you and your family keep over the Christmas season. Whether it’s a specific dinner made every Christmas, a trip taken over the holiday break, or simply a gathering of friends and relatives to celebrate, email your tradition story to Sarah Hirsch at email@example.com.
The old ‘I forgot my wallet’
For as long as I can remember, my family has opened gifts not on Christmas morning, but Christmas Eve – a tradition passed down from my mom’s side of the family.
But my parents added a twist: Every Christmas Eve, before Santa came to our house, all six of us children and my parents would pile into the van and go to church, after which we’d go out for pizza, and finally we would drive around town looking at Christmas lights and up into the sky trying to spot Rudolph’s blinking nose (I never saw it).
But as soon as my dad pulled into our driveway and put the van in park, all of us kids would race inside to the living room to be greeted by a pile of presents under the tree.
It took me well into elementary school to recognize a coincidence that explained it all. Every year on Christmas Eve, like clockwork, we’d be just about to leave for church – sometimes we’d even be a couple blocks away from home – and my dad would realize that he “forgot his wallet.” And he would be inside for a solid 10 or 15 minutes looking for it. And nobody was allowed to go in and help him, except mom. Even if we had to go to the bathroom, we had to wait until we got to church or else “we’d be running late.” Same thing if we were thirsty, “Wait until we get to church to get a drink.”
But the nice thing is, my youngest sister is in third grade and when we go on our traditional drive looking at lights, she still thinks she might have caught a glimpse of Rudolph’s nose leading Santa’s sleigh. And she still believes Santa stops at some homes Christmas Eve late afternoon because, after all, he’s got to fly around the entire globe and we all know that’s impossible to do in just a single night.
So, opening presents Christmas Eve and everything leading up to it is a tradition that I will carry on in the future with my family. I just need to come up with a way to put my own twist on the old tradition.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org