Holidays: the same, but different

Merry Christmas Eve!!

Just popping in to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas- whatever that looks like for you.

I was thinking this morning, as I brushed my teeth…. isn’t it funny how “everyone” seems to do so many of the same things around the holidays, yet at the same time, we all do them so differently, too?

Obviously there are massive differences in customs and cultures around the world, but I’m talking about within the general “same” culture, where there tends to be more in common than not.

For example- I feel like most people in my area partake in some variety of the following: Putting up a Christmas tree or some sort of holiday decorations. Gathering with family or friends. Eating some kind of special foods. Listening to Christmas music, somehow or another (even if just while out grocery shopping, like it or not). Buying/ giving gifts with at least some people in their lives. Baking sweet treats of some kind. Watching a holiday movie. Perhaps exchanging cards or other holiday greetings. Etc.

Of course, there are people who do none of this; I know. But I’d argue the collective majority of people I know do at least one of these things in December. The holiday traditions run deep, and I think many/ most people in the United States have grown up with at least some version of “the usual”.

BUT, at the same time, it’s fascinating how differently we all spend our holidays, too!! The way we “do” our holiday might actually look very, very different from what is totally normal for another family- despite those underlying similarities.

For us, we spend Christmas Eve alone- just immediate family + my parents. Usually church, a meal (though not a formal, fancy meal) and we open a majority of gifts on Christmas Eve night around the fireplace. Christmas Day is more low key for us now. When I was younger, we traveled to my grandparent’s house and spent it with the whole extended family. Now, it’s just us! We have cinnamon rolls for breakfast, traditionally the kids would open the Santa presents, and then spend most of the day lounging around watching Christmas movies… eventually eating leftover festive foods around the bar.

I LOVE our holiday celebration. It’s peaceful, cozy and wonderful. (In my opinion.)

That being said….

  • Ivan grew up with a HUGE family party on Christmas, that lasted all night, with music and dancing and feasts and flowing alcohol.
  • My good friend growing up looked forward to midnight mass at church every Christmas Eve. Midnight!! That would be very different to me.
  • My other best friend’s family had the tradition of just placing the Santa gifts under the tree, unwrapped!!
  • Some people go out to dinner on Christmas Eve! (I actually heard that a local steakhouse in town has dozens and dozens of reservations for tonight.)
  • Some people, like Jenny, have friends over on Christmas Eve instead of family.
  • Some people, like Elisabeth, only open one gift on Christmas Eve, and always gift a new set of Christmas PJs.
  • San bakes delicious German treats!
  • Some people, like SHU, celebrate Hanukkah instead, and are actually traveling over the holiday week (family ski trip in Montana!). (*Side note- Holiday travel kind of fascinates me. We have NEVER traveled over Christmas, and part of me has always been almost appalled by the idea. I just love our cozy, wintertime Christmas traditions so much that the idea of essentially missing them makes me so sad. But, I also kind of see the appeal of just sort of skipping all the hassle and jetting off to somewhere fun!! (Or maybe warm?!) Potential spoiler, but I think Christmas 2023 may be our first ever “travel” Christmas. We’ve actually never spent a Christmas in Mexico with Ivan’s family, and for various reasons that I can outline in a later post, I think next Christmas (when Asher is in 8th grade/ pre-high school) may make the most sense to finally do this. Ivan will be overjoyed, and I will tolerate a non-winter/ non-traditional Christmas (for me). 😜)

Anyway, it’s so fun to see how many differences there are within the realm of all the similar traditions and sameness. 🙂 Variety truly is the spice of life, right?

WHATEVER you are doing today/ tonight/ tomorrow- I hope it’s wonderful and merry and bright!!!

Peace and joy and love to all of you. ❤️

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for holiday traditions! Having things to look forward to makes life extra special.

Bonus pic: Christmas Eve Eve last night, delivering cards and a cash gift to each of the employees at the Mexican restaurant we go to every week!! 🙂 We are grateful to them for always brightening our Friday nights. This was fun.

11 thoughts on “Holidays: the same, but different”

  1. That was kind of you to gift some cash to the employees of the restaurant you always go to! I am sure they appreciated that!!

    Our Christmas was very similar to yours when I was growing up – basically identical! I remember going to 10pm mass when we were younger, but now my family always goes to the earlier mass.

    Now Christmas looks pretty different since I am married. We stay here in Minneapolis so we can be with my MIL. We go to Phil’s cousin’s house on Christmas Eve after church. I look forward to it every year. They have a bunch of aps and some soups crock pots and people just mingle and snack on things. And the group of family is so nice and fun. Their kids are all college age and older so our young kids are a huge novelty to them – to both the cousins, and their kids but especially 2 of the cousin’s daughters who are in their 20s. And then Christmas Day is just us and that’s when the boys open gifts although the last several years we stretch the gift opening over 2-3 days since they get so many gifts!! That way they actually pay attention to what they open!

    Have a very merry Christmas!! We have never traveled but I can see the appeal. Especially when it’s so horribly cold out and we are cooped up inside.


  2. This was so fun to read! I love thinking about that too, on big shared holidays: all of us engaged in our separate little traditions, together, the same but different. Merry Christmas!


  3. So true. I think how we spend holidays reflect our values in a way. I don’t feel like organizing big parties for celebration anymore, but intimate dinners either with just family or few friends would be ideal. this year I have my mom here so It feels special even thought it’s low key.
    We did open gifts last night, on the even, the highlight of the girls.


  4. I loved this post (and what a lovely gesture to remember the staff at your favourite restaurant).

    I love all the traditions at Christmas, but would love to mix things up just a bit next year. Even though I’ve tried to spread things out a bit more over the season, it still has felt a little rushed and exhausting (most of that owing to a sick child, admittedly). So I feel like I need to find more ways to spread things out in case of inevitable sickness?!

    We were supposed to host my parents + a widow for turkey dinner today but because a child spike a temp, we’re delaying the meal until supper and the widow won’t be joining us (she cares for her elderly mother and doesn’t want to risk getting sick). And I am just so, so happy for the extra buffer. I really wanted to be able to include this widowed friend because her grown children/grandchildren haven’t made it home for Christmas (and I offered to take prepared food to my parents and have them host her, but she declined), but I am STILL in my PJs, the sick child’s fever is much better after a dose of Advil, and did I mention I AM STILL IN MY PJs and it’s almost lunchtime, which is exactly what I needed.

    We’re hosting 3 kids tomorrow (for, sadly, another widow – this time someone my own age), and then we have company coming from Friday – Tuesday which will be exhausting (a complicated family dynamic) – so having this breathing space feels luxurious.

    I hope you had a fantastic Christmas ❤


    1. Well, the sick child issue definitely threw a wrench in your pre-Christmas stretch. I feel like though no matter how much we try to spread things out and work ahead etc., I still feel harried and kind of rushed and stressed right before Christmas too. I don’t know what the answer is- besides I guess drastically cutting things that we do?? I don’t know. It always works out and then time passes and the “stressed/ harried” feeling kind of fades away and I mostly just remember the positive memories… so I guess in the end it’s always fine. But I know exactly what you mean on all of this. I’m so glad you get a little unexpected PJ break because it sounds like you still have a very full week going on here!!


  5. I LOVE this. I talked about it at Christmas dinner when I was at a table with four of my husband’s sibling and three of the in-laws. In general, we did the same types of things, as you said (tree, presents, lights, etc.), but we all did it in such different ways! Everyone gets to celebrate how they like to celebrate! I learned a lot about how different people celebrated when they were younger and I credit you with the prompt that started such a festive conversation.


  6. Merry Christmas, albeit a little late! I love that everyone does things differently and that is okay! I actually do not put up decorations but my mom puts them up as soon as Thanksgiving is over and it is so nice to go home to her house and be in a cheery warm sparkly house with the family. Our holiday has morphed a little and does change depending on the day of the week (for instance Christmas on Wednesday is hard because I have to work the whole rest of the week), but we always make it work! Of course, it’s being with family that is important (although staying up until midnight for mass would be hard for me!!)


  7. That is such a true observation – we all grew up with somewhat the same traditions (or many of us), but we still have our own holiday routines. It’s fascinating, isn’t it?


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