The Changing Face Of Family Christmas Traditon


christmas tradition, celebrating christmas, family christmas tradition

I feel old saying this, but things were very different when I was a kid. My family and I lived in a small rural town in the Midwest, and drove 13 miles on Christmas Eve so my brother and I could participate in the children’s service. Santa came while we were away, so upon returning home we would burst into the house and run for the living room to see the harvest of presents that had been left under the tree. We would stay up late playing with our new toys, and then get up a few hours later for Christmas Day service. We’d have Christmas with my mom’s side of the family during the afternoon, and my dad’s family in the evening. Everybody was within 15 miles of each other. It was convenient and easy.

Things aren’t so convenient or easy now. My brother’s family and mine live on opposite ends of the state with my parents in the middle. While the 2.5 hour drive we each have to get to our parents’ house isn’t that far in the whole grand scheme of things, it does prohibit family gatherings for different sides of the family from occurring on the same day like it did when we were young. So, we try to accommodate the plans of everyone and rotate who gets to host on the actual Christmas Day each year without any hurt feelings. Sometimes we choose to just stay home, and all family gatherings are moved to the weekends preceding and following Christmas.

Many years we travel on Christmas Eve, so we’re at our destination on Christmas Day. In those instances, we move our immediate family Christmas. When my son was younger we simply explained it by saying Santa has to visit so many houses, that some years he has to come a day early. Now being 15, he’s certainly on to who the real Santa Claus is, but there’s the interesting thing; I could actually sense his disappointment when we told him we’ll be doing things a bit non-traditionally this year.

He likes the whole ordeal of waking up Christmas morning, and meandering down to the tree. We know it’s sincere because any other morning he wouldn’t emerge from his room until well after noon. He likes the idea of family togetherness, and traditional Christmas memories.

But doing things differently is just part of the territory these days when families are more spread out than ever before. I can certainly see his point, but I with the realization that in just a few years my son will be out on his own, it won’t be long before I’ll be begging him to travel across the state to come home for Christmas as well.


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How do you handle traveling for Christmas and multiple family gatherings far apart from each other? Have you ever had to have Santa come early at your house?

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Brock Kernin


  • our traditions have changed a couple of times in our 37+ years of marriage. We used to go to both sets of parents even though one set was 3 hours away. We told both sides that when we had children, we were staying home. They were welcome to come but never did. We held that tradition until our son got married and lives 2 states away. They spend Christmas eve and day with her family where they live. Then they usually come the following weekend. On Christmas day we bring my mom over and have dinner and exchange gifts with her. Then the next day hubby and I exchange gifts. And when our son and D-I-L come we have another Christmas with them. So our traditions have definitely evolved, some for the better and some I wish were the same.

  • Being a college student and having my family in all different parts of the country makes it difficult for all of us to come together at once. I just try to switch it up every year and visit different family.

  • @Kathy – I suspect our traditions will change over time as well…especially as our son grows up and moves away from home. I’d like to think that as we tweak them they’d become better and more convenient, but I would guess we’ll end up in the same boat you’re in – some will be better, some won’t. Thanks for sharing, Kathy!

  • @Alexis – That would certainly add a level of difficulty….I bet when you are able to get everyone in the same place at the same time it’s very special though!

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