We pretty much always celebrated Christmas the same way when I was younger. We had traditions that were equal parts pleasant and unpleasant, for example listening to Nana Mouskouri every Christmas all day long on a loop started off very enjoyable, but by the end of the day even her beautiful voice started to pierce your brain.
Because I had nearly 25 consecutive Christmas celebrations in this pattern, it gave Christmas meaning, both big and small. It meant family, and sometimes excessive drinking and total breakdowns, but family all the same. It meant turkey and stuffing I never ate, or cranberry sauce that no one ever ate. It meant Nana, it meant snow and cold, it meant Christmas trees taller than I am, and when they were Charlie Brownish, they were still covered head to toe with decorations, mostly home made or gifts from previous years. It meant a Santa Claus that left you one or two presents and chocolates and fruit and lip chap (yes, my Santa was always very concerned with my chapped lips). Everything else under the tree was from some one whom you could thank and hug and appreciate.
It meant giving and taking turns opening presents so that the anticipation was dragged out as long as humanly possible and so that it gave you time to watch others open their presents and appreciate their happiness. It was always laid back and relaxing until it was time to prepare and eat dinner and it always finished with us lounging on the couch with the turkey sweats. It was a day that was focused on only one thing, family, in what ever shape or form that it was that particular year.
It meant The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve, and Christmas pyjamas and lots of crazy anticipation. It meant getting up extra early to find what was left under the tree. It meant an apple and orange in your stocking that always went right back to the fridge while you snacked on your chocolate before breakfast. It meant egg nog, and decorations on almost every house outside.
All of these traditions gave it meaning for me and every year I spend away, I miss them more.
Anyhoo (not a spelling mistake, it should be pronounced as it is written), I am still trying to learn about new traditions and to find the meaning of Christmas that works for us as a family unit, and I hope that one day my kids will look back and miss our traditions too.
Merry Christmas to my family 6000 km away, please keep all of our weird little things going.