Break’s Over

I was listening to Morning Edition this morning when they played a story on HumanLight. For those too lazy to click on links, HumanLight is a Humanist (secular) winter festival that celebrates reason, hope and compassion. It is an attempt to include agnostics, atheists and humanists into the “holiday season.”

I hate this season, and I am constantly looking for new traditions to replace the ones I’ve lost since my parents passed away. So I listened to this report and found myself saying, “hell yeah, this could totally be it!” when I heard the song from the story. It was Tom Waits meets Ellis Paul singing seventh grader poetry. I found my interest in the festival waning.

I like the idea of a non-religious festival celebrating humanistic ideals. I do not like the idea of soppy poetry with gruff lyrics. My favorite Christmas Song, Fairytale of New York, is not your typical “holiday song” but it has more meaning to me than Silent Night.

So while I search for replacement traditions, fill me in on your own: When do you open presents? What kind of presents do you give and receive? How does your family celebrate this season?

8 thoughts on “Break’s Over

  1. You have questions? I have answers:
    I open presents with most of my family Christmas Eve. We’re German, that’s what germans do. I also do a little opening Christmas morning with my parents. I think they think they are doing me, their single spinster daughter, a favor, and I think I am doing them, the empty nesters, a favor. I receive crap. Lots of crap I neither like nor want. I give well thought out and lovingly selected…..crap.
    My family celebrates the season by getting drunk together on Christmas Eve. I celebrate with my annual cookie party (where we get drunk). I also celebrate by having fun Tuesday sometime during Yule time, and get drunk….um….this is getting a little too telling.

  2. Fiarytale of New York rocks. It will forever be linked in my mind with you, Mart.

    Growing up, Christmas Eve was always spent at church. We’d open one present, as a hold over from when Nathan and I were little, and couldn’t wait for the next morning. But we always had the early service and the late (nearly midnight) service. Christmas Day itself was a family day. Mom and Dad would put all sorts of things in our stockings to keep us busy ’til they got up. We’d get fruit and nuts, and little games and things. Then, after they got up (usually after we woke them up), we’d open presents.

    Now, everyone straggles out of bed, and wanders in, and we open presents after the last person (usually me) gets up. This year will be weird, since it’s the first year in quite awhile we won’t all be together. Mom and Dad and I are planning on hanging out, watching movies, maybe some football.

  3. It’s not Christmas until I hear “Fairytale of New York” on the radio. Still haven’t heard it this year. (Yes, I know I can queue it up on my computer and play it; that feels like cheating.)

    Greg’s mother usually throws a Christmas Eve party, for extended family and friends. Christmas Day usually depends on where we spent Thanksgiving. We were at his sister’s for turkiness, thus Christmas dinner is with my family. New-ish tradition is to have a breakfast gathering for opening presents with our parents.

    I’m slow on decorating the tree this year. It’s two days ’till Christmas and I haven’t even pulled out the box o’decorations.

    As for unique family traditions, not so much. I haven’t been to a midnight mass in ages. Funny thing is, even in my lapsed Catholic state, I still love the symbolism and readings and songs, but I’d feel awfully strange attending a mass because it’s “pretty” when I’m blaspheming left and right the other 364 days of the year.

    Group Christmas is probably the big tradition for us. The Saturday before or after Christmas (after, this year), we all get together, have dinner, exchange gifts and watch movies. I love cooking for a bunch of people; I’ll spend most of the day in the kitchen. And again, it’s nothing new, tradition-wise, just friends getting together, but I always look forward to it. (And the movies aren’t all Christmas movies. I believe last year’s feature was 28 Weeks Later.

    Dunno, family Christmases felt like a much bigger to-do when I was little. I haven’t figured out yet how much of that was my child’s-perception, and how much was because the whole family was there, with people stopping by throughout the day — a lot has happened in the ensuing years, and there are significantly fewer people dropping in these days.

  4. I celebrate Yidmas by ordering Chinese food and watching movies, usually with a theme. I think this year the theme is going to be A Very Samuel L Jackson Yidmas, and we’ll break tradition slightly with Thai food.

    I do not recommend A Very Steven Spielberg Yidmas, because eventually someone convinces people it’s a good idea to watch Schindler’s List and the holidays are ruined for everyone.

  5. Sara and I still don’t know what our Christmas traditions are. We don’t get a tree, we don’t have plans, there’s no snow or anything else, so it doesn’t feel like a whole lot yet. I put on medieval (or “early”) music, we light the, uh, wreath, we bake cookies, I’m cooking cornish hens on Christmas Day, to see if I can pull that off.

    Mostly what we do on Christmas, I think, is miss our friends and open the presents that came in the mail.

    Loneliness has always been an element of Yule, hasn’t it? It’s some kind of festive, at least.

  6. Well, christmas with three year olds is something else, let me tell you. Aside from me being sick this year (and the kids having colds), we have toned it down (as toned down as you can be with excited three year olds). But I really try to take it easy, create some new traditions and participate in older ones. Didn’t drive around to see the Christmas lights this year. Did watch Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. The sugar cookie dough is still in my fridge ready to be baked. People (specifically me) tend to go all out and do too much, so I really try to temper that where possible.

    I was a little sad to not give gifts to my parents or sister this year – but we decided to give to Christmas tree families or food banks instead. Honestly – I think that makes a big difference, why not give to people who might not have anything -we have so much already.

    Oh – and one of my favorite traditions is to read David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice. I need to find my copy of that book…

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