Growing up, my family always had Christmas supper at my grandparents’ home on their homestead which was thirty kilometers past the last telephone pole in northern-western Saskatchewan. Counting aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family there would often be upwards of fifty of us stuffing ourselves on turkey, mashed potatoes, and Saskatchewan-famous Jell-O salads. Then soon after we all ate a serving of my grandmother’s Christmas fruitcake smothered in her secret recipe rum sauce that made us all warm and giddy, the neighbors from the farms nearby would start to arrive by the carload. In a flash, the furniture would be carried out of my grandparents’ living room, a makeshift band set up in the corner and the dancing would start and go on until the wee hours of the morning, long after I had collapsed, exhausted, with the excitement of Christmas swirling in my head, asleep under the pile of thick winter jackets covering my grandparents’ bed.
When my sons were babies, we started a Santa picture tradition that they have reluctantly allowed me to continue (through bribery) to this day. For reference, they are now eighteen and sixteen.
The question now is, how long will they let me continue this tradition?
I grew up in Ontario, so we always had a white Christmas growing up. Playing outside in the snow was a huge part of our holidays. The biggest part of our traditions, though, took place indoors (where it was warm). As you can tell from my photos, we take holiday dressing very seriously. In our finest velvets and poofs, we would always have a big family dinner for Christmas Eve. After listening to my Poppy snore all night or ‘Santa’s footsteps throughout the house, we would all wake up in matching (at least coordinated) Christmas pajamas to stockings full of coal (a joke my Dad continues to think is funny every single year). We always made sure Santa actually did come by checking to see the milk and cookies were gone. After opening the real gifts, we’d have a big breakfast and start cooking dinner! We would do the same thing all over on Boxing Day with my other set of grandparents. I come from a big family so each side would have 15-20 people. Then, after serious digestion time, we gather around the TV and watch the World Juniors play hockey.
As we’ve grown older, holiday traditions have changed quite a bit, but the Christmas Day celebrations remain the same in my family. Waking up to mimosas, breakfast, and gift exchanging is the common feat we do each year. Waiting around for everyone to actually get out of bed is something that never does change, though. Without a miss, I always take a Christmas photo with my dog Xylo, who is very special to me. This year, we have two more Frenchie additions joining us! As dinnertime hits, the rest of the family joins the festivities. After dinner, when we were younger, my generation of cousins would have headed down to the basement to watch cartoons or play Rock Band. Now, as we’ve gotten older, we tend to break out the childhood photo albums and hide behind our glasses of wine at the embarrassing pictures.
In my family, holiday traditions are very important and last throughout the winter. We keep Christmas decorations well into February to celebrate dad’s birthday on February 6th.
The holidays in the Lee Family household have always centered around traditions and begin with decorating the tree. Tree decorating is never consistent. Some years it’s days before the 25th whereas this year it was days after Remembrance Day. Each year as we pull out individual decorations to place on the tree, we take time to reminisce, sharing a special story about the decoration’s history – where it was bought, a family vacation, a gift from a friend or loved one, or a memory associated with it. The event is always accompanied by holiday music, eggnog, and appies and topped off with my daughter placing the angel atop the tree. No matter her age, her dad always picks her up onto his shoulders as I take a picture or capture a quick video. We’ve never missed one occasion in her 18 years of Christmases. For the first time, my brother’s family joined us this year and my niece (6) experienced her very first Canadian Christmas Tree decorating event having recently arrived to our country from Thailand.