Ramblings on non-traditional Christmas traditions | Hello Pretty Bird! - A beauty and not-so-glamorous lifestyle blog

23 December, 2013

Ramblings on non-traditional Christmas traditions

Note: Buckle up, personal post ahead.

Happy almost-Christmas eve, everybody! Coincidentally it's also my sister's birthday today, but I don't think she knows about my blog... happy birthday if you accidentally found me on Google, sister!

Blurry phone-cam action of some Christmas lights in my neighborhood.

I've been seeing a whole lot of blog posts and tags lately about Christmas traditions, and they got me thinking about my own. Here's the thing though... I don't really have any. I've ended up doing something different pretty much every year since my parents split up (about 18 years ago now), and even before that, our Christmas traditions were a bit strange. Let me elaborate a little bit:

My parents are Jewish. Most Jewish families don't celebrate Christmas, right? Well, my family did. Here's why: My mother converted to Judaism as an adult, so despite being really invested in the religion I think she missed some of the more superficial Christmas traditions she experienced as a child. And thus... the Bird Family Jewish Christmas was born.

Our "Christmas" still wasn't typical though. Every year my parents would assemble a fake tree (my dad's allergies did not permit a real one), then we'd decorate it with a mishmash of gifted and handmade ornaments (including a clay Star of David I made in religious school, LOL), and to finish it off we'd put a bunch of fake presents underneath. Say WHAT?!

Here's the other thing: My parents usually gave me and my sister some good gifts for Hanukkah, so they weren't about to get us more big presents for "Christmas" too. But the tree looked weird without anything underneath, so the same set of (fake) wrapped gifts were put out year after year. Have I mentioned that some of the fake gifts even had our names on them? My folks are all about the details.

Most of my friends from school were also Jewish and did NOT have Christmas trees in their houses, so I didn't realize the fake gift thing was weird until my neighbor (whose family was Catholic) came over, picked up one the boxes with my name on it to try and guess what was inside, and had a mini-freakout when she realized it was empty. See, she was a bit younger than I was, young enough to still believe in Santa Claus, and she thought that Santa had decided I was bad and zapped away the contents of my gifts. Incentive to be "good" if ever I saw it.

Anyway, we didn't exchange big gifts on Christmas, but "Santa" (AKA my mom) always came and left us stockings filled with snacks and little trinkets to play with on Christmas day. That's probably why I love making stockings for other people so much - lots of fond memories associated with that, including watching my skeptical Jewish uncle's resolve soften when he realized that Christmas stockings meant nuts and candy. After that, my mom would cook up the ham she got for free from her employer (another thing most Jewish families probably don't do) and we'd relax for the rest of the day together.

Some Christmas trees for sale out on the street in my neighborhood.

Of course the fake gifts and inappropriate ham are all in the distant past now. As an adult, I don't really have a set tradition: Some years I've spent the holiday with my mom or dad, some years with other people's families, some years with friends, some years by myself.

This is the fourth Christmas I've spent with my boyfriend, but it's the first time we're not going somewhere or visiting his family. Honestly, I'm kind of glad about that... I'd rather go visit family during a non-peak travel week, and it will be really nice to just cozy up by ourselves. The only real holiday "tradition" we've had so far is to make each other stockings, but that has usually been at my insistence (thanks mom, for instilling the holiday madness into me). And it got me thinking... as time goes on will we make traditions? Or will it be something new every year like before? I suppose it doesn't really matter, I'm just happy to be spending time with someone I love (cue sappy music).

A shitload of holiday garlands for my secret plan, buahaha.

I've decided that since we're going to be home for the holiday, I'm going to stealth-decorate our apartment with a ridiculous amount of tinsel while my boyfriend is asleep or at work tomorrow. Not sure if this will turn into one of those wacky traditions I keep hearing about, but I think it will make him laugh, so even if it's just this one time the idea of it makes me happy. (By the way, when do you think I should do it? Tonight? Tomorrow while he's at work? When he goes to sleep on Christmas Eve? STEALTH TINSEL POWERS ACTIVATE!)

Anyway, I suppose there's no real point to this post other than to share my tradition of non-traditions. And there you have it.

How about you guys? Do you have Christmas traditions that survive year after year? And if any of you are Jewish, did your family ever do weird Christmas-esque stuff just for the hell of it?


  1. Holy Hannah! That is such an interesting meshing of cultures(not in a bad way)! I think it's nice that your parents did that for each other.
    I'd do the tinsel thing tomorrow while he's at work so that when he gets home, it'll be a huge surprise and a nice shift from the workplace environment. I do hope you'll post updates about it because it sounds flippin' hilarious!

  2. Fake presents? That's so silly hahaha but cute. At least you got a stocking :) my best friend is Jewish, but her mom was Catholic so they have a bigger Hannukah and then Christmas for mum. Is your boyfriend Jewish too? If he's not, just get a cheap little tree or something. I think you should decorate for him :) that'd be cute. Post pictures too! Did you get him a stocking?

  3. I think you're right, that would be a funny thing to come home to. Let's hope he doesn't sneak home early!

  4. No, he's not Jewish. We actually did get a tiny little (fake) tree from Target so I got some baubles to put on that as well. :) I definitely got him a stocking and I'm stuffing it with all sorts of goodies! I actually did a post recently about some of the things I picked out as stocking stuffers: http://www.helloprettybird.com/2013/12/how-ill-be-stuffing-my-boyfriends.html

  5. The mashup of holidays sounds kind of fun. My family definitely had traditions when I was a kid (like getting the tree on Christmas eve). The only tradition I have now is putting up my fiberoptic tree. I wonder if traditions are easier to create when one has children (I don't have any). It gives them something particular to look forward to.

  6. I think you're probably right. Kids get excited easily, and I can remember back to my own childhood that there were certain things I always looked forward to (like how my mom always put exactly three candy canes in our stockings - why three? I don't know.) Having the freedom to change things up every year (if you want) is sort of nice too though.

  7. Three is a nice even number. No -- round number.

  8. That sounds like an interesting holiday ;-) my family is weird. We set up the Christmas tree and all the decorations, have a family Christmas dinner but presents are given at New Years =/ at first I thought it was a Belgian thing but apparently, my family is the only one that does that if I compare with friends and co-workers. I guess it's because we have a holiday on the 6th of December called "Sinterklaas" which is pretty much a Santa Claus look-a-like on a horse that gives all the good kids presents. Santa Claus was therefore never a big deal to our family so I guess that's why we moved the gift giving to New Years?

    Funny thing, tradition...

  9. Stay away from the Tinsel!! Trust me on this, you will be finding tinsel in your underwear drawer in July. In August you will find it under the couch. If you have a dog at some point the tinsel will be hanging out his butt.

  10. But then it will be like Christmas ALL YEAR! Haha!

  11. It's interesting how family traditions like that can seem normal... until you talk to someone else about it, of course. New Year's seems like as good a time as any to exchange gifts though. New year, new stuff?

  12. Sometimes, I think traditions are overrated. Personally I think as long as you are spending time with those you love then that's what is most important. Currently, it's Christmas eve, I'm at work (reading blogs) and then I am meeting my son at my parents for an evening of pizza and games! Sounds wonderfully traditional doesn't it? Since my husband is Filipino we can't be with both families at once so it's like we are always missing half of us. We just do what we can to get through it. So is it strange that I find comfort in your odd Christmas memories? Whatever you do I hope that your Christmas is filled with love and laughter. Merry Christmas!

  13. I think you're right, as long as you're with loved ones it doesn't matter much what you end up doing. An evening of pizza and games with family sounds wonderful though! Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful holiday and Merry Christmas to you too. :)

  14. I think that sounds like a lovely tradition! In my family we never really celebrated Christmas as a gift giving holiday (we have a different holiday for that called Sinterklaas just a few weeks before Christmas) but more as a reason for the family to get together and have lots of super tasty food. This would have been the second Christmas in the UK with my boyfriend where it's all traditional and we give each other presents and stuff, and it's so weird for me! First of all, everyone already knows what they're going to receive from the other family members because everyone in my boyfriend's family is hilariously picky with their gifts and Mike and I are the only ones with internet. Basically, everyone buys their own gifts, sends them to the person that's SUPPOSED to give them that gift and that person wraps it and gives it back on Christmas. Utterly ridiculous in my opinion and very funny to experience, but ah well, that's how they do things in his family. At least I made a wishlist of things like a normal human being and let myself be surprised. :p

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas Becca!

  15. Everybody buys their own gifts?! That is so weird, haha! But if that works for them then I guess it's OK. I actually used to date a Dutch guy so I've heard about Sinterklaas, but of course as an American that tradition seems totally bizarre. I guess it goes to show you that there's no one "right" way to celebrate the holidays. :P Anyway, hope you had a nice Christmas too!

  16. Awwww I love this post! Your fake gifts cracked me UP right now! Christmas traditions are a funny thing. This year one of my family's went kind of weird and it really made me thing about the coming years and what traditions I want to have with my own kiddos (when we have some, which we don't lol). I think the holidays are so fun, but it does bring out a little bit of like, reminiscing and sometimes it makes me sad. Is it bad to say I am pretty glad Christmas is over and can't wait to undecorate our house this year?

  17. Your Christmas Eve is exactly what I was fantasizing about our Christmas Eve being in the future when the thing we normally do with my family on Christmas Eve turned into a drunken bar party with complete strangers that a few members of our family happened to be at LOL. Perhaps next year it will be different - someone new hosts it every year so maybe this time it was just an off one. But I kind of am tempted to say we're doing our own pizza thing at our house instead!

  18. Shalunya TheChronicBeautyDecember 28, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    We brought pizza because my dad has to watch what he eats now and we wanted to introduce him to veggie delight from Papa Murphys. We played cranium and apples to apples. My mom changed alien abductions to alien abortions which would make for a really bad day but it was funny. Oh we also played heads up with the phone app. Fun stuff!

  19. Shalunya TheChronicBeautyDecember 28, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    We did bring back a childhood favorite. My niece gave me a note wrapped in a pretty box. The note instructed me to look elsewhere and so on until I ran all over the house before finding my gift. It was perfect. Here's to a fantastic start to 2014! Wishing you good health and much blog popularity.

  20. I don't think that's bad. Sometimes the holidays can be tough or feel a bit sad if things are different to how they used to be. If I ever have kids (and that's a big "if" for me) I think I'll probably continue the stocking tradition, but not the fake gifts. Who does that?! Haha!

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