We never had a ton of traditions in our family. Every year we drive on Christmas Eve we have a little party (not near a big as it was when I was a kid) and make a ton of our favorite apps, afterwards we load up and drive around town looking at lights while drinking hot chocolate. As kids Mom would read the Cajun Night Before Christmas at some point, being that she is a teacher & Nanny was a librarian it is no surprise that we were always literacy focused. When we were young we would go to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve and open presents from them. My cousins always quickly left, so it was always some nice quality time with them. Every year we left out cookies for Santa. Mom just threw this in, but we always made presents for our teachers, we never bought them. I was always involved in children's choir, so everyone always came to watch me sing and dance in tacky 90's Christmas sweaters!
In high school I dated a guy whose family is from Honduras, so I got the hispanic influenced holidays that my Granny Aida never let us have. (But that is another story for another day as to why my Puerto Rican family never held to tradition) On Christmas Eve I would go with the family to Midnight Mass, while I was always Baptist, I did experience a small stint as a Christmas Catholic haha! We would open presents on Christmas Eve and just hang out and shoot fireworks. I actually met up with his sister, brother, and their spouses to hang out last night and we talked about how they celebrated in Honduras. The big thing to do there is everyone have Christmas parties all night long and to go from house to house visiting and celebrating with everyone and eventually eating dinner at Midnight. The only downside was Santa. It is hard to follow the Santa tradition when no one goes to sleep all night. I was cracking up when my friend's SIL mentioned that her parents would send them to the store for something and when they got back Santa would have already made his visit.
I can't imagine staying up all night, at least not after our lock-in, but it seems like it would have been such a fun way to celebrate.
Jeremy and I haven't yet made any big traditions, more will probably come with kids one day. As of now we usually open or gifts to each other before leaving town to visit family. We always know what our actual gifts to one another are, but we wrap them anyway. The surprise always come with stockings. We give each other one filled wtih fun goodies we know the other would like, never anything too expensive. We also make a habit of going out one night and looking at lights together before we leave town. This year we actually went to Celebration in the Oaks in NOLA .
Since I do have a Puerto Rican heritage I would like to eventually mix in a few of the fun hispanic traditions into our family. It would also be a lot of fun to incorporate some traditions from around the world, here are a few I found:
On the 4th Sunday of Advent they attend a Christingle Service where they sing carrols and children recieve an orange and candle wrapped in red ribbon. The candle represents Jesus and the ribbon stand for the blood of Christ and the love of God embracing the world. Chrildren also write letters to Father Christmas and toss them into the fireplace so that they will float up the chimney and fly to the North Pole. If the lists catch fire first they have to rewrite them.
Reindeer food (oatmeal, red sprinkles, and hay)is sprinkled in the yard on Christmas Eve so that Santa's reindeer have something to eat. (We actually did this a few times)
On Saint Lucia’s Day, December 13, in the first light of dawn the oldest daughter of the house dresses in a white robe and places a ring of candles in her hair. It is then her job to wake the rest of the family and serve them coffee, buns, and cookies.
Here children believe Santa rides a horse, they leave our hay, carrots, and water for him on December 6th.
Children leave our rice pudding and saucers of milk for the elves called Juul Nisse.
Pere Noel brings small gifts in the beginning of December (Dec 6) and comes back to deliver more on Christmas. In France the children get to open their gifts on Christmas, but the parents and other adults have to wait until New Years.
It Italy, the main exchange of gift doesn't occur until January 6th, the day traditionally believed that the Wise Men reached the baby Jesus. Italy has La Befana who brings gifts to for the good and punishment for the bad.
A Christmas pickle ornament is hidden deep within the tree, the first child to find it recieves and extra gift, the adult who finds it is supposed to have good luck for the following year.