Today is the fifth of December, and thus, the day for my contribution to the Virtual Advent Tour! As this is my first time participating in the event, I thought that I would share the family Christmas traditions that I grew up with.

My family’s Christmas traditions derive from my Grandma who is Danish. When she moved to America in the ’50s, she brought with her the traditional Danish Christmas. My mother continued in these traditions and there were a few fortunate Christmases in my childhood when we got to have Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and got the full treatment. I will share pictures from Christmas 1985 when my family spent Christmas at Grandma’s house in Newport News, Virginia.

First, my family goes all out in decorating the house for Christmas. There are lots of lights- both of the electrical and candle kind, and lots of Christmas knick knacks. There is always a huge bright Christmas tree, and lots of wrapped presents tucked underneath. Typically, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and all the other classic crooners are heard in the air, setting a festive, warm tone.

Xmas Dinner 1985

Family Dinner: Duck, Candied Potatoes, Red Cabbage...Yum!

We celebrate on Christmas Eve, like all Danes. First, there is a traditional Danish Christmas dinner. This consists of roast duck, candied new potatoes, red cabbage, and a delicious gravy to cover it all. This is my favorite meal of the entire year. After dinner, there is dessert. As the tradition goes, we all enjoy a small bowl of rice pudding made with whipped cream and topped with cherries. In one lucky family member’s bowl is an almond, and that person wins a prize (usually some sort of marzipan or chocolate treat). Somehow, my sister and I always seemed to end up with the almond!

Xmas Dinner 1985

I found the almond in the rice pudding!

Xmas Dinner 1985

And so did my sister!

After dinner is every child’s favorite part–opening the presents! One person is chosen to pass out the presents (my sister has been this person for the last 15 years) and hands one to each individual. Everyone takes a turn and opens presents one at a time as the family watches. Obviously, opening presents takes quite a while, but this manner of opening presents one at a time is really wonderful as we all get to revel in the gift-giving. Once all of the presents have all been opened, it’s usually pretty late, so we all go to bed.

Xmas Presents 1985

Christmas Day is a much more quiet, mellow day. Everyone (except for the kids) takes their time getting up, but when they do, they have a fully stuffed stocking to wake up to. The stockings are almost as fun as the gift-giving, as that’s where all the little fun gifts lie. Magazines, comic books, candy, gag gifts, and anything small enough to fit in a stocking are found in the early morning. Often, I’ll sift through my loot while munching on leftover rice pudding as breakfast. The rest of the day is spent lounging and enjoying each other’s company, putting together some of the gifts, and slowly picking up from the night before.

Grandma’s Christmas is a wonderful tradition and one that I will try to keep up and pass down to later generations!