Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Santa baby

So. Santa, with kids. Or one kid, anyway. For now. A little half-German kid growing up in the US while we try to preserve his multicultural, multilingual heritage. Which includes two quite different, but not necessarily opposed, stories about Santa.

Here in the US, as I will assume that you all know, Santa comes down the chimney late at night on Christmas Eve. Kids wake up on Christmas morning to find their stockings full of gifts from Santa. I grew up with the philosophy that stocking gifts were from Santa and gifts under the tree, which were more major, were from parents, and I imagine we'll stick with a similar philosophy with Piglet.

But in Germany... it's a little different. First of all, Santa and Christmas are separated. Santa comes on St. Nicholas Day, which is December 6. He doesn't come down the chimney and he doesn't come in the middle of the night. Instead, apparently he sneaks into the house around dusk, via an unspecified entrance (most likely the front door). He leaves small gifts--such as fruit and candy and toy cars and little games--in the hallway or other currently unoccupied area of the house. Then, when Christmas itself arrives, it really starts on Christmas Eve. Families go to church on the evening of December 24, and when they get home from church, they exchange gifts. By the time Christmas Day itself actually arrives, the gift exchange is over, and only the meal remains.

So. As you can see, the traditions are a tad bit different between the two countries. And the question for us is how we're going to reconcile these traditions to create our own little family traditions for our own little multicultural family.

Here's what we know: Santa will come on Christmas Eve, and Piglet will open gifts in his stocking the next day, on Christmas morning. Here's what we almost definitely know: Piglet will open nearly all of his other gifts on Christmas morning as well. I am being very insistent on this point. Christmas morning is a tradition I am not willing to give up, despite Torsten's point that Christmas Eve gift-opening is just as exciting. Plus, Santa comes overnight, so Christmas Eve gift-opening wouldn't work. And, since we don't go to church, we would miss the whole concept of "Christmas Eve church trip followed by gift exchange" anyway.

However, Torsten is a big fan of gift opening on Christmas Eve. So maybe we will find some kind of compromise and have Piglet open one or two gifts on Christmas Eve, and the rest the next morning. As it is, we are going to have to spread out the gift-giving a bit, because we also plan to celebrate Chanukah. So I would have no problem with that, as a concession to the German tradition. But I just will not give up the Christmas morning tradition, and Torsten agrees that it makes the most sense to keep the tradition consistent with the country, so we'll likely stick with that arrangement.

But then the question is... what about German Santa? We've already agreed that Santa will definitely come on Christmas Eve, American-style. But... is it outrageous to think that maybe he could come on St. Nicholas Day too? I mean, yes, Piglet would be the only one of his friends who got TWO visits from Santa, and that might cause some confusion, but I'm sure we could give him some sort of explanation about how Santa visits Germany and the accompanying diaspora on December 6, and he'll be back for all of Piglet's American friends in a few short weeks. We could figure it out, is my point.

But maybe there are logistics we're overlooking? Or maybe it's just ridiculous and overblown to have your kid get two trips from Santa every year? Even though both times Santa brings small gifts, nothing outrageous or expensive? Or maybe it would be too complicated or somehow reduce the specialness factor if Santa shows up twice? Or just confusing to the kid, like OK, Santa came, but also, he'll be back? I don't know. This is a point that we just haven't figured out yet. I mean, we're not in a rush since it will be a good two years at least before Piglet even begins to understand the concept of Santa, but it is sort of a perplexing issue.

Also, I want to know how you celebrated the holidays when you were growing up, and how you celebrate them now. What were your family's traditions? Was Santa involved? If so, what was the story behind it and what kind of gifts did he bring? How are the holiday traditions you observe with your adult family different from the traditions you observed as a kid?


  1. Don't have any dieas from my family. I grew up in a multi religious family and went to Cathlic school. We never ahd a tree or Christmas gifts till I met my husband and now we're starting our own traditions.
    I've seen the Christmas eve vs. morning debate before and some families I know will do new pjs every year so the kids get to open one gift that night and wear their new pjs. Or a new book that they get to read that night. I think I'll be doing the book on Christmas eve becuase I would like my son to have the same love for reading that I do.

  2. Growing up, we always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas, and that was a nice tradition. Now, we spend Christmas Eve with one family, so we open gifts with them that night already so the kids are getting spoiled by one grandparent or another that night anyway.

  3. Since Joe is Jewish and Lucy is being raised Christian, we follow my family's traditions but have done a few things on our own. We each open one gift the first night of Hanukkah, and then we open our other gift to each other usually the night before Christmas Eve. We head to my parents' on Christmas Eve, which is when we open our presents. We've always done that. On Christmas morning, we get our stockings, and then that afternoon we have our big meal.

  4. Family traditions rock! When my mom (and her 4 brothers and sisters) were kids, they went to bed on Christmas Eve and there was nothing! No presents and no decorations. When they woke up Christmas morning, Santa had come and decorated the house and put together all of their gifts from him.

    My mom doesn't wait to decorate, but we did grow up with the tradition that BIG and unwrapped gifts were from Santa. Smaller, more practical things (like clothes) were wrapped and from Mom and Dad. And also, we got to open one present on Christmas Eve. I'd say 99% of the time it was new pajamas. That 1% was a hamster who was quite freaked from all the shaking we did to our "pajamas"!

    I come from a divorced family so Christmas isn't quite so traditional and now that I'm engaged and share the holiday with his family, it's even less so. But I do plan to keep the tradition that Santa comes on Christmas Eve and leaves his presents unwrapped and put together for immediate playing on Christmas morning for my two year old.

    Whatever you guys choose, Piglet will love in the future because it will be YOUR family's tradition. And that, in my opinion, is all that matters.

  5. Our traditions are a little different since we travel for Christmas every year, and I think they'll be evolving even more now that James is here. Here is what I grew up with:
    Christmas eve, we have a light supper of snacky type items, and then we open gifts as a family. We take turns so that everyone can see everything. After that, we get cleaned up and go to midnight Mass. After church, it was traditional to invite some friends over for "late lunch" aka coffee and snacks. I do not know why in the WORLD anyone would want to come over to someone else's house at midnight on Christmas eve, but there were always people there, and it was fun.
    Christmas morning we see/open gifts from Santa. These usually weren't wrapped, and they were smaller things. Then, we spend Christmas day with family, eating and visiting and enjoying our new presents. My grandparents on both sides of the family lived near us, so we would alternate who we spent Christmas day with each year.
    Ryan and I are continuing the alternating years, since our families live a ways away from us (and not in the same direction).

    Hearing the traditions in Germany reminds me of the stories my grandpa would tell us about when he was growing up (his parents were German). The kids would kneel in the living room, praying, on Christmas Eve, and eventually the door would open and fruit and candies would come rolling in from the front door. They didn't get toys or anything like that. He said sometimes it felt like they had been kneeling there FOREVER it was probably 5 or 10 minutes). I think that's such a neat tradition. Maybe you could have the Santa gifts be more like traditional German gifts, but still come on Christmas Eve. Or, if you go to Germany in early December Santa could come while you are there, and if you are in the US he comes on Christmas Eve. I don't know...that's a hard one. I think that when kids are of the age that they really believe in Santa it's going to be hard to explain why Santa comes to your house twice and not to everyone's. Even if you explain it to your Piglet, he's going to get some flack from kids at school.
    Good luck, and let us know what you decide!

  6. I'm Catholic and was raised that way so we went to mass on Christmas Eve and Santa came while we were at church and we opened gifts when we got home. We slept in on Christmas day and had a fab meal.

    Now I have a two year old and one on the way and we will still go to church but we open gifts on Christmas morning. One thing different that my parents didn't do but I want to do is I've heard other people say their gifts from Santa weren't wrapped but the gifts from the parents were so I want to start that new tradition.

    What if St. Nick (santa) came on Dec 6th and you gave Piglet gifts for Christmas morning and then you explain why later....Daddy is from Germany and then this is how it is in the U.S. Yes? No? Maybe?

    Just a thought! :)

  7. We always celebrated on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On C.E., we'd go to my Meme and Pepe's house (dad's parents) and eat and open gifts with them. This was following a family mass at church, where we were usually involved in the choir or nativity scene. Now that we are older, we usually go to midnight mass. When we get home, we'd all get into our jammies and my mother would read Twas The Night Before Christmas. We'd lay out our stockings and go to bed. When we woke up, Santa had come. He never wrapped our gifts, he'd place them in a pile on the floor with our stockings next to it. Later that day, we'd go to my mother's parents and eat and do gifts with her side of the family.

    Will you celebrate in Germany as well? Maybe if Torsten's parents come for German Christmas, or you are there, it would be fun.

  8. Ugh, I can't stand the pressure that develops to give a gift seemingly every single day of December.

    We celebrate St. Nicholas Day and did growing up as well (Catholic school). St. Nick filled our shoes with candy and coins before we woke up on December 6th, but it could happen anytime. No big gifts, just a little trinket to celebrate the day. B and I celebrate St. Nick's by putting our tree up that day and exchanging a new ornament for each member of the family - so maybe this year the ornament will go in shoes since now that Tommy is here we'll start the shoe tradition.

    Then: Christmas Eve: Mass, B's family dinner, home to open pajamas and go to bed. Christmas Morning: Open gifts (3 and one from Santa - 3 because that's how many gifts Jesus was given by the wise men - again, Catholic school). Christmas dinner with my family. For the three gifts we keep to the theme "Something you want, something you need, something to read".

    I personally love the idea of Santa coming on the 6th and that's it - keep Santa out of Christmas and focus on the generosity of the spirit - which is what St. Nick's day was all about. But it would never work with school playgrounds - "Mommy, why does Santa come a different day for only me?"

  9. We celebrate St. Nick with our children on Dec 6th and Santa still comes on Christmas Eve as well. The stockings get filled by Santa on St. Nicks day and then not again on Christmas. However, on Christmas a couple of the presents from under the tree are from Santa. On Christmas Eve, my children open a gift of new pajamas and a book. That way they are all dressed in cute pajamas for Christmas morning pictures!

  10. We do things similar to how we were raised, but our own way, too.

    Santa fills stockings and brings ONE gift. Often, on years that we travel (every-other year), the kids open their gifts from Grant and me before we leave. They get so many once we get to Rapid City, that to bring ours too... well, my thoughtfully purchased gifts just get lost in the shuffle. If we have a "family party" before we leave, they appreciate everything more, and don't get so overwhelmed.

    On years we are home, we open 1 gift on Christmas Eve (usually pj's or something similar) and the rest Christmas morning. Though, growing up, we often opened everything on the 24th and then just the Santa stuff (stockings and 1 gift) on the 25th. I actually think Christmas Eve opening is cozier....

    Basically, I'm a fan of spreading out the gift opening. I like to open a gift, get it out, play with it etc instead of tearing through a huge stack and not really appreciating any of it.

  11. Matthew and I both grew up opening one present on Christmas Eve (usually new jammies) and we do that now with our kids.

    The other tradition we started, which I love, is that we open our presents to each other on Christmas Eve - we started this when the kids were babies. Everyone gets tucked in, we do any last-minute "Santa" prep, then we pour two glasses of wine, put on some music and open our gifts to each other.

    It's a nice calm in the midst of the storm. :)

  12. I grew up opening one gift on Christmas Eve and my kids now do the same. We actually let them pick which gift it is, so sometimes it's from us ad sometimes it's from an extended family member. Either way, Santa comes after the kids go to bed and fills the stockings (except mom's and dad's - we do each other's and the kids know this, they even sometimes help shop for the contents). The Santa presents are wrapped, but there is specific Santa paper... in my house, the Santa paper always has Santa in the pattern.

    A traditional stocking item is fun to carry forward, if there was something that was ALWAYS in your stocking as a kid. In my house, it was foil-wrapped chocolate coins and at my husband's house it was a chocolate marshmallow Santa. So our kids have both those items in their stockings every year.

  13. I haven't read the other comments so please excuse me if I'm repeating...

    I come from a half-European (Spanish) half-Canadian family and this is what my parents did:
    St Nicholas came on Dec. 6th, much as you described. He was always considered to be a completely different person from Santa, who would come on Dec 24th.(St. Nicholas is the actual person, the saint while Santa was a fictional jolly man)St Nicholas brought candies, chocolate and small toys kind of like what the Easter bunny would bring us to put in our Easter baskets - nothing big or fancy, is what I'm saying.
    Then on Dec 24th we would have a family dinner and then each of us would open ONE present - usually one of the biggest, most exciting or long awaited gifts. Then we would hang our stockings and go to bed.
    Christmas morning we would open our stockings and our one "Santa" gift... In our house Santa only brought one big thing (a stereo, a new sled etc).

    I'm not sure if that helps but it's what our family did!

  14. Family traditions are special no matter what they are. We always did presents on Christmas morning; once we got older and started getting married, moving, etc. we opened "sister presents" on Christmas Eve (after church).

    My husband and I have our own traditions now as well - the day after Thanksgiving is the official Decorate The House day, complete with munchies and hot chocolate. We always watch Christmas movies afterward to really welcome the season. Last year Madeline LOVED this, and I'm sure she will this year too.

    I do miss attending midnight service with him, though - that's what we did pre-Maddie and I loved that little tradition of ours. Maybe when she's older?

    I'm sure that Piglet will love whatever you decide... I think that St. Nicolaus day is a nice nod to his heritage, and not too much since it's just stocking stuffers. Maybe he doesn't get a stocking on Christmas morning then, since St. Nicolaus already did it?

  15. I'm still lost on doing Chanukah and Christmas.. it just seems to send such a mixed message (to me) to have both in the same house.

    We were raised Jewish (my Mom is Jewish, my Dad is a non-practicing Catholic) and our traditions were all Jewish. No Easter, no Christmas in our house, but we'd travel to see my Dad's family to celebrate their holidays with them. Mostly for my Dad's sake.. none of his family ever offered to celebrate Sukkot with us, or any other Jewish holidays. It was certainly odd to us.. which belief is true? Are we both? Just one? My friends who celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas seemed to have holidays, but not religion.

    I would have found it confusing to have both holidays - and both religions - practiced in our home. If we added Kwanzaa to that mix? Oh gawd! :)

  16. I think you know this already, but in our house the presents from us are the ones that the girls are allowed to take back to their mom's house if they so choose (basically any clothing items, plus stuff that goes back and forth like Leapster or DS games), and the ones from Santa stay at our house, because "Santa brought them to our house instead of Mommy's house for a reason!" which makes sense since Santa goes to April's house too, and of course there's not a chance that any of that stuff would end up at our house!

    we have Santa paper too, with Santa on it, and we try to exchange at least a roll or two with April so that they see the same Santa paper at both houses...

    I disagree about what kids will believe - I think when they are young enough to fully believe in Santa, they will believe whatever you tell them, and by the time they are old enough to question why they get extra stuff on Dec 6th, for example, that means they're close to not needing to believe in Santa anymore anyway. No need to drag out the inevitable! (unless of course, April-style, you don't want to let your kids grow up and you still refer to yourself in 3rd person with not just your almost-4-year-old, but also your 2nd grader!)

    who knows how it will work once No Name is born in terms of which of her presents will be from Santa - John always used to do new pajamas on Christmas Eve too, but since now they have been with April on Christmas Eve, Mom has been getting Caitlyn pajamas and I think we got some for Emily, but they don't open them until usually the 26th. With No Name I think we'll go back to new pjs on Christmas Eve - and I like the book idea too.

  17. oh, and we haven't even thought about the whole Hanukkah thing - unless you count that I think I told Mom she should just come up to our house every year for at least the first night, if not multiple, and start it off right :-)

    As for the person who said houses with both Christmas and Hanukkah have holidays but not religion - yup! but you can frame it as celebrating your heritage and celebrating the gift of giving, rather than just greedy gift gathering.

  18. My dad spent some time in Germany as a young man and we always celebrated both St. Nicholas Day and Christmas Eve. Granted, we all knew Santa wasn't a real person by the time we were 6 or 7, so there wasn't that hurdle to deal with. One German tradition that I always loved was decorating a tree on Christmas Eve, it was full of gingerbread boys and popcorn strings and white candles. We had another tree we'd decorate early in December, but I loved the Christmas Eve tradition of decorating a tree.


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  20. The guy bringing gifts on December 6th is St. Nicolas. (More info here: He is where the Santa Claus myth originates. Maybe you could sort of make it like they are two different persons so Santa doesn't actually come to your house twice? If you wanted to explain it to his peers who wonder why he gets two visits and they only get one, maybe say that it's the German Santa/St. Nicolas who comes on Dec 6th (all the way from Germany! ;))and he visits because your son is half-German?

    As far as the Christmas Eve/Day issue. I think having him open one or two presents on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day sounds like a good compromise. I know other German/American families who do it the same way.

    Did you know that in Southern Germany, we get our presents from the Christkind (more info: while in Northern Germany it is Santa (the Weihnachtsmann = Christmas man) who brings the presents?

    (Sorry, I first posted this comment with the Google profile linked to my weight loss blog.)

  21. My mom did St. Nicholas when we were kids. It was not part of my ex-husbands upbringing and not important to me, so we never did it. I'm pretty sure they don't miss out. Ex's family does Christmas Eve (dinner, presents, church) with only a few Santa presents on Christmas morning, my family does Christmas Day for everything because Santa comes over night (my favorite part of having kids). The only issue with it, is that we had to pick one family due to distance and once we were divorced, in fact since we've been divorced (6 years) he's had the kids for the holiday. He'll have this year again and we'll finally start doing every other year after this.

  22. I think that Christmas eve swap could totally be a father-son special thing couldnt it? That might make such a special memory and link it directly to the german side of piglet's heritage.

  23. My wasband who was American and me,the German, had a good deal.

    We would open most gifts on Christmas Eve per my tradition and then the "biggest gift" on the morning after, the American Christmas.

    But have we had kids I would have pushed through the German tradition all the way. :) I loved meeting Weihnachtsman in our living room, doing a poem for him, or playing the piano and then he'd have these lists of all the good and bad things I did throughout th year and then he'd give us our gifts. I loved the anticipation, dressing up in the afternoon, waiting with my grandmother in my bedroom for the bell to ring.
    Here it's so different. Everyone is in pyjamas and then you wake up and WHAM, the day is over. All the excitement gone within a few minutes. Fond childhood memories for me. :)

  24. So, I grew up with Austrian parents in Washington DC and we basically did everything different than our American friends did. St. Nicolas (who was not the same as Santa to us) came on Dec. 5th at night and brought us nuts, fruit and chocolates. Usually it was special chocolate all the way from Austria. On Christmas Eve, the Christkind came (someone already linked to info on that) and brought our presents and we opened all our gifts that night after church. Christmas morning was just a morning to lounge around in our PJs and play with our new toys. We always kind of pitied our American friends, because they had to wait longer to open their gifts, haha.

    As kids, we had American friends who obviously believed in Santa and we had German friends (from our German school) who were visited by the "Weihnachtsmann" on Christmas Eve instead of the Christkind. And you know what? We were never confused, we never doubted. This is just how it was. And it also didn't confuse our American friends that we didn't get our presents from Santa, that he basically skipped our house. They just accepted that things were different at our house. We also never thought it was weird that there was a Santa sitting at the mall and that other kids were taking pictures with him. He was "their" Santa and not ours.

    All this to say: Whatever you decide to do, those will be your traditions and that will be the "true" way to do it for your son. As far as your son knows, things have always been done that way and it is totally normal :-)

  25. I was raised Catholic, my husband was raised Jewish, and neither of us is religious. But we are both very fond of traditions. So for us, the season is about love, warmth, light, and celebration. We exchange a few gifts over Channukah, and light the menorah. Then Santa comes Christmas Eve. My husband is a chef and makes amazing from-scratch cinnamon rolls. one of our favorite traditions has become to make them and pass them out to friends on Christmas Eve, so they can enjoy them Christmas morning. For us, Christmas morning means sleeping in, then spoiling each other with gifts over mimosas, those amazing cinnamon rolls, coffee, and maybe some quiche. (We've celebrated Xmas morning both with and without family, but so far our favorite way is just the two of us - which we are so looking forward to again this year!)

  26. Being half German and half American, I can give you some insight into what my family did.

    We always celebrated St. Nikolaustag on Dec. 6, but we only received candies or fruit, nothing else. Growing up, it never really was too weird that we got little gifts on Dec. 6, because we probably never said anything to our American friends because they wouldn't understand. And if we did, our American friends were jealous that they didn't get visited - I blamed it on them forgetting to leave a boot out.

    When we lived in Germany, we'd all go to church on Christmas Eve, and the Christkindl (more like the Christ Child than Santa) would bring our presents while we were gone. He'd always leave right as we got home, and we'd know he'd been there because a little bell would ring. Then we'd all open presents.

    When we moved to America, we kept up the same traditions, but we'd open our presents on Christmas Day, unless Oma and Opa had come over. Every once and a while we'd open up one present on Christmas Eve.

    Presents in stockings or that weren't wrapped, came from Santa or the Christkindl. Wrapped presents under the tree were from our family.

    I think you should be able to mix all traditions together and highlight the best of both cultures. And if you refer to one as St. Nikolaus and the other as Santa, it should help with the confusion.

    Good luck with your decision!

  27. We were a new PJ's on Christmas Eve family (still are- my mom sent some over for my brother-in-law last year!).

    We do Christmas morning at my Mom and Dad's and then go up to Tennessee to visit family the day after Christmas. The little kids definitely enjoy the two days of presents arrangement.

    And of course, we never skip out on the Christmas crackers at Christmas dinner- my Dad's British heritage (and years of great pictures in paper crowns) would never allow it.

  28. What if Santa stops on Dec 6 because Daddy's German, and Santa doesn't want Dad to be sad and feel forgotten, just because he moved to another country? There could be a tradition of Santa leaving favorite cookies, small but practical presents (new toothbrushes, new mittens, a brand new snow hat) ... sort of like an easter basket, but with winter stuff.

  29. My family's tradition is to open up presents to each other (I have 3 siblings) on Christmas Eve night, and then Santa presents on Christmas morning.

    As far as the German Santa coming on St. Nicholas Day, I feel that since Piglet will be growing up in the United States, he/she should grow up with the American Santa tradition. I think Piglet would sound like a weirdo in class if he/she were like "Santa came to my house last night" before it was Christmas, so I would just skip this tradition all together (sorry Torsten)

  30. St. Nicholas would come to our house on Dec. 6 and fill our stockings. On Christmas Eve we would go to church at night and my uncle would come and put out the presents from Santa while we were gone. When we got back from church we ate dinner and then opened presents. I can't remember why this worked when we actually believed in Santa though! Why would he always come to our house first?

    It was actually nice to have everything out of the way Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas day visiting other relatives homes and seeing what they got AFTER we got to sleep in :)

  31. Perhaps St. Nicholas could visit in the German way and on the German day, and then Santa in the United States way and on the United States way.

    My family opens gifts Christmas Eve night. But---we didn't have a Santa tradition (my dad was a minister). When I was growing up, my household opened gifts after the Christmas Eve service; now my household goes on a Christmas-light-viewing drive instead. If we were doing a Santa tradition, Santa could come during that time, as one of the first stops on his Christmas Eve Night journey.

    Or, kids could open gifts from you on Christmas Eve night, and from Santa on Christmas morning. Or you could alternate years: one his traditions and the next your own---until maybe it gets boiled down to the parts you both like best.

  32. Oh, and ALSO, it's possible you'll find as Paul and I did that we couldn't maintain a Santa thing at all. We were PLANNING to, but as soon as we started explaining it as truth to Rob's credulous eyes, we faltered and stopped and told it as a pretend story instead.

  33. Our traditions changed somewhat through the years, as my grandparents aged and we kids no longer "believed" in Santa. But for a lot of years, we were allowed to pick one gift to open on Christmas Eve, then opened the rest on Christmas morning. It's a nice compromise, I think. It's awfully hard for kids to wait for the gifts once it starts feeling like Christmas.

    And that time the interestingly-shaped gift I chose to open on Christmas Eve turned out to hold only my grandmother's yearly gift of new underwear? Well, I lived through it. (To her credit, she tried to warn me. She was just trying to make the prosaic gift a little more fun. And I got LOTS of gifts from Nanny each year. Not just underwear!)

  34. In my family, Santa came Christmas night and filled our stockings. We left sherry, mince pies and a carrot out for him. My Dad would make a little bit of mess around the chimney and consume the foods before filling our stockings when we were asleep. I can't remember when I figured out that it was my Dad doing it but I know it didn't ruin the magic one bit.

    When I was little, we all jumped on my parents' bed early Christmas morning to open our stockings together, then we went to church, then we opened our family presents from under the tree. We were allowed a look at the tree and presents before church but no more. At some point we stopped going to church Christmas morning and started going to midnight mass instead so the rule became stockings before breakfast, family presents afterward.

    The one other Christmas thing I did a few years running was read A Christmas Carol to my little brother in the days leading up to Christmas, with the final chapter Christmas morning. That worked really well and my parents appreciated me delaying him getting up until they were awake!

  35. Growing up, our family tradition was to open one gift on Christmas Eve (it was always pyjamas.) The rest were opened on Christmas morning.

  36. I like Swistle's idea of "St. Nicholas could visit in the German way and on the German day, and then Santa in the United States way and on the United States way".

    Our tradition was to have a very nice, formal meal on Christmas Eve, go to church then come home and open presents from our siblings (I'm the youngest of 3). That way we could open SOMETHING on CE. (Although, with one kid that'd be hard. However - M is 4 this year and she's just now starting to realize that this Christmas thing goes on for a couple of days so you could get away with other gift exchanges on CE.)

    Anyway - on Christmas Day we'd wake up and my parents would force us to wait at the top of the stairs while they got things ready (i.e. made coffee, made sure the camera was ready, turned on music). Then we tore downstairs and divided up the gifts. We usually got stockings and 1-2 big gifts from Santa and 2-3 gifts from my parents. We all took turns opening gifts so the morning went on for at least an hour. After that we always had a big breakfast of sausage and egg casserole, citrus salad and sweet rolls.

    The weekends before and after Christmas were spent at each of the grandparents houses. We NEVER traveled on CE or CD. Those days were just for us.

  37. Growing up, if we were visiting my grandparents, we always opened gifts with them on Christmas Eve, and then Santa gifts and everything else in the morning. If we weren't visiting them, everything was on Christmas morning. After I discovered the truth about Santa at age 8 (I'm an only child), we actually just started doing all gifts on Christmas Eve (many were still from Santa LOL) with a finger food and dessert buffet and just had the formal meal on Christmas Day (as I got older, we added going to see a movie to this). When my husband and I married, he was used to Christmas morning gift-opening, so we did presents/buffet with my parents on Christmas Eve and exchanged gifts with each other on Christmas morning, which was nice. Then, we went back to my parents' house later in the day for formal meal/movie. Now that we have a toddler, it's exactly the same (minus the movie), but the problem I have is that "Nana" wants to be better than Santa LOL. I don't know what I'm going to do, but unless my mother starts giving me 70 percent of the stuff she buys for my daughter to be "from Santa" and add to our Santa gifts at our house Christmas morning, my daughter is going to think Nana is way more awesome than Santa!! The whole season it drives me crazy, because my mom goes nuts shopping and tells me what she buys and I'm like, "Santa was going to get that for her!" or "Santa isn't sure she needs that!" or "Santa can't top that gift!" I know my mother can't help herself--this is the only grandchild she's ever going to have and all--but I want my girl to have that magical Christmas feeling of seeing the gifts from Santa on Christmas morning, and in another year or so, she's going to realize that she's getting more of a haul from Nana the night before LOL. I guess it's a blessing to have such a "tough" problem, so I shouldn't complain, but it frustrates me a little. And when I try to reason with my mom, she's all, "This is my only grandchild, don't take this away from me!" Oh, the guilt...

  38. My Christmas tradition comes from my mother's family and it is to open all of the presents under the tree (from family) on Christmas Eve and when we woke up Santa would have left us presents in our stocking and under the tree. Usually the bigger items would be from Santa and they would be left unwrapped. It was so much fun- Christmas twice! Gifts on Christmas Eve and more on Christmas morning! My husband isn't too attached to his tradition (all presents opened on Christmas morning), so we plan to continue my family tradition with our kids. I can't wait until Oliver is old enough to enjoy getting gifts!!

  39. Both me and my Danish hubby come from the 24th tradition so that wasn't a problem for us. However, the Santa issue- see here in Iceland we have 13 yes thats not a typo, THIRTEEN santas and they start arriving 13 days before Christmas and you put your shoe in the window and if you've been good you get some small toy/book/candy in it- if you've been naughty you get a potato (and if you don't get new clothes for xmas you will get eaten by the Yule cat- we have such lovely traditions don't you think?). Anyway- my point was that Denmark has a similar santa to Germany and we have simply explained to our 4 year old that the Icelandic santas' are separate from the Danish santa... doesn't seem to bother him any :)

  40. My mother is from Italy and we always spent the holiday with her side of the family in the states...

    We didn't really ever believe in Santa Claus. Because we were usually at my aunt's house, we opened all of our gifts from that side of the family on Christmas Eve (we would spend the night)...then during Christmas day we would open our other gifts.

    I think in your case you can easily do a gift exchange on Christmas Eve - maybe some or all of the items under the tree that you know are from parents and leave the stocking until the next day (from Santa). Weirdly, even though we didn't do Santa, we were BIG on the Easter Bunny. Good luck!

  41. It's always fascinating when people of different religions or cultures or both combine into one big family. Growing up, we always opened one gift on every night of Chanukah, but often opened gifts on Christmas, too, since we'd always celebrate with friends.

    Now? I celebrate the holiday season. Between my birthday in early December and Chanukah at some point during December and Sweets' birthday in early January, we get gifts mailed to us throughout the month. We also celebrate Christmas day with his family, which also involves lots of gifts. It's kind of out of control ... but, I chalk it up to plenty of excuses to spend time with loved ones, which always trump who opens what gift when.

  42. I am from a (very) American family, so I am not entirely sure how all of these traditions came to reside in my family home, but what my family does is celebrate Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day. Christmas Eve, we have the same meal every year and then we go to an evening church service (I grew up Presbyterian), and then we came home and spent the night laughing and telling stories and opening the "family" gifts. Then we went to bed...and when we woke up, there were stockings and gifts from Santa!

    So we still had a Christmas morning gift giving experience. And although not many of my friends did it that way, I always thought it was fun to have traditions that are different!

  43. I haven't taken the time to read any other comments, so forgive me if this is repeating in any way.

    I have a friend who lived in Germany for 10 years as a child. They were a military family (from the US) and were stationed there during this time. They picked up many traditions during this time, including St. Nick day (so to speak).

    Their solution? When they came back to the states her youngest brother needed an explanation for Santa that would mesh in with what he was being told in school (Dec 6 is too early for Santa). They came up with the idea of an elf on St Nick day. The elf comes to bring presents like Santa did in Germany. Santa couldn't come because he was in Germany. The elf was also checking up on the kids - if they were nice he would report it to Santa for Christmas gifts.

    As far as the rest of it - you will get it. You will do what works and create something completely new to both of you.


  44. You will definitely come up with your own traditions. We split our time between grandparents. Christmas eve with my husband's family, Christmas day with mine. My husband traditionally opened all gifts on Christmas eve and I did mine Christmas morning so this works well. My kids open their gifts from his side of the family then, as well as one from us, plus a pair of PJ's. The next morning they get to open Santa gifts, the rest from us, and the ones from my parents. Great meshed tradition!

  45. I'm still a bit confused about how we'll do it in our household, but I'm working through it. One thing, though: Nikolaus is not Santa Claus. Nikolaus was a bishop who gave gifts to poor people. So there's no conflict to me, as I will explain to our Bean that this day is honoring St. Nikolaus' memory. Nikolaus is a lovely tradition I wouldn't want to part with.

  46. I love hearing about what Christmas will be like with your little family! I love hearing that people still do St. Nicholas too. I believed in Santa until I was 10...yeah, I was a lame kid. I still remember my dad telling me, though, about St. Nicholas and how he was a real life Santa. I hope to share that with Charlotte & Evelyn some day.

  47. I was catching up on blog reading and found this post. I had Santa and St. Nick growing up. I grew up outside of Milwaukee, a heavily German area, which I think is why lots of families there do St. Nick.

    We left shoes for St. Nick (as do my children) and always received a Christmas ornament and maybe some candy or other small item. My kids get a Christmas ornament and usually a couple of Christmas books from St. Nick. Then Santa comes on Christmas Eve.

    My oldest is nearly six and she may very well be one of the only children in her class that knows about St. Nick or expects his arrival. I think, for now, we'll deal w/ the St. Nick question by saying that some families just don't leave their shoes out for him... By the time it really bothers her there will probably be other things about the Santa story that bother her as well and we may be outed!