Christmas traditions that were so beautiful are getting lost… 57



View Profile

Today, I want to take the time to look back on what past Christmases were like in your house and neighbourhood and see if any of the big traditions are being carried forward from generation to generation, and which ones have been lost, for better or for worse in your family and community.

I am going to use my own family for stories and ideas… I hope they forgive me later!


christmas treeCutting down a real Christmas tree

Perhaps mine was the only family that snuck off to the highway when I was a child and “harvested” a Christmas tree from the side of the road, tying it onto the roof racks, bringing it home (complete with a few huntsman spiders), setting it up in the lounge room in a bucket of wet sand allowing the beautiful odour of pine tree to waft through the house for days. About 7 days later, the lounge room floor of our Queensland home would be a littering of pine needles, but gosh the memories are beautiful. I can still smell it!

Today, when we get out the Big W Christmas tree I get flashbacks, and feel a little forlorn that you can no longer even buy pine trees at the local RSL in Queensland.


Making paper Christmas decorations

As children we always made the household christmas decorations. Loop chains made from coloured paper, secured with staples, and lanterns made from last year’s cut up Christmas cards. It was so much fun. I don’t see too much of it these days though! In people’s race for the perfect-looking houses, this personal touch seems to be long gone.  Do you make Christmas decorations with your grandchildren?

The neighbourhood Christmas drinks

We used to have a gathering in our street, years ago, where many people from our block came together for pre-Christmas drinks, sharing the year’s events, excitement and achievements with each other over a glass of champagne, a beer and a few nibbles. And I remember decades ago, the street I grew up on also did something similar with all the kids, parents and older community members joining together to cater it and looking forward to seeing each other. It was an annual event! But in recent years, on our street, with people being busier and busier, it seems this tradition has slipped away. Does your street have a traditional gathering?

Christmas morning waking up early to Santa

I must confess I love Santa. All my kids still believe and I will be gutted the day that my now 11 year old announces something to the contrary.

So as a Santa lover, I am sure once Santa has left my building that I will go to a house that does celebrate Santa (if there is one in our family), and sleep over to enjoy the squeals and delight in the eyes of young children when they see he has been!

My mum used to come and stay when her first grandkids were very young as she missed the years of Santa Claus in her house after we all grew up and moved overseas for years in our 20s. Last year my in-laws came and stayed over Christmas Eve and enjoyed it very much.

Even if all your kids and grandkids have grown up and the era of Santa is long gone, I firmly believe you can still have his joy in your house if you choose by filling a stocking and bringing a smile to others in your house as they open their small gifts on Christmas morning. It is nice knowing someone has gone out of their way to do something special for you and you for them.

Present opening, with everyone watching, and big thank-yous at the end

I am a bit of a stickler for this. I’m afraid, over the years, as the world has become more and more super commercial, kids have received more and more presents at Christmas, and I worry that at times in my family, we haven’t slowed down the present opening process and taught them to be grateful for all gifts and to enjoy them in the moment rather than rush and tear the wrappings on gift after gift after gift. So a few years ago I put my foot down and reinstalled the philosophy that each gift has to be given out (not rummaged for), and that we watch it get opened, and watch the child/adult as they say thanks. It might seem a little pedantic to some, but I want to raise grateful children who understand the effort people put into selecting a gift is special and that they should be grateful for it.

The traditional Christmas dinner

In my family, we have developed a more modern Christmas meal tradition in recent decades, more suited to the Australian weather. We serve prawns, cold ham, salad and cold turkey. Years ago, my fondest memories are of the hot Christmas dinner that my Grandmother made year after year. A hot turkey, complete with gravy, jellied peas, warmed ham, and a boiled pudding. She even warmed up egg nog for us as a treat to show us how the rest of the world did it.

A trip to Mass or Christmas service

My family was never religious at Christmas, so I always wondered what all the excitement of Christmas Mass was about as a child. As an adult it seemed important to teach my Children the religious values of Christmas, which we do by taking them to a Christmas Eve Mass at our local Catholic School parish. It is a low-impact, family friendly mass that celebrates Christmas for what it really is, before the commercialisation kicks in. But I wonder how many families these day make the effort to go to Church for Christmas? Does yours?

Sending hand-written Christmas cards

Remember these? I think I only got a few this year, which isn’t surprising considering the price of stamps keep going up and up. And I haven’t sent them myself for two years. We used to spend hours and hours writing Christmas cards to our family friends and acquaintances. It was a way of “staying in touch” with those we had not had time to see much during the year, as well as to say thanks for the special times to those who were responsible for them. I must confess I love a hand-written card complete with a story or two. It’ sad this tradition looks to have died with the permeation of the Internet.

Baking a Christmas Cake or a traditional Christmas Pudding

My sister-in-law, bless her, still makes a traditional Christmas pudding. But my Grandmother’s traditions of blanching the almonds overnight, soaking the fruit in rum for days and then baking a big juicy Christmas cake for each of her sons is long gone, I’m afraid. I tried a couple of years ago to bake her recipe as a gift for my Dad – I burned the exorbitant expense of ingredients and felt a little sad at the failure. I’ve never tried again, but baking and then later eating those cakes was a beautiful part of my childhood.


So tell us today: what traditions do you remember that are no longer? And what traditions do you fight to retain in your family?

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. We still do most of those although no longer the real tree or making Christmas decorations. Present giving has always been a big deal in our family with the youngest giving out the gifts in one go to each person. Everyone then watches each gift being opened and then each individual tag being read out for all to hear the sentiment as well as the thanks given to the giver. We actually open each one in order too, from youngest to oldest so that everyone gets an equal go. Usually the children end up with more than the adults but that only adds to the fun seeing their faces light up for that little bit longer.
    As I write this there is a pillowcase of presents sitting on the bottom of our four year old grandson’s makeshift bed in our holiday apartment waiting for him to wake up. This is the first year we get to see him open his gifts in person instead of on Skype for a few minutes – albeit a day early as he is going to his other grandparents again for actual Christmas Day.
    It seems we have to make our celebrations a day earlier which broke my heart to begin with as I am such a traditionalist and thought it would be turnabout each year for the different grandparents to have a turn but if we want to share at least part of his celebrations then this is the compromise we have to make, so we made plans to come down this year rather than wait for that longed for invitation to share in the occasion.
    Thankfully his delight and anticipation makes up for it although I know Christmas Day itself will be hard again being away from my only daughter and him. Maybe one day…,
    Merry Christmas to everyone out there in SAS land and I trust you get to share it with those you love the most. xx

    3 REPLY
    • I think it is very sad (and unfair) when only one set of grandparents get to see a grandchild/children every Christmas Day while the others miss out. It should be on an alternate basis unless it is agreed for whatever reason that this is not possible. Hope you have a lovely time with your grandson. Merry Christmas.

    • Thanks Christa, yes I was hopeful but not to be, sadly. At least we’ve seen him this year and had a lovely four days with him. I trust you have a wonderful Christmas season and share lots of fellowship and fun with those you love.
      And Glenys, I was hopeful that might happen with us, too. I trust you have a delightful time sharing the blessings! Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones 🙂

  2. Miss just about all of this. Everyone grows up and moves on – scattered around the world – but wish that just for one day it could all be as it was. A friend and I used to take the kids (6 of them) and go strawberry picking on Christmas Eve . Happy memories.

  3. My grandfather always brought home a huge real tree for us and we decorated it with decorations we made ourselves.

  4. Fortunately none, everyone’s happy laughing. I simply will not tolerate fighting, back stabbing or negative neddies at my house. Great fun with one lot for lunch. Second lot at night. Its all good.

  5. We have a real tree, made a Christmas cake & pudding, made most of my cards, & have 1 grandson staying overnight, with the other 5 grandchildren coming for Christmas lunch tomorrow. We go to our daughter in laws family for their traditional Christmas Eve tonight, complete with Santa. This happens every second year when they all come down from interstate. So special.
    Merry Christmas everybody.

  6. Have just finished making my christmas treat which you can buy in shops but nothing beats homemade with love. Make and send my christmas cards . For extended family we have cut back on gifts for adults by drawing names from a hat and each person only buys one good gift and receives one good gift. Nan and the kids are exempt… My son has taken over my Mum’s tradition of the christmas pudding maker… Made in a cloth and it is delicious. All the old family recipes of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *