Family favourite Christmas traditions

Everyone will have their own Christmas traditions - some new, some old... here EIMEAR HUTCHINSON reflects on some of her family’s favourite festive traditions
Family favourite Christmas traditions

Eimear didn't have Christmas stockings when she was younger, but it's a tradition she has started with her own young family. Picture: Stock

WE have only really started to put our own family Christmas traditions in place in the last couple of years.

That said, I don’t think we started anything new, it is more like we took both my family’s and my husband’s family’s traditions growing up and merged them together to create a new set of traditions modelled on the old.

For us, there was a bit of figuring out how to manage that balance in the first few years, but it’s nice to pick and choose your favourite bits and to modify traditions to suit your family.

When the girls were younger, we used to travel for Christmas to our parents on alternative years; Sligo one year, England the next. That was manageable when the girls were smaller and more innocent, but as the number of offspring we had increased, and the older girls got ever so more inquisitive, we have opted to stay at home in Cork for Christmas Day with the last few years.

It is far less stressful where the presents are concerned, although, having no family close by, it does lend itself to a slightly more subdued Christmas Day afternoon.

We usually hit the road Stephen’s Day for Sligo or England, which I absolutely adore, there is rarely an occasion where the car is so full of excitement and anticipation, it is just wonderful.

The lead up to Christmas is my favourite part of the season; the excitement, the songs, the Christmas jumpers, the girls having a more relaxed time in school so no homework in the last week, which makes the afternoons lovely, the elves adding enjoyment to the morning, making mince pies or gingerbread cookies, fires on, movies or games, it is so lovely.

The weekend before we spend with my family either in Sligo or in Cork, it is probably one of my favourite weekends of the entire year, gathered round the fire with my family, having drinks, chatting until late, going into town to see the lights and to soak up the atmosphere, everyone happy and relaxed.

Food is a huge part of the Christmas tradition in most houses I suspect, from boxes of Quality Street to Christmas cake it is understandably enjoyable.

For the big day growing up, my husband always had a starter of brown bread, smoked salmon and, what sounds like a strange combination of horseradish sauce and crème fraiche, but it works really well so we have adopted that as our starter or light lunch on Christmas Day. For the main event, like most families we go for turkey, ham and a large array of roasted potatoes and vegetables.

One of the slightly more unusual traditions we have adopted, again from my husband’s side (he is English so that lends itself to a more offbeat Irish Christmas) is a thing called Forcemeat Balls, which, even after a google, I’m still not a hundred percent sure what they are. On our Christmas table it appears to be a mash up of stuffing, sausage meat, herbs and breadcrumbs, I am clearly not the proprietor of the recipe, but whatever it is, it is delicious.

Perhaps you can already tell, but Christmas dinner is my husband’s domain, I am tasked with the starter, setting the table (which I adore!) and ensuring all glasses and mugs are topped up appropriately.

Growing up, we never did stockings, but my husband grew up with them so we do them here now first thing in the morning. They are usually filled with some chocolate coins, a piece of fruit and a few small toys and puzzles. Then we have breakfast before opening the Santa gifts. I know! When we were younger, as soon as we got up (probably usually for the second time because we were known to rise at a ridiculous hour and be sent back to bed!) we were allowed to tear into our Santa gifts.

My husband, however, adopts a more measured approach. We have a quick breakfast and then we open the Santa gifts, which is still early by all accounts, but it gives the day a less chaotic start. I do argue on occasion that Christmas Day is not the time to teach restraint but I have lost that case.

I hope that whatever traditions you have in your house, that you are unaffected by Covid this year.

By all accounts, at the time of writing, the suggestion is that there will be a lot of families isolating this Christmas. Whatever your situation, might I wish you the best this holiday season. You may have loved ones stuck abroad still, you may be stuck at home yourself, or the lead up to the big day may have been peppered with more anxiety than other years, trying to avoid Covid. But we made it through another year so feet up, eat and be merry!

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