Gift exchanges were not a lavish affair at our house when I was a kid. But I was never disappointed at Christmas, thanks to a host of annual traditions derived from our family’s religious and cultural heritage. At the start of every December, for instance, we received chocolate Advent calendars, a nod to our European roots, and every Sunday leading up to Christmas, we lit a candle on an Advent wreath, just as our Anglican ancestors had done. To commemorate my father’s German heritage — which I cherish more since he passed away when I was a teenager — we would celebrate St. Nicholas Day by putting our shoes outside our bedroom doors overnight, to be filled with gifts from St. Nick (if we’d been good).
For me, these traditions lent a sense of ritual and meaning to the season — and I celebrate them to this day with my kids. We’ve added some traditions of our own, like finding creative ways to give back to our friends and community every year. Gift exchanges are fun, and a welcome opportunity to let loved ones know you adore them (here are some of my favourite presents to give this season!). But the true joy of the holidays is the feeling of being connected — to our families, our neighbours and our wider communities.
From all of us at Chatelaine, happy holidays to you and yours!