I’ve always been the one in my family responsible for decorating the Christmas tree. Around 15 years ago, I was taking some time out to travel and because I wasn’t around, my family totally forgot to buy a tree. They only remembered my tree decorating tradition when I was about to fly in from Indonesia just before the big day.
As a result, my sister and I set off on a Christmas tree hunt on December 24, roaming whatever stores were still open. Unsurprisingly, trees were sold out everywhere. Just as we were beginning to think we would have to do without one that year, in a dark, forgotten corner of the DIY store, we found the last tree available: a tiny, crooked, and sad-looking tree that no one had wanted.
Well, we took pity on that tree and decided to give it the Christmas of its life. We took it home and I covered it in enough decorations for one 5 times that size! It looked so cheerful and funny and was a talking point for everyone who visited our house that year. From then on, we therefore decided to make it a tradition to save the ugliest, saddest-looking tree in the shop and give it a proud and happy Christmas!
Designer Karl Lagerfeld famously once said “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” Our family defies this statement and puts sweatpants at the heart of our festive celebrations.
As we don’t celebrate Christmas, my parents always made New Year’s Eve a particularly festive affair for me and my brother. One of our special traditions is that we create a decadent and beautifully decorated dinner with some traditional dishes that we love such as hummus and pasta salad. Another is our special dress code: fancy tops and casual bottoms. So it’s not unusual for me to be fine-dining in a beautiful, sparkly top matched with Nike sweatpants.
Karl Lagerfeld didn’t know what he was missing! And another thing we never forget to be wearing when the clock strikes midnight and we set off fireworks is red underwear. This is a southern European tradition which I’ve heard probably has its roots in China and is said to bring good luck for the coming year.
As our family keeps geese, we’ve made it an annual festive tradition to paint the goose eggs and hang them on the Christmas tree. We choose a different color scheme every year and each family member helps to paint the eggs in different shades of that color – this year it’s turquoise.
Another way in which our large patchwork family makes the festive season special is by choosing a theme for our six-course Christmas dinner, which everyone helps to prepare. With this tradition, we’ve experienced dishes from many areas of the world – with differing levels of success. My least favorite dish so far was an Indonesian salad with fermented prawns that smelled absolutely terrible. My favorite theme so far was “Syria”. This year, we’re doing “Brittany”, and I’m preparing a mussel salad with samphire and oysters au gratin.
Having a theme and getting the whole family involved makes both the Christmas preparations and the meal a great adventure to enjoy together and every year it’s full of surprises, as the different courses remain a secret until the big day.
Nothing beats the magic of Christmas as a child. The excitement, the stories, the mysterious characters, and the anticipation of “Sinterklaas” (St. Nicholas) and the gifts he may bring – it’s just such a wonderful season for the little ones. That’s why my wife and I gather round the TV with our two young daughters every evening for 3 weeks before the big event to watch the “Sinterklaas news”.
Each night there’s a new episode about where Sinterklaas currently is and his crazy adventures on his way to the Netherlands. The girls get really immersed in the plotlines and ride the emotional rollercoaster of all the action-packed stories and unexpected twists. They’re really on the edge of their seats while watching, and love to speculate about what might happen next.
It really is a magical feeling to be part of this excitement and to again experience some of the childish delight in the run-up to Christmas. It brings a lovely festive atmosphere into the house, and it’s great to see how enthusiastic and involved the children get in these adventures. It’s a beautiful tradition that brings us all together and gets us in the festive mood as we look forward to the arrival of St. Nicholas.
When I go back to Italy for Christmas, it may come as no surprise that we have a long-standing tradition of getting together with our extended family of over 20 people on Christmas Day. It’s a well-oiled affair where each grandmother cooks something special, the aunts prepare the starter, and the uncle brings dessert.
The 4-5 course meal usually extends from midday to the evening, with everyone getting louder and clothes getting tighter as the day progresses. The amount of organization and coordination involved before, during, and after the gathering is truly staggering. This tradition has been in our family for as long as I can remember and it’s a true highlight of the season for me.
The humorous anecdotes and jokes shared by my uncles never fail to bring laughter and joy to everyone. It’s a time for bonding and making memories together. It’s also one of the few moments where I can enjoy time with my ageing grandparents, and for me this is the most precious gift of all.
It’s a well-known fact that the two hearts of Sensity beat both in Luxembourg and Cologne. As my family lives close to the border with Luxembourg, we identify with many of the traditions from this small but fascinating country.
On Christmas Eve, my mother cooks for us and prepares the traditional Luxembourg dish “Bouchée à la Reine”. This can be loosely translated as “Queen’s morsel” and consists of a hollow case of puff pastry filled with chicken or fish in a rich sauce. In Luxembourg, it’s a dish which is enjoyed throughout the year, but to us, it’s a “royal” treat and special exclusive for one day only. That’s why we always look forward to enjoying it together with family.
The dish itself originates in France but the queen (Maria Leszczyńska, married to French King Louis XV) after whom it was named lived in the Palatinate and Alsace region for a long time after fleeing Poland. As my grandmother also migrated from Silesia (now Poland) to the Mosel region and my mother’s name is Maria, this dish is a particularly fitting special meal for our family.
However you’ve decided to spend the holidays, we wish you and your loved ones lots of fun with your own festive traditions!