While my family have a lot of your typical North American Christmas traditions, like decorating a tree there are a few oddball ones that I and my family have developed over the years, so I thought I'd share a few:
1) Christmas Carols as of November 1. This tradition started in university. Most of December was usually consumed by exams, so my friends and I would go gift shopping in early November so we wouldn't leave it too late. Now I always crank up the carols after Halloween. Last year we returned from our honeymoon late on October 30, spent one day in Ottawa, and moved all my things to Toronto the following day. Gil drove the the U-Haul with me following in my car, and you better believe I was listening to Christmas music all the way! My husband is not so keen on this tradition, so now it is mainly limited to my car and when I'm home alone.
2) Garfield Santa and Garfield Angel. We got these stuffed toys from McDonald's some time when I was a kid*, and they have aged remarkably well. My mom let me take them off to university with me (I believe I hung the Garfield Angel from the ceiling by his halo using dental floss). Ever since then, I bring out the Garfields to decorate at Christmas time. Even though I have some classier decorations now, these plush friends still make me happy.
3) The Santa Stocking. As a kid, my mom had a set of four stockings, each with a different design: Santa Claus, a snowwoman, a nutcracker/soldier, and a teddy bear. I had the teddy bear and my brother happily had the soldier, but when my dad moved out, we each decided we liked the Santa stocking best. Every year, we would fight over who should have Santa, so my mom made us take turns.... and we still do! We have a slip of paper in the stocking to keep track of who had it each year. Come to think of it, I'm not sure who's turn it is for 2012...
4) My Mom's unintentional insults. This isn't a real tradition, but it's something my mom ends up doing every year by accident. When we were little, my brother and I were kind of obsessed with fairness, so I guess Mom tried to keep the presents even. Now we don't care, but my mom still tries to give us a similar number of presents and even give us similar gifts. When this fails, she always feels the need to explain herself, which leads to hilarious statements like, “Now Neil, I've bought your sister several books and none for you, but that's not because I think you can't read very well.” Mom never fails to make us laugh each Christmas with her explanations.
Of course, there are serious things to ponder, and I am trying to be more mindful than usual of the spiritual significance of Advent this year, but that doesn't mean I can't also enjoy the lighthearted side of life.
*A little digging found me this McDonalds ad ca. 1991 featuring my Garfield buddies. Check it out!