I will be awfully honest with you and tell you that this post is the most egoistical one I have ever wrote. I am writing about how Christmas was when I was a child, in the hopes of reliving those magical moments. I am always curious to know what traditions people have for the holidays in different parts of the world, but whether you want it or not, I will share how my kind of a holiday looks like.
Disclaimer: if you are a Grinch, absolutely every word in this post will annoy you and probably your doctor would recommend you skip it. Before you go though, Grinchy, I just want to let you know that I am writing this post surrounded by flickering lights and listening to carols in the background, the only thing that’s missing, is mulled wine.
I will stop being naughty and teasing the Grinches of the world now, because I still want Santa to leave something under the tree for me.
Christmas Eve morning
This is one part of the holidays that has not changed much along the years. Remember that I said that I remember Christmas as being magical when I was a child? First magical thing that happened is that I did not need an alarm clock to wake me up really early in the morning. This was the most exciting day of the year, why waste time sleeping?
First things first, I would have hot cocoa when I was younger, coffee when I was a teenager. At this point, my parents would have been awake and probably having their second coffee of the day – it’s still a mystery how they actually manage to wake up that early.
After coffee/ hot cocoa and a quick, always forgettable breakfast, Mom would start (well, continue) the baking she started days ago. Dad would go out to buy what we always forgot even though we double and triple checked and I would start dusting and cleaning. I can guarantee that you have never seen me as excited for cleaning as you do on Christmas Eve. Also, while cleaning, I also clean Mom’s dishes that have some extra cream or chocolate – I am that dedicated this time of the year.
Mid-day Christmas Eve
At some point around around mid-day, lunch will follow, but it will be just as forgettable as the breakfast. Who can have lunch after testing if Mom’s cookies and cakes are poisoned or not, anyways? That used to be my favourite excuse to “test” Mom’s cooking before anyone else.
After lunch, something would be boiling, cookies baking in the oven and time would start slowing down. When I was really little, this would be the moment when we’d bring our natural tree in the house and Dad would “chop” the ends so that they would fit in the tree stand. I don’t remember if my parents ever enjoyed decorating the tree, or was it that they realized quite early on that I loved it and just left this task for me.
This is literally my favourite part of Christmas, except maybe watching others unbox the presents I prepared for them…ok, opening those that are for me also, I admit! Now queue the song “Pentatonix – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and try to imagine how I decorated – part show, part decorating.
Christmas Eve afternoon (as a child)
Something that might not be the most familiar to most people and we used to do it every holiday, is caroling. Around 4/5 pm, we’d find a friend, sometimes even more than one, and go from door to door. We sometimes checked off the list the entire street, nobody was left un-caroled. We’d knock on doors, ask them if they are receiving carolers and if they did, we started singing. After we finished, probably to get rid of us, they would either give us cookies or 1 leu (Romanian currency) which is like 25p. But those were our hard earned/sung money. At 9/10 we were so proud that we earned our own money while encouraging the holiday spirit.
Evening/ Night (as a child)
This is the part that looked considerably different when I was a child and when I was in high-school / uni. When I was a child, we used to have my grandparents over for dinner. Do I need to say that Christmas food is the best food there is? That, if you’re not on a diet, or you have a slow metabolism. Romanian food is so heavy, it even kept Santa from coming down the chimney these past few years.
After dinner, we’d do the Rolling Stones move, and roll on to the floor, surrounding the presents. You guessed well, it’s unwrapping time! Is it only for Romanians that we associate Christmas with the smell of oranges? Without exception, we’d receive oranges every single year and we loved them.
Christmas Eve night as a teenager
This is the part that gets very different once that I am of the age to stay up at night. I don’t remember at what age we started doing this, but all my classmates and I would gather somewhere and then go caroling to each of our parents. We were absolutely unable to go to all of them, but we did go to at least 8 houses every Christmas.
As we were getting older, this tuned into a all night thing that we did. We knew which of the parents has the best stuffed cabbage and they knew we come hungry so that was kind of a meet-cute (any “The Holiday” fans here?) Other parents were offering us drinks and we would dance, or some where going caroling themselves so we knew that we were welcome to have our own little party…which always ended up in a sleep-over.
Point is, I would always return home from caroling at the break of dawn. Tired and happy. Also, excited because when I was in high-school, I convinced my parents to only open the presents on Christmas morning so I always had something to be excited about when I got home.
First thing when I got home was eating stuffed cabbage. Looking back, I can’t believe that at 5/6am I had the hardest to digest food that I have ever eaten, but that’s tradition, isn’t it? After stuffing myself with stuffed cabbage, it was unwrapping time! Up to a certain age, it seemed like all the Harry Potter books were translated in Romanian and sold around Christmas time because I would receive one every holiday. You can’t imagine how much those books made my childhood, and Mom’s adulthood also.
Let me explain this: after unwrapping all the presents, I would lay in bed reading my new Harry Potter book, until I fell asleep. My routine on Christmas Day was easy : sleep – eat – read – sleep. Only that, once I woke up and my book was nowhere to be found. So I went to ask my parents if they’ve seen it and surprise, surprise: Mom was reading it. I bet she was waiting like the cutest hawk for me to fall asleep.
It took us a few years to build our Christmas traditions – some where borrowed from my grandparents and some we made ourselves, but still to the day, those are the warmest memories that I have of my childhood. Nah, I am getting emotional now, I need some ice to cool me off…see you soon!