Perspectives: 10 Families on How They Celebrate Christmas

Perspectives: Celebrating Christmas

Verywell / Christian Alzate

For our Perspectives series, we are interviewing diverse people from around the world on how they celebrate Christmas.

The holiday season is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year." And for plenty of families, it is exactly that—kids gleefully opening presents as adults catch up with family members they haven't seen in years. It can be a time of embracing traditions, new and old alike.

We spoke to 10 families from around the world to find out how they celebrate this special time of year. From giving back to hunkering down with little ones, we hope their stories will fill your heart with joy and your mind with plenty of ideas to add to your holiday tradition list!

Tara Meyers

Tara Meyers and her family

Verywell / Christian Alzate

Tara Meyers

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Partner: Joe

Occupation: Founder of World Share

Kid's Ages: 2, 7

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

We are very fortunate to have our extended family living close to us. Ever since I was a little girl, my family would host a large Christmas Eve party for family, friends, neighbors, and anyone who didn't have someone to celebrate with. All were welcome. Now that I am older with a family of my own, we like to continue this on and we host on Christmas Eve with an open invitation to all.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

Christmas Day is casual and slow, to allow us to savor the moment and the miracle of Jesus' birth. We stay in our pajamas, make breakfast, sit by the fire, and open presents. It's time together with family that is deeply cherished.

Tara Meyers

We stay in our pajamas, make breakfast, sit by the fire, and open presents. It's time together with family that is deeply cherished.

— Tara Meyers

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

Our favorite Christmas tradition is hosting a give-back event called Santa Photos for a Cause, benefiting Make-A-Wish and kids battling a critical illness. This year will be our fourth year hosting the event. Each year it has grown in awareness and money raised—even during COVID-19!

We put on an event where Santa comes and families can take their photo with him for free. We accept donations, but they are not required. It's been a wonderful way for us to keep everything in perspective during a season that can become all about indulgence and gifts. It also allows us to teach our kids and others about the importance of giving to those in need, especially during the Christmas season!

We were so impacted by being able to serve others that we've since started an organization called World Share, where we make it easy for people to serve and make an impact in their own communities throughout the year.

Jennifer Dorety

Jennifer Dorety

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Jennifer Dorety

Location: Perry, NY

Partner: Rebecca

Occupation: Teacher

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

My immediate family makeup is just me and my partner of 10 years, Rebecca, and our cat, Penny. Now that my younger sisters have families of their own, Christmas has been pushed around a little bit. Meaning that, instead of Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 and Christmas on Dec. 25, we all get together the night of Dec. 25 and that becomes our Christmas Eve.

There are now eight adults, and three littles (with one more arriving any day!), and we still all sit together on our Christmas Eve and read "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" together. Then we celebrate Christmas Day on Dec. 26!

As an adult, my wife and I have created our own Christmas traditions! We are both very family-oriented and want to make sure that we are able to gift our families with what we would like to. That being said, we don’t celebrate our own Christmas in December, because our focus is on the rest of our families. Instead, we celebrate in January (although sometimes it has been in February!) when the Christmas chaos slows down, and we can adequately focus on one another.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

We treat January as our “Christmas month,” and that means we put up our tree and our decorations, and we make a Christmas movie box. Our movie box has a handful of wrapped Christmas movies, as well as wrapped candy for each of us. Each Friday night leading up to our Christmas, we pull out a wrapped movie and a wrapped candy for each, pop some popcorn, and enjoy some quiet time just the two of us.

On our Christmas Eve, we gift each other with new Christmas jammies and one of us is in charge of special Christmas Eve snacks for our last Christmas movie. (The other is in charge of breakfast for Christmas morning!) Christmas Eve afternoon, we finish wrapping whatever gifts need to go under the tree, and then stuffing stockings (which also include gifts for the cat)!

Jennifer Dorety

For Christmas, we get each other five things—something to read, something to wear, something you want, something you need, and something just for fun.

— Jennifer Dorety

For Christmas, we get each other five things—something to read, something to wear, something you want, something you need, and something just for fun. On our Christmas day, we open gifts after we have our special Christmas breakfast, then we spend the day watching Christmas movies and playing board games. We spend the evening making a special Christmas dinner together and dancing in the kitchen.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

My family instilled a love of traditions from a very young age, especially when it came to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, each of us kids would get to open a gift of our own, and then we would open a Disney movie. Then we would sit down as an entire family and watch the movie together. It was the only time of the year that my parents would sit and watch a movie with us kids.

After the movie, we would read "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" before going to bed. At first, my parents read it to us, but as we got older and were able to read, we would pass the book around and each of us would read a page out loud. The book was the one thing we were still able to do even when the three of us got older and got to the point where we had other commitments on Christmas Eve. We would just read it with all of us on speakerphone instead!

As a teacher, I have my own Christmas tradition each year with my students! Each year, we have a Polar Express party just before our Christmas break. This means I stay late the night before and decorate the room with a train and balloon “lights,” and place Christmas presents around the tree beside our “fireplace."

The following day, they each get a Santa hat and “board the train” (they get “tickets” just before they walk in the door), and then we spend our entire day playing Christmas games (jingle bell toss, Santa cup knockdown, Christmas obstacle course, etc.), making hot chocolate and a graham cracker train snack, and then we read "The Polar Express" and watch the movie before we sit “on the train” and indulge in our Christmas snacks and hot chocolate.

I also wrap 18 different pairs of Christmas socks individually, handing them each a package at Circle Time, and I read "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" to them. Each time I turn the page, they pass their package to the friend next to them, and the packages circulate around the group. They have no idea what’s in them!

When the book is done, they get to open the package that they are holding, and they put on their new socks to wear for the rest of the day. When they go home at the end of the day, they get a bell on a string with a tag that reads, “The bell still rings for all those who truly believe.”

Siobhan Alvarez

Siobhan Alvarez

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Siobhan Alvarez

Location: Atlanta, GA

Partner: Matthew

Occupation: Founder of Mimosas & Motherhood

Kid's Ages: 2, 3.5

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

Christmas has started looking a little different for us since starting a family! We celebrate Christmas Eve at home with just us, and on Christmas morning we also have just our little family.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

After unwrapping gifts, we travel to see my family for the rest of Christmas Day, eating a big meal there and spending time having fun as a big group.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

Our favorite Christmas tradition is the Santa Sack tradition! As someone with a background in nonprofits, I wanted our boys to start learning about the importance of giving back to others, and we started this tradition last year when our oldest was two and a half.

The concept behind the Santa Sack is so easy! Your kids choose toys that they no longer play with or want to fill a special sack, which Santa takes with him on Christmas Eve to give to other children around the world who might not get as many toys this year. It sparks a lot of important conversations around different families both around the world and in our own community.

Monica Greco

Monica Greco and family

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Monica Greco

Location: New Zealand

Partner: Jo

Occupation: Founder of Conquering Motherhood

Kid's Ages: 2, 4.5

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

We usually spend it with our neighbors, who have become our extended family.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

We love to start the day by getting my mom and dad on a video call so they can see the kids and wish them merry Christmas, as well as open the presents together. Being without family during Christmas time is so hard, so we really try and make that distance feel as insignificant as possible.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

Both my wife and I don't have any family where we live. My parents live in Italy and my wife lost her parents many years ago. We feel very blessed to have found people that love us so much here and that want to include us in their family celebrations during such a special time of the year.

Holly Rodriguez

Holly Rodriguez and family

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Holly Rodriguez

Location: Richmond, VA

Partner: Single mom

Occupation: Advancement and Communications Specialist

Kid's Ages: 9, 15

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

The three of us—me and my sons, who are 15 years old and 9 years old. This year we will be spending Christmas in Mississippi with my college roommate and her husband and their daughter.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

Usually, Christmas Eve is with me and Christmas Day is just the three of us until noon. Then, my children's father comes to pick them up so they can spend Christmas with him and his parents.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

We have a few traditions. First, new pajamas are given on, and worn on Christmas Eve. Then, we stay up until midnight and open one gift on Christmas Eve. Finally, we always go to see the Nutcracker Ballet during the holiday season!

Amanda Melrose

Amanda Melrose and family

Verywell / Christian Alzate

Amanda Melrose

Location: West Granby, CT

Partner: Stephen

Occupation: Founder of Twenty Tiny Toes

Kid's Ages: 2-year-old twins, 7

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

My partner and I are staying together for the kids, so it makes things a bit awkward. This will be our second Christmas since we decided not to work on our marriage and my husband moved out of our bedroom to stay here for the kids. We have three children: A daughter who is 7 years old and boy/girl twins who will be 2 years old next month. We'll spend the time together.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

We usually stay home and invite both sets of grandparents over, as well as my husband's sister and her family. We usually start the day opening gifts with just us and the kids and my mother, then a little later the others arrive and we have a Christmas dinner together.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

We have many traditions. We always cut our own Christmas tree and decorate it as a family. We go all out on decorating inside our home. My most special decorations are a set of figurines that belonged to my great-grandmother. There are special books we read every year, too. My favorite is one from my own childhood called "The Hedgehogs' Christmas Tree." We usually attend Mass on Christmas Eve.

Alice Anderson

Alice Anderson

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Alice Anderson

Location: New York, NY

Partner: Rob

Occupation: Founder and creator of Mommy to Mom

Kid's Ages: 7, 13

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

We start on Christmas Eve, either hosting family members at our house or at my sister's house down the street from us. We get together with good food, have some laughs, and everyone brings gifts for the kids. Sometimes we play games or just sit and chat catching up with one another. Our kids are usually so excited that they go to bed very late and end up waking up around 5 A.M. on Christmas morning. Christmas Day is just us.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

We usually celebrate Christmas the same way every year. My husband and I have coffee while the living room gets turned into a sea of wrapping paper and presents. After the gifts are opened, we have a big breakfast. Then we go to church (or watch it online) and spend the rest of the day at home together playing with toys and video chatting with out-of-town family members.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

My favorite Christmas tradition is how we spend a weekend together every year in the beginning of December. We start out by going shopping for new Christmas tree ornaments that represent something special to each of us from that year. After that, we go home and spend the day putting up our decorations. The next day, we bake a bunch of different cookies and when it gets dark outside, we drive through neighborhoods looking at all of the Christmas lights.

Jessi Pasini

Jessi Pasini

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Jessi Pasini

Location: Nashville, TN

Partner: Alessio

Occupation: Entrepreneur and TikTokker @jessi.pasini

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

We spend Christmas morning together with our sweet black cat, Micia.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

My husband and I are still very much trying to start our family, but after struggling to conceive for over two years, experiencing one miscarriage, and undergoing two surgeries and infertility treatments, Christmastime can really hit us deep in our hearts.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

As a couple struggling with infertility, Christmas can be a very emotional time. We feel that constant yearning to be able to share Christmas traditions with our kids and help bring the magic of the holidays to life for them.

Whether baking cookies, wrapping presents, driving around to see Christmas lights, or watching movies, we try to do it all together, with gratitude in our hearts. It's important for infertile couples to know that you are allowed to grieve a childless Christmas while also finding moments of joy, magic, and fun that you can experience together.

Julie Cole 

Julie Cole and family

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Julie Cole

Location: Ontario, Canada

Partner: Dave

Occupation: Co-founder of Mabel’s Labels

Kid's Ages: 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

We usually travel to Australia every second Christmas to visit with family, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no travel overseas.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

The one thing that always bothered me was that once the Christmas morning unwrapping was done, you were left with a bit of a present hangover, lots of garbage, underappreciated toys, and the dread of having to wait another whole year to do it again.

I’m always inspired by the giving I see during this season and am especially impressed when I see parents actively engaging their children in the act of giving.

Julie Cole

I’m always inspired by the giving I see during this season and am especially impressed when I see parents actively engaging their children in the act of giving.

— Julie Cole

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

My family has our own tradition rooted in giving back. Several years ago, we decided that our kids get enough “stuff” and that Santa has been very generous to them over the years. It seemed excessive to be then exchanging presents with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We knew we could do better than that. We wondered how our big, extended family could celebrate the holidays together by giving to those outside of our family. My sister rallied us all and set up a new plan.

Every December, my sister collects our funds, purchases gift cards, and then gathers all of her nieces and nephews to have them write out cards for our friends living with homelessness. We all then hit the streets to share our gift cards and enjoy some friendly interactions and holiday greetings with these lovely community members.

The lessons in this act of giving are endless. Our kids appreciate what they have, and learn the valuable lesson around giving—that it is so much better than receiving. It also provides them with positive interactions with people living with homelessness.

Paula Feather

Paula Feather

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Paula Feather

Location: Morganville, NJ

Partner: Frank

Occupation: Author of "Tall Willows"

Kid's Ages: 18, 20

Who Do You Spend Christmas With?

When I was a small child, Christmas Eve was spent at my grandparents' dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania. My mom was one of 10, and by the time I was born, all of her siblings had married and had children. I had 10 aunts, 10 uncles, and over 50 cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed, and so on. Add into that mix neighbors, friends, friends of friends, and believe me, the old farmhouse was packed. There was food, and laughter, and a visit from real live Santa Clause.

Today, that was a lot of tradition to live up to. I don't think my husband and I knew 50 people when we first got married and moved far away from both of our families. On Christmas, we invite friends over for posole, tamales, and several cups of cheer. One family, in particular, has joined us for more than fifteen years. They are our adopted family, and we rarely celebrate any occasion without them.

What Does Christmas Day Look Like in Your Family?

On Christmas Day, my childrens' habit has become a tradition. My kids (yes, now in college) eat cookies for breakfast, then stay in pajamas all day—even eating Christmas dinner in their pj's! We spend the day relaxing together. Regardless of our employment, my husband and I make sure we have Christmas day off from work so our family can have the whole day together.

What is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition?

I knew that I wanted to create a holiday tradition that would rival my childhood memories.

The first year we were married, we visited a glassblowing artist, and I bought my first hand-blown glass Christmas bauble. I continued buying one glass bauble every year, usually from a vacation spot or someplace significant we'd been to that year.

When my two children were born, I began buying one bauble for me and one for each of them. My oldest is twenty years old, and I now have enough handblown glass to fill a seven-foot tree. When my children move to their own homes, they will have their own collection of glass Christmas balls, as well as memories of all the years we spent visiting family and friends and picking glass baubles.

Our traditions don't stop there. Being a family of four, without any relatives within 300 miles, I tried very hard to give my kids traditions they could remember and, if they like, carry on. I mentioned I was from Western PA, and we Pennsylvanians love our cookies. Every year I make a triple batch of my mother's fabulous gingerbread cookie dough. That's enough to make cookies and a gingerbread house. Everyone also picks a cookie for me to make. My children and husband decorate the gingerbread house and cookies while I make the other cookies they picked for that year.

My husband is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, a land rich with its own holiday traditions. For Christmas eve, I make a stew called posole. It's a mixture of pork shoulder, hominy, and red chile pods; it is delicious!

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