7 Ideas for Christmas Traditions You Can Easily Adopt

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Choosing this photo of me posing with a chair in Celine’s house to start the post because it just exudes welcome to my Christmas-themed home vibes!

Let me start off by first saying I’ve lived through 23 Christmasses, some more memorable than others, which I would approximate to 15 years worth of Christmas memories. My family never quite had a fixed Christmas tradition. I suppose this is because our parents would adjust the celebration based on how old we were and how they could somehow make it a learning lesson for us. There have also been variations over the years purely based on how we feel. Some years, we would wake up in the morning before heading to church to open our gifts. Other years, we would sleep in, head to church, and open presents after lunch.

I’ve always been fascinated by how different families celebrate this season and as us siblings have now grown up and are scattered across different countries, I thought to document the little ways in which we’ve celebrated Christmas, which could maybe perhaps quite possibly become traditions you could start (if you haven’t already!). The ones listed here are pretty easy to replicate, and whether you want to do so with your friends, partner, or family, there's at least one you'll find relevant! 

BTW I also dug through my hard drive for some real-life straight from the archive action, so along with little Instagram plugs, you will also be getting some of that wholesome 2011 goodness in this post!

1. Gifts shopping!

I remember a vague history of being taken to shopping malls as children and being given some money – about RM10 to RM30 – and my parents would take us in turns to pick out presents for our siblings. For years, my sister and I chose Hot Wheels cars for my brother who was obsessed with cars the way young boys can be, and with my parents’ cajoling, we would pick out stationery or colouring books for each other.

My parents always got my brother to pick my sister and me the same thing, or something very similar, so we wouldn’t fight over our gifts LOL. This little exercise taught us the joy of giving, of being able to say “I chose that for you!” and though this tradition has stopped over the years as we grew up enough to buy our own gifts, every time I’m doing my Christmas shopping, I’m brought back to my childhood in Ipoh, mulling hard over what my siblings would like.

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A particularly abundant haul in 2013!

2. Santa

Growing up, there was a period of time that Santa was very real to me. I remember staying up with my sister one night in front of the Christmas tree, fighting a battle against sleep to catch Santa in the act. LOL fruitless attempt as I woke up in bed none the wiser. My parents fuelled the fantasy for a while and I remember a year where my dad showed up at night dressed in a Santa costume, complete with white beard, thoroughly confusing me as I was just beginning to overcome my Santa belief.

A belief in Santa is pretty fun when growing up, and I remember years of writing letters to Santa, which our parents would read to find out what presents to get. When I eventually realized the truth, I was grateful to my parents for having made Christmas gifts seem so magical and fun!

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I make a pretty decent Santa if I say so myself!

On a semi-related note, I believed in the Tooth Fairy most of my childhood, eventually realising the truth when I woke up one morning, with my mom leaning over me, her hand underneath my pillow. Screams ensued.

3. Gifts opening!

Presents were a joy to give, but were also a joy to receive. Once the illusion of Santa ended, our parents would give us Christmas presents which were geared towards helping us pursue our interests/hobbies. I got a camera the year after I started blogging (I was 10!!), while my brother got an electric guitar when he formed an interest in music. There was one year where my dad gave us all little “quizzes” to solve in order to get to our gift. For instance, he gave me a sling bag and my clue was that I “didn’t need hands to use it”. Last year, he gave me a hand drawn “gift certificate” to redeem for a camera lens.

My mom on the other hand, would be the readiest and earliest with Christmas presents. I reckon by September/October, she’d have the gift in mind. LOL then for the next few months, she’d drop hints about the gift she got. “Tiff, you like this, right?” “Is this something you would wear?” She’d be the one to arrange the gifts nicely under the Christmas tree and ensure all of us have adequate wrapping paper and tape.

One year, my sister made bento boxes with sausages cut into octopus shapes, and eggs made to look like baby chicks (lol in hindsight, that’s rather cruel). She wrapped those up for us to open, which made for a pretty interesting gift.

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Straight out of the 2011 photo albums!

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Maximum effort Christmas present!

We make it a point to go out and get presents for each other, wrapping them up and leaving them under a tree/bench/wherever to get us all excited as Christmas day approaches! When opening them, we do it in front of each other in turns. For example, my mom would open all her presents first, then my brother, my sister, etc. So it’s an occasion for everyone to see what we all got and gave.

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Here’s one from 2013!

4. Extended family Christmas

Christmas celebration would almost always involve the extended family on my dad’s side as well! The night before, we’d have dinner and adjourn to someone’s house. There, the cousins would hang, adults would talk, and at midnight, we’d have some sort of gift exchange on a Daiso budget. The gifts were always randomly exchanged, and at the end of the night, there was always some cousin trying to exchange with the adults a candle for a towel, some soap for sunglasses, etc. Our helpers usually joined in the fun as well which made for an even livelier, bigger event.

For the gift exchange, one of the ways we do it is assign a number to each gift. When we arrive wherever it is, the presents are numbered. We then pull out numbers out of a hat/container and get allocated gifts. For about 5 minutes after that, we can swap gifts with each other to try to get something we like more LOL. One of the "disadvantages” of this system is that you’d occasionally end up with the gift you prepared!
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Aww, looking back at these pictures, I almost took for granted the times we had for all of us to spend together as family. Now so many of us are based across different countries and starting careers we used to joke around about.

5. Friends-mas!

When I was a student in London, the familiar familial traditions of home were miles away. So we started our own with friends by hosting small parties and having gift exchanges.

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Christmas as a student in London was always a fun occasion with friends!

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When uploading this picture, my heart gave a little squeeze of longing for the great girls I was friends with at university. Nothing warms the heart quite like love, and the love of friendship can be so very warm.

Since starting work in 2016, we’ve refined further this tradition with friends and there’s a small ongoing tradition with some work girlfriends to have a yearly Christmas party, complete with gifts exchange and dress up! We set an outfit theme every year and use Draw Names which is a website built for Secret Santa/gift exchanges. Participants can join over a link, set a date for the exchange, have the names be randomly drawn up, and even choose wishlists! Since my girlfriends and I have been doing this for a few years now, we already have a group on Draw Names, which remembers who were assigned to each other the year before, and lets us exclude the same two people from drawing each others names, just to keep things interesting.

You don’t always need to be with family to celebrate Christmas and friends could always be great people to foster traditions with. For the past two years, we’ve been celebrating our Christmas parties at someone’s house, but this year, we’ve levelled up a little and booked an AirBnB for our stay!



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Decorated hideous Christmas cookies as an activity on one of the years.

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LOL try and guess the 2017 theme! 10 points for your house if you get it right.

6. Matching sweaters

Another more “recent” tradition is one that has been semi-ongoing since 2014, when my boyfriend and I started dating. He bought us Christmas sweaters on our first Christmas together and although it’s too warm to wear them in Malaysia, it is great fun putting the sweaters on for the pictures, just watching how we’ve changed over the years. We managed to keep this up only a couple of years but it’s certainly a cute tradition worth considering!

If you’re living somewhere cold, do it with friends or family! It’s one of those rare occasions where you can match your outfits and have it be somewhat ironic rather than 100% lame.

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LDR does mean that it’s pretty tough for us to get recent photos of us both in the sweaters so here’s us poorly photoshopped onto some hideous Christmas jumpers, just so you get an idea of how cute it is lolol.

Also note that my legs have probably never been that skinny, ever.

7. Christmas decorations

I was a little hesitant to include this as a “tradition” as we don’t do this every year, but for most of my life, come December, our good ol’ Christmas tree is set up in a place of honour in our home, covered in ornaments we’ve collected over the years and sparkly tinsel. My mom hangs a wreath on the front door, and our placemats are changed to Christmas-themed ones.

Side note - I actually forgot the word for “tinsel” and Googled “sparkly Christmas string on tree”, which led me to the Wikipedia page on tinsel. Did you know that it’s meant to mimic the effect of ice, hence the sparkly strips?? Well, if you didn’t, here's tiffanykml.com bringing you bits of random trivia which may or may not help you in your next pub quiz! 

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And there you go! Just some of the small ways in which I’ve celebrated Christmas and if you’ve always wanted to but don’t know how, feel free to borrow some of the traditions here and make them your own! Or if you celebrate in your own way, do share them in the comments!

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