Our contributors share their childhood memories of the holidays. Some feelings and experiences transcend borders and nationalities: families gathered around long tables laden with food, chatter and laughter.

Traditional English Christmas dinner

Sean, contributor from the United Sates.

My mom is the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters, and almost all of them have multiple children.  It’s a big German-American, Catholic farm family. Almost the entire mom’s side of my family goes out to her parents’ farm house, for a family dinner and to open presents afterwards.  Once the cousins started being born (20+ of them), the gifts under the tree began to take up as much as 1/3 of the entire living room!

My grandma, with the help of my aunts, would prepare the Christmas feast, which always included: a whole roast turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy (with and without giblets), stuffing (with and without oysters), green bean casserole, ham, various salads, occasionally sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, cherry pie, “buckeye” candies, and lots of whip cream to go with.  My uncles provide homebrewed wine to drink, along with more common domestic American beers (and sometimes whisky).

It’s been fun to watch everyone grow up over the years; 15 of my cousins are within about 7 years of each other in age, so when I was in my early teens and the other cousins were getting to be around 9-10, they were a rambunctious group!  We’d occasionally take shotguns out back and target shoot, though usually it was just a lot of eating and talking.

In the US, at holiday dinners there is commonly a “kids’ table”, where the children would sit and eat with one or two adults watching them. I remember being really happy to graduate to the adults’ table.  My grandparents have been living in the same house, on the same farm, since the 1930’s and 40’s.  My grandma finally said “no” to hosting Thanksgiving this year. It’s going to be strange when this tradition is over, and we all separate and start our own Christmas traditions.

DeeBee, contributor from France

My most cherished memory of Christmas is waiting for Father Christmas or the Père Noël as we call him in France to come down the chimney!

Every year I would place a glass of milk for him and a carrot for his reindeer under the Christmas tree and would settle on the sofa with my teddy bear, both tucked under a duvet, by the fireplace, ready for him…

And every year I would be determined to surprise him, but would struggle to keep my eyes open, would fall asleep… and wake up the following morning in my bed!

My disappointment at not catching him was quickly replaced, though, by my excitement at discovering the pile of presents he had left for me!

All I knew is that he and his reindeer must have enjoyed the little presents I had left for them as the glass was empty and the carrot was gone!

I have always associated the magic of Christmas to this moment along with the unique fragrance of the fir tree and the warmth and cozy sitting room of my childhood.

Each of my Christmas has been Merry!

Ana, contributing editor from Argentina

My memories of Christmas are all about family around the dinner table. We celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and open the presents at the stroke of midnight. When we were little and still believed in Santa, an adult would suggest all the kids went outside to gaze at the stars and try to spot Santa. Meanwhile, somebody would frantically get the presents and put them under the tree. Then, we would be herded back inside to open the presents that sneaky Santa left while we were outside looking for him! It was great fun.

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About the author

Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.