Christmas traditions

Christmas is a time to reflect, reconnect with friends and family and celebrate all the wonderful things in our lives. Here are some of the many ways families in America celebrate the holiday by way of Christmas traditions.

Decorating house with lights – High electric bills be damned! Putting up the Christmas lights usually starts happening right after Thanksgiving. Taking them down afterwards is a different story.

Leaving milk/cookies for Santa – This might be the quintessential Christmas tradition. The kids love it (and presumably the parents, er, Santa, enjoys it as well).

Volunteering – Many people feel Christmas is a time to give back to their community and will volunteer serving meals and helping those in need.

Christmas caroling – If you don’t mind a roaming pack of singers showing up on your doorstep and belting out a song, you will love it. If you’re in a cranky mood and carolers start knocking on the door, you may not answer, you Scrooge.

Cookie swap – Christmas cookies are in abundance during the holiday season, which is why co-workers and friends often participate in cookie swaps. What’s not to love?!

Christmas cards – A tradition that predates e-mail is sending out Christmas cards along with a letter inside that recaps what the family has been up to the past year.

The Nutcracker – Going to the local theater (or dressing up and trekking into the big city) to go see The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for those with young kids. It’s unclear why we make kids sit through The Nutcracker, but so be it.

Opening one gift on Christmas Eve – Only because the kids bug parents incessantly do the little ones get to open one of their presents on Christmas Eve. Can’t they just wait? (No, they can’t!)

Going to pick out a Christmas tree – This is one tradition that seems like a good idea. But once you’re at the tree farm and you’ve somehow got to strap a 15-foot tree to the roof of your car, you will ask yourself why you didn’t stick with an artificial tree.

Collecting ornaments – Decorating the Christmas tree is a tradition in and of itself. So is buying a new ornament every year and adding it to the collection. At some point your basement becomes cluttered with these things, but that is what green and red storage bins are for.

Other Christmas traditions in America include watching football, going to the local Christmas parade, setting up nativity scenes in the front yard, driving around looking at lights on houses, reading Christmas stories before bed on Christmas Eve, attending midnight mass and of course, wishing for a White Christmas.

Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve

For children, there may be no more exciting time than Christmas Eve and, of course, Christmas Day. Part of the Christmas tradition includes leaving Santa a glass of milk and plate of cookies. And tracking Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve as he delivers presents all over the world is also part of the excitement. Here are some of the easiest ways to track Santa on Christmas Eve.

The granddaddy of all Santa trackers is the NORAD Tracks Santa website. It provides a Santa Cam and up-to-the-hour updates of Santa’s whereabouts. Would you believe that there is also a NORAD Santa Tracker podcast? Ho, ho, ho, you better believe it! Download it for free from iTunes.

For a fully immersed Santa Claus experience, point your web browser to santaclaus.net and track Santa as well as play games, get the weather at the North Pole or get to know Santa’s reindeer.

The Santa-T website  is a little more basic and might be suited for the younger Christmas crowd. You can track Santa, play with the reindeer and even send Santa wish list suggestions. There’s also a countdown clock that tells you the precise moment Santa will arrive at your house.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without iPhone and iPad apps. This Santa Tracker has 7-in-1 features for the iPhone. And for those with the iPad, the Santa GPS app looks like it is a fun way to keep tabs on old St. Nick.

You might have luck trying Google’s homepage on Christmas Eve as the elves over there usually seem to get in the holiday spirit and serve up a Santa tracker of their own.

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!