When my husband and I got married, we didn’t just combine households, we merged Christmas traditions. But it took some time.

My family has been in the South for a dozen generations, while my husband’s grandparents are from Poland. I had never even met a Polish person before Bob. He grew up in Detroit in a big Polish Catholic family, while my clan had to recruit great-aunts and second cousins just to draw a crowd.

While we settled into married life pretty easily, Christmas was a revelation. I have learned that weddings, funerals, births, and especially holidays are when people go back to their roots. Traditions handed down for generations are cherished and trotted out with the tinsel, the menorah, and Nativity.

Turns out, Polish people are really serious about their Christmas traditions. Christmas Eve even has a name, Wigilia, or Christmas vigil. There’s a special menu, including fish and pierogi, breaking oplatek, a special wafer with a religious scene printed onto it, and Midnight Mass. And if the kids were good during dinner, they would find a silver dollar under their plate.

My family’s Christmas meant stockings, turkey or ham, and playing games with my aunt.

We had a culture clash. Within a year, we were living far from both our families and facing Christmas. It took a while to work it out, but after 33 years, we have merged Polish and Southern U.S. customs into something that seems perfectly normal to our three kids.

We eat at Red Lobster every Christmas Eve (fish!), Bob’s mom mails us oplatek, attend Midnight Mass and the kids can’t imagine not getting a silver dollar tucked under their plate. On Christmas Day, we open stockings, play games, and make pizza. Yea, we came up with that on our own.

To the Future

Now that our three sons are older, we’ve added some new features. Our middle son is dating a young lady who is half Mexican, so Thanksgiving dinner included queso this year. Our youngest married a West Texas girl and they are starting their own tradition of going out for a steak dinner on the eve of Christmas Eve – perfect for these two Texans.

We’re looking forward to more new traditions as the family grows. Our family traditions have changed and adapted over the years. Whatever your traditions are, it only matters that they work for you and your family. Happy holidays!

By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers

Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas

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