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The Reluctant Columnist - Christmas Coconuts & Other Weird Traditions

POSTED December 21, 2011 12:00 a.m.

When I was a little kid I assumed that everyone celebrated Christmas exactly the same way that my family did. Christmas shopping was done no sooner than two weeks before Christmas. The outside lights did not go on the house until after Dec. 9, which happened to be my sister Sandra’s birthday. And above all I knew that Santa did not wrap the presents he left on Christmas morning.
The older I got the more confused I was about how Christmas was really celebrated. My friends regaled me with tales of unwrapping presents from Santa on Christmas morning. But these stories never made any sense, because in my house Santa never, ever wrapped the presents. I could only assume that my friends were all bad little boys and girls and that their parents were leaving the presents to make them feel better after being skipped by Santa. Finally, I asked my parents about this irregularity of Santa wrapping gifts.
“We asked Santa not to wrap your presents, because we don’t want you to wake us up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning and bug us about opening them,” was my dad’s reply.
My friends were equally confused by my family’s tradition of placing a coconut under the Christmas tree. Every year we buy a coconut on Christmas Eve and put it under the tree. This was a tradition on my mom’s side of the family, although nobody can tell me exactly why we do it. We usually cracked the coconut open on New Year’s day and ate it for good luck, although I think that part might have been improvised by my dad.
I have found that most families have their own “Christmas Coconut,” that one unusual tradition that they have always done. One co-worker, Sabra Stafford, has a family tradition of finding an almond in a fruit salad on Christmas morning to win a prize. It started when her grandmother put one single almond in a fruit salad, and it turned into a yearly tradition. The prize was usually something white-elephant inspired, or something her grandmother wanted to get rid of. It is a fun holiday tradition that Sabra now shares with her grand nieces.
A close friend of mine bakes a birthday cake for Jesus every year. The tradition started when she was a little girl as a way for her parents to better incorporate the story of Christ’s birth into their holiday celebrations. She still bakes a cake and holds a birthday party for Jesus with her little nieces and nephews to continue the family tradition. The kids love it, and my friend enjoys sharing her traditions with another generation of the family.
Some families open gifts on Christmas Eve, some wait until Christmas morning. I was allowed to unwrap one gift from my parents on Christmas Eve, but the rest were saved for the next morning. I always woke up extra early on Christmas morning to see what Santa left for me. My sister and I would sneak into the living room, check out all of our gifts, and then go back to sleep. Gifts from everyone except for Santa were unwrapped later that morning. Our stockings always had an orange, some nuts and at least one gold coin (usually of the chocolate variety.)
The one thing I have learned about celebrating holidays is that each family has their own way of doing things. So however you choose to celebrate this holiday season, I hope that it is a good one for you. Consider starting a new family tradition this year, something fun that you can share for years to come. You can borrow my coconut under the tree tradition; my family won’t mind.

Andrea Goodwin is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at agoodwin@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

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