I consider myself a pretty lucky person because I have celebrated Christmas in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, I've celebrated Thanksgiving (Although 'm not American), I've been invited to Hanukah celebrations and I've even celebrated several Muslim holidays.
We all think the way we celebrate is "normal". Doesn't everyone have a White Christmas or Christmas on the beach, for example. We think our normal is the normal. Celebrating different holidays with different people shows you there is no such thing as normal.
Even better it shows you there are many, many ways to celebrate.
When I was a child Christmas looked like this. Wake up in the stinking heat (about 5am if you were me) and do presents with my immediate family, then head to Mass. Next stop family friends for drinks. By noon we were at my father's family for a long, lovely lunch with pudding, Christmas crackers with the bad paper hats, cheap toys and jokes and lots and lots of cousins. Back in the car and off to the next place for dinner, that was my mum's side. Repeat the lunch part fo the day, right down to the menu just add different relatives. Finally load into the car again and drive south from Sydney, through the Royal National Park to my grandparents beach house. Anyone exhausted yet?
One of my favourite Christmas memories as a kid is that my mother would let us have whatever we wanted for breakfast. My sister would choose chocolate custard. I varied my choice a bit - one year it was strawberries and another bacon and eggs. You have to admire someone who did that before the epic day laid out above.
As an adult my husband and I replicated this huge day trip model until our daughter was three. That was about ten years of married life. Our "best effort" included waking up at our beachside flat, driving to my parent's house in Sydney's North, lunch back in the Eastern Suburbs and dessert at my in-laws in a coastal town over four hours north of Sydney. (That was actually a really great Christmas even it might not sound like it!)
No wonder we ran out of steam! No wonder my favourite day of the year is Boxing Day. My Boxing Day looks like this. Wake up late and eat leftovers all day. Lay in the hammock, drink the leftover alcohol and read a book (My husband always gives me a new book for Christmas). Heaven!
Once we decided to do my family one year and the in-laws the next our Christmas has developed it's own rhythm. One Christmas, we were home for lunch because we had family dinner, I asked my daughter what she wanted for lunch. Her answer was party pies. So we had a platter that consisted of prawns, smoked salmon, cherries and party pies - it's still her favourite Christmas meal.
As a writer I love reading about how other people celebrate holidays and create their traditions which become their stories. That becomes their normal.