The informant is Catholic, and of Irish descent. They agreed to meet up with me, and share pieces of folklore for this project.
So what do you do for Christmas?
“Ok so for Christmas, we always set up a Christmas tree, which is like, um a pine tree or an evergreen tree and we go… Like exactly a month before Christmas, my family would always go to like an outdoor lot and pick out a Christmas tree. And we- and then the… also a month before Christmas- so like the month before is when it kinda starts. We have Saint Nicholas’s Day which is, we would put our stockings up and we would get like…”
“Yeah; Saint Nick’s Day is like… it’s a Catholic thing. Um so, you put your stockings out and Saint Nick comes. It’s like an early… he gives you like… it’s not exactly like Christmas but he gives you like candy in your stocking and like. We’d always get an ornament, like one ornament so we can put it on the tree for that year.
And then… when it’s like Christmas Eve, we would go and we had like our- we had like a Christmas Eve… celebration at one family’s house. And then, we would like do- we would open presents there, some presents. The next day on Christmas morning we had this rule that like you couldn’t- you couldn’t open your- So there were presents, you played Santa, or your- and your parents would come and like put, um presents under the tree, but you weren’t allowed to open the presents until you went downstairs an- Ours was outside; we wait until we opened our stockings first, which are next to the chimney. Stocking’s next to the chimney, tree’s like in the family room. And we’d always open our stockings first, and then go and open presents. And that was like the Santa part of our Christmas.
We would also go the church, like we’d go to the Midnight Mass so in between- so you know like I said- This is sort of out of order, but you know how I said like the night before, we would have the pre-Christmas where we opened presents? And then immediately afterwards go to the Midnight Mass at church. And then the next morning, we would have our Christmas morning thing.”
I included this piece because the way we overlook pieces of folklore within our daily lives because they are so ingrained into us as normal always amazes me. While Christmas is one of the biggest holiday in the U.S., nearly every family who celebrates it has their own take on what is tradition. Thus, if one was to organize those who celebrate Christmas into groups, how one group celebrates Christmas could be wildly different from say, how the informant and their family celebrates the holiday.
This also reminds me of when we talked about vernacular religion. Christmas is not necessarily a day-to-day occurrence, but the fact that people celebrate it in whatever way they want still stands. There is no “official” religious text or requirement for people to receive an ornament in preparation for Christmas, but the informant and their family holds onto this tradition anyways as they observe the holiday each year.