Every now and then, the Husband and I stumble upon a new cultural difference between Americans and the English – even after being together for almost ten years.  I’m told that English people prefer to decorate the inside of their homes for Christmas.  And I think that most Americans focus on the lights and wreaths and lawn decorations on the outside of the house.  Right?


We do the inside and the outside, in case you’re wondering.  Compromise!


Speaking of Christmas traditions, are other countries as obsessed with kid and Santa photographs?  In American malls, Santa and his elves set up a big photography area, and parents and children line up by the dozen to wait to meet Santa.  The kid sits on his lap, tells him what he wants for Christmas, and then they get a photo.  I couldn’t WAIT to take Henry to meet Santa and start our collection of Santa pictures.


Unfortunately, our Santa experience went downhill very, very fast.  Henry loves strangers and hardly ever loses his cool, but Santa’s beard did his little head in.  Wahhhh.


I want to say that’s a bad Santa photo, but it’s also pretty funny.  Every kid needs at least one screamin’ Santa photo, right?


I’d love to host a Santa picture contest.  We’ll have two categories – Sweet Santas and Scary Santas.  Sweet Santas will be judged based on the kiddo’s smile, how jolly Santa looks, and the awesomeness of kid’s and Santa’s outfits.  Scary Santas will be judged based solely on the kiddo’s sour face.  Extra points are awarded for funny sibling expressions.  I’ll collect all the pictures and post the finalist on the blog next week.  And there will be a fun prize!  E-mail ‘em to caitlinjboyle@gmail.com with “Sweet Santa” or “Scary Santa” in the subject line.




Banana Oatmeal

Protein powder

Fried apples




Any epic Santa stories?  Do you decorate the outside or the inside of your house?  And I’d love to hear about other countries’ holiday traditions!



  • Vikki December 13, 2012, 9:43 am

    My mom has always decorated the inside of her house for Christmas so I don’t think this is a British thing. We’ve only started doing the outside in the last few years.

  • Mary December 13, 2012, 9:44 am

    I’m a non-poster, but I love your blog (and I grew up in Charlotte, so I feel a particular kinship to folks who report from the Queen city!). Your posts have helped out many many of my new momma friends!

    Have you seen this? It is the best, and they do a series every year!


    • Caitlin December 13, 2012, 9:45 am

      Thanks for reading Mary.

      OMG awesome gallery!!!

    • Nicole @ livingthesweetlifestl.wordpress.com December 13, 2012, 12:39 pm

      oh my goodness…this is the best collection ever. I loved the picture of the kids running away from him.

  • Sara December 13, 2012, 9:50 am

    We decorate inside more than we do the outside. I enjoy looking at everyone’s outdoor displays though! Our first child is due at the end of May and I’m excited that our baby will be about Henry’s age at Christmas next year for a first Santa photo! I think I’d cry too, Henry. That Santa looked kind of scary. Ha

  • Hope December 13, 2012, 9:54 am

    The screamin’ santa photos are always fun to look back at when they are older. My son will meet Santa for breakfast on Sunday. There is pretty much zero chance that he will let Santa hold him so I’ll probably sit next to Santa for the pic.

  • Amy@ahealthyandhappyheart December 13, 2012, 9:55 am

    We are taking our little boy this weekend! I have a feeling he is going to be scared!

  • Carly December 13, 2012, 9:55 am

    Here in the UK –specifically, Scotland- it’s definitely more decor inside the home. What you do find though is that those who do decorate the outside of the house go absolutely CRAZY for it – lights, displays, wreaths. The works!

    Also, that picture of Henry screaming in Santa’s lap? Genius. So, so good. He is too adorable!

  • Jayce December 13, 2012, 9:57 am

    One of my best friends lives in Switzerland, and they have an interesting Santa tradition there. Samichlaus is the jolly guy in red, but he is accompanied by Schmutzli, who basically looks like the grim reaper with a black face and all! I guess he is there to punish bad kids and scare the into behaving. But talk about scaring kids!

    We don’t do the Santa thing, but I do enjoy the funny pics. Henry’s is priceless.

  • Amy K December 13, 2012, 10:05 am

    Yep here in the UK we have A LOT of decorations inside. We have them on the ceiling, on the fireplace, on doors, on windows and everywhere else. We also have a lot outside as well mainly because my sister loves them and my mums birthday is Christmas eve so we are a Christmas family.
    You don’t really see the Father Christmas thing here. Me and my sisters certainly don’t have any pictures and it’s rare that you see people dressed up in a grotto. Maybe thats just up North (in Yorkshire). Judging by all the screaming pictures I wasn’t missing out. Ha ha!

  • Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries December 13, 2012, 10:07 am

    LOL I love the Santa photo of Henry. I’m sure he’ll love that when he gets older. 😉

    We decorate the inside and outside of our home… It’s how both my husband’s and my family did it growing up, so that’s what we’re used to I suppose! The outside of our house we decorate pretty simply actually. It’s usually just a wreath on the door with some basic lights on our roofline and in our bushes. Nothing too crazy!

  • Alice December 13, 2012, 10:18 am

    Hi! English person here! *waves* aha I’d certainly say that we tend to decorate the inside of our houses more, though when people do decorate the outside of their houses, they pull out all the stops! I’m talking lights in every window, things on roofs, trees, walls… not to forget the occasional (and hilariously bad!) inflatable snowman or Santa. Perhaps even two. 😉

    I was possibly the only child ever to be scared of Santa so never would have got a photo with him. Henry doesn’t look impressed! Haha, adorable!

  • Jessica December 13, 2012, 10:25 am

    I never would have thought of that inside/outside distinction, I would say that most people in the states decorate both the inside and outside of their houses equally (if they decorate for the holidays), at least of everyone I know! I did notice that when we were in Rome for Christmas one year that they are much less likely to do the type of Christmas decorating than what we do in the states, much more restrained and understated. I’m assuming this has to do with the advertising and Coca-Cola effect of our version of Christmas and Santa Claus!

    Personally, I HATE the crying baby Santa pics – WHY would parents want to torture their poor kids by forcing them to go through that for a photo-op? It kind of breaks my heart! We won’t take our daughter to see Santa until she asks to, and even then we won’t force her to sit on his lap unless she wants to. I see that type of naturally occurring stranger anxiety a good and healthy thing!

    • Katrina December 13, 2012, 11:09 am

      I worked with Santa in the mall for years. You NEVER know how a kid is going to react in the moment. As a rule, as soon as the kid was seated, we took a picture. It might be the only one you get! Happy kids freak out, crying kids cheer up, others go for the beard, or slip off the chair…

      As a side note, some of the most excited kids were the ones that cried the hardest. In line they couldn’t wait to see Santa and once they faced someone they loved so much, they would break down. Caitlin mentioned in her post that Henry is normally okay with strangers, so his reaction wasn’t expected… plus those crying pictures? They take two seconds (hardly torture). It’s much harder to get the happy, “natural”, and posed pictures most parents want. To me, the screaming pictures were the best because they were the most natural way to capture the child (sleeping babies were also adorable)! And who knows, next week, month, or year, Henry might have a complete different reaction. We always recommended coming back and seeing how they felt on a different day (visits, Santa gifts, and take your own pictures were free).

      While I agree you shouldn’t force your kid to do something they’re not comfortable with, they may never know until they try…

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action December 13, 2012, 10:30 am

    Canada is the same as the States as far as Santa pictures being huge! A friend of mine and I always do a Santa picture, but a lot of times Santa makes a really creepy comment (such as “Looks like Santa gets what he wanted for Christmas too”) which makes my friend blush beet red. So now instead of crying baby, we have me laughing and her blushing.

    And I agree- crying babies with Santa holding them is awesome!

  • Katie December 13, 2012, 10:32 am

    Every one has been asking me about Roman getting his picture taken with Santa – the thought never even crossed my mind! We’re headed back to Ohio for Christmas so I might do it there……growing up, Santa photos were a $5 polariod, and now in Seattle, the malls are $40 plus for a 5×7! Ridiculous.

  • Sal Span December 13, 2012, 10:36 am

    Funny picture of Henry screaming – yes, I think every person out there who does the whole Santa thing has a picture of themselves screaming on his lap!

    I think people in the US decorate inside and the outside of their homes pretty equally. My family has always done up the inside much more than the outside .

  • Bobbie December 13, 2012, 10:57 am

    Question about the contest: Does it have to be this year’s photo with Santa or can it be a previous year?

    • Caitlin December 13, 2012, 11:28 am

      Any year! I’m getting some from the 1960s!

  • Aundra Weissert @ Fit for Life December 13, 2012, 11:10 am

    We always decorate the inside of the house! Only a wreath goes on the outside door, never lights or those crazy lawn ornaments.

    Though secretly, I love looking at other people’s outside decorations.

  • Katie Cooke December 13, 2012, 11:13 am

    Love that picture of Henry! I wish my mom had all of ours from years past. It would make a great album. Also, I am from the Midwestern America but we decorate both the inside and outside pretty equally. BUT my Momma LOVES Christmas and she has lovingly passed this quality onto me (to the not so delight of my husband). However, I live in a downtown apartment and have no way to decorate the outside (except for a wreath on my door) because I have no balcony and my windows open into a locked ally. So for the next few years my hubs is safe from me forcing him to put up lights. But someday, I will own a house and everything will be decorated. EVERYTHING!

  • KaraHadley December 13, 2012, 11:21 am

    I don’t think I ever actually got a picture with Santa. BUT, if you need a good laugh, listen to these videos of author David Sedaris reading his HILARIOUS easy “Six-to-eight Black Men,” which is about the Christmas tradition in Holland.

  • Catherine December 13, 2012, 11:23 am

    Awww my Santa pic was neither sweet, nor scary. My baby looked completely indifferent. You need a category for honey badger babies that simply didn’t give a shit 🙂

    Our Santa did look creepily realistic though! That one looks like a teenager in a Santa suit. Maybe Henry was crying because he is smart and knew he was being duped!

  • Nena December 13, 2012, 11:24 am

    When I was a little girl in New York and my mom would take us to see Santa, he would actually give you a gift after you spoke with him. There was a Santa bag for boys and one for girls. One year I got a tea party set. I absolutely loved it!

    In Puerto Rico (where I was born) It’s a party. You start at one home and as you move from home to home singing, your group gets bigger and your belly fuller 🙂 When you get to each home you go inside and have a drink and yummy food, and move on to the next one. So fun!

    Merry Christmas! 🙂

  • Lisa December 13, 2012, 11:31 am

    I think it’s so funny how kids cry when they see santa!!!

  • Sarah December 13, 2012, 11:33 am

    I would say the inside-outside decoration thing might just be regional instead of country based. I live in eastern Washington (state) and most people don’t decorate the exterior of their homes, or maybe they just put up a little something.

    Maybe in the warmer areas, like Florida where you grew up, people tend to decorate the outside more because a) it’s easier to do when you’re not freezing your ass off and b) it makes it feel more holiday-like since they don’t get snow. Just a thought. I think the English/American difference in this case is probably more of a climate thing.

    • Caitlin December 13, 2012, 11:40 am

      Ah ha! I like this theory.

    • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed December 13, 2012, 12:48 pm

      I live in PA and the cold weather certainly does not deter people in my area from decorating outside!

  • Lindsay December 13, 2012, 11:38 am

    I don’t think that is a British thing…I think most Americans decorate inside, too? I am more into decorating the outside, by my mom and her relatives have always gone crazy with decorations inside.

  • Erica December 13, 2012, 11:43 am

    We are taking our son on Saturday, and I’m so excited to see what he does. I am so looking forward to this contest – when you tweeted that pic of Henry I started googling other pictures of crying babies with Santas. I think it’s hilarious! Does that make me a bad mom?

  • Vicki December 13, 2012, 11:51 am

    I decorate inside and out 🙂

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction.com December 13, 2012, 12:08 pm

    We decorate both the inside and the outside, maybe the inside a little more!

  • Rebecca December 13, 2012, 12:16 pm

    At my house, we decorate more inside than out. We have Christmas lights on the outside of our house, but we don’t do anything besides lights. Inside, we do a tree and stockings and decorations. But we’re not necessarily your typical American family, lol.
    There are plenty of houses in my hometown that have TONS of outdoor decorations and lights. It’s kind of ridiculous. Though they’re fun to look at, I guess… 🙂

  • Ali December 13, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I’m more for decorating indoors – it’s freezing where I live and I don’t spend that much time outside this time of year (our daylight is only from about 7:15am-4:30pm and I work during that time). Plus, I’m a wuss and don’t want to stand outside wrapping garland around my deck. 🙂 I do a simple wreath and go all out inside.

  • brooke @ sweats & sweets December 13, 2012, 12:38 pm

    Every year it was always my cousin Brittney and I in line for Santa, and of course our parents would have us wait in line for like an hour. I guess Santa was much bigger then because now I hardly see lines [I work at Sephora, so I’m always at the mall]. Anyway, one year I was starving, like forgot Santa I wanted food. So when it was our time to go up, I asked Santa for a bag of chips and one dill pickle. My mother was mortified! She quickly told everyone that she does feed me and that we hadn’t grabbed dinner yet. That year Santa left a big bag of chips and case of dill pickles…along with numerous toys! Memories like that are worth their weight in gold.

  • Natalie @ Free Range Human December 13, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Oh, poor Henry! We decorate the inside and the outside of the house. My dream in life is to have a Clark Griswold house some day 🙂

  • Army Amy* December 13, 2012, 1:12 pm

    I’m currently living in Germany, and I can confirm that there is no mall Santa here. But the Germans do love Christmas and have killer Christmas markets. (It’s not exclusively German; you can find great Christmas markets all over Europe.) So far I’ve only been to the one in Nuremberg, but it was awesome. Think State Fair + Christmas.*

  • Helene @healthyfrenchie December 13, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Henry’s picture is too cute and funny!
    I lived in France and the UK and most people did decorate inside only. So it’s quite a change to live in Canada now where you can buy a lot more outside stuff. Also, the whole picture with Santa thing is much less common.
    Here though, they had a photo booth where you could have a picture of your dog taken with Santa! If it had been cheap, I might have been tempted just for the cheer ridiculousness of it all! I wonder how my puppy (and James and Maggie) would react though

  • Sana December 13, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I work at a photography studio and all the parents love pictures of their crying babies 😉

  • Cassie December 13, 2012, 1:56 pm

    Have you seen this article from the Daily Mail?


    I’ve definitely seen tons of outdoor light displays in the UK – Regent Street is always fully decked out, with a ceremonial lighting ceremony each year (the lights are usually switched on by a celebrity of some sort), and as others have said, the outdoor displays in the UK tend to be FULL on! I don’t really think it’s a cultural difference, rather just personal taste.

  • Maria December 13, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Here in Denmark we do decorate both the inside and outside but the inside is most important. We go wild with lights and candles in December because it is so dark at this time of year. There isn’t a mall Santa tradition here. Every Sunday in December we light an advent’s candlestick with four candles. Best thing: we open our presents on the evening of December 24th. When I lived in the States as a kid I used to brag to my friends that I got all my presents before them. 🙂

  • Catherine December 13, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Does your husband do the English Christmas Cracker tradition? My dad lived in England for a few years, so his family picked it up while they were there. I’m not sure how everyone else does it, but in our family everyone has a cracker at their place setting for Christmas dinner. We crack them open before we eat, and inside each one is a prize and a paper crown. Our family plays a game where the last person with the hat on wins. Sounds easy, but believe me when I say it’s not–they are flimsy, easy to fall off, and very annoying. One year a neighbor came by while we were all wearing our hats around the dinner table–we got some strange looks!

    My dad’s family also lived in Germany where they picked up the German pickle tradition. Our family has a glass pickle ornament. On Christmas Eve we leave the pickle out with Santa’s milk and cookies. Santa hides the pickle on the tree, and the person that finds the pickle Christmas morning either gets to open the first present, or receives an extra gift.

    Holiday traditions really are special.

  • Katie @ skinnyminniemoves December 13, 2012, 3:49 pm

    Lol @ the screaming Santa pic! We were always afraid of the Easter bunny. I only did some small inside decorating because I live in an apartment 🙂

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats December 13, 2012, 4:50 pm

    Henry’s picture made me chuckle out loud. Perfection.

  • Emily J December 13, 2012, 5:25 pm

    HAHAHA that photo is priceless!

  • Lorin December 13, 2012, 6:58 pm

    I’m studying abroad in Italy and one time I saw groups of friends or families walking around in santa suits for fun. I only saw that on December 1st though. There is a mall by where I live as well and there is a place for Santa. The street where my apartment is at has Christmas lights hanging from both sides of the streets from the buildings.

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More December 13, 2012, 8:13 pm

    I LOVE that picture of Henry with Santa, so FUNNY! 🙂

  • Kris December 13, 2012, 8:16 pm

    When my brother, sister and I were little, we would go downtown Minneapolis to meet my dad after work, then see the big Christmas display at Daytons. We’d have dinner, wander along the Nicollet Mall (pedestrian street) and go to the other department stores. We went to see the Santa in one store, and when it was my turn to sit on Santa’s lap I said no. Santa wasn’t taking no for an answer and followed me all over the store asking if I didn’t want to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I was freaked out, having this big hairy man in a costume following me all over. Santas and clowns, no thanks. And since I don’t have kids, I’ve never had to deal with Santa since.

  • Brenna December 13, 2012, 9:22 pm

    Australian here!

    Not so big on the outside decorations, people do it, but not as a rule. There are a coulpe of streets not far from where I live where the residents go all out with outside decorations including light and sound shows on the roofs of houses, everyone the entire eastern half of Melbourne pretty much goes to check it out as its so uncommon.

    We have mall (shopping centre) Santa’s, but I don’t think it’s as much of a big deal for parents here to get photos of their kids with them, though that could just be my family…

    We also have Christmas crackers at the table; complete with terrible jokes and paper crowns.

    The big difference is probably the weather. It’s likely to be 35-40C here on Christmas day. A lot of people have seafood based meals; lobster, prawns, oysters and salad or just have a BBQ and drink beer whilst playing backyard cricket. Some years its 35C and hailing – humid and muggy – less cricket is played those years.

    Also, Christmas themed decorations and chocolates and advertising etc are coming into stores earlier and earlier…sometimes early November…is this a trend elsewhere? Much like we get Easter eggs appearing just after New Year.

  • Emily G December 13, 2012, 9:26 pm

    I don’t have the physical copies yet, but here are some of my niece and Santa!

    Good picture:(Annie LOVES books and it looks as if she is pointing to something and impressing Santa!)

    Bad picture:

  • Amber K December 13, 2012, 10:24 pm

    I never would have thought decorating the inside is a British thing. We never decorated the outside when I was growing up. It was all about the inside! In fact, most people I grew up with were all about the inside. It’s probably a regional thing within the U.S.!

  • Penny December 14, 2012, 1:04 am

    Oh man……The Santa photo…….SO AWESOME. LOL!!!!!

  • Lauren M December 14, 2012, 1:19 am

    It is HOT in Australia on Christmas Day so we always take our dog to the beach for a swim in the morning, followed by opening gifts back at home in our bathers while drinking champagne. We usually do a big family lunch then spend the afternoon lazing around the pool. I can’t wait to bring my kids to the USA for a white Christmas when they’re older!

  • K December 14, 2012, 6:48 am

    I’m Australian and when I was a kid people very rarely decorated the outside of their homes. It’s much more common now with big sponsored competitions. We even have bus tours that go to the best houses.

    I only decorate the inside of my house. Too much effort to get on the roof in the heat!

    ‘Mall’ Santas are everywhere here and it’s been that way since I was young. It’s funny seeing our Santas dressed in the traditional outfit when it’s hitting 30-35 degrees (Celsius)! I’d love nothing more than to have a nothern hemisphere Christmas with snow and the works!

    • K December 14, 2012, 8:26 am

      I forgot to add… Some years I actually do ‘Santa paws’. I get a photo of one of my dogs with Santa. I hate to see what I’d be like if I have a child!

  • Charise December 14, 2012, 10:02 am

    We do both! Lots of natural stuff inside: greenery, berries, pointsettias, birch candles, white lights. And obnoxiously bright multicolored LED lights outside. 😉

  • Amber K December 17, 2012, 8:31 pm

    I’m catching up on old posts and I have to add that I love all Santa pictures. Crying seems classic, smiling seems so happy and anything in between is always grounds for a good memory. Even though I want my (future) children to know the true story of Saint Nicholas, I think a mall Santa trip will be in order.

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) December 17, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Canadians definitely focus more on the inside of the house.

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