I grew up in a close-knit family. We enjoyed being together and sharing life with each other. I knew as a little girl that when I was grown, married and raising children of my own, I wanted our family to be just as close.
So, as I began having children I started thinking about things my family did when I was younger to create the bond we shared. The overarching theme in my memory was that we celebrated life! No matter the event, big or small, we celebrated. Over the years, those celebrations grew into traditions.
Friday night bowling, movie and pizza nights, pasta for breakfast on track meet days and eating Maple Nut Goodies on road trips are some of the fun traditions we shared as a family. But some of my very favorite family traditions are the ones we created around the holidays!
The holiday season is busy and adding more things to your calendar can be overwhelming. It’s important to start small and not try to cram every event onto your calendar. As you come up with ideas for your family, consider your children’s ages and tolerance of specific activities. Think of ideas both inside and outside of your home. Think about what is important to you. Think of a couple of activities that you feel would be life-giving for your family and maybe some that would be disappointing to miss. And remember, choosing an activity that is stressful is not one that you will want to become a tradition. Some of your best intentions will go awry and some of your least planned moments will be the ones that stick!
An easy holiday tradition to start with and one of my most memorable times during the Christmas season was to drive around looking at Christmas lights. Every Christmas Eve, after our church service, we piled into our car with our favorite Christmas music and drove around our city looking at all the brightly decorated houses! My family has adapted that tradition and made it our own. Our children dress in their PJ’s and set out on an a quest to find our favorite decorated house. We bring with us, a cup filled with candy kisses and a note that reads, “Thank you for filling us with joy! We love your decorations and chose your house as our favorite. Please enjoy these treats. Merry Christmas!” Once we’ve found our favorite house, and sometimes it takes a while, our children are eager to run up to the door and deliver happiness to the people who brought us joy! We have sweet and funny stories from this tradition each year.
Other family holiday traditions start at our house. One of my very favorite things to do with my boys is bake and decorate Christmas cookies! It all began with the tradition I had with my mom and sister growing up. We baked and decorated Christmas cut-out cookies and the day wasn’t complete without the spot of flour we put on each others noses. I now do this with my boys each year. Make and chill the dough, roll it out, choose our various shaped cookie cutters and bake the cookies. The fun and very messy part comes with decorating! I’ve had to bite my tongue many times as I watch sprinkles, glitter sugar and icing landing on counter tops and the floor. My kitchen is a disaster once we are finished, but the giggles and joy created during our time together is worth it all. As each Christmas season rolls around, my boys begin asking what day we will have our Christmas cookie baking day! These are memories forever etched into their minds and hearts.
We have another tradition that lasts the entire season. One year, several years back, my sister in law sent us an Advent house. It has 25 tiny doors that open, one for each day in December. I decided to use it by putting little pieces of paper that describe an activity we would do each day or something simple like a Hershey’s kiss. I fill one day at a time and I do it at night, after my littles are asleep. Each morning they wake up and rush to find their message. I even save some of the papers from previous years to reuse. For example, one of the days at the beginning of December, the paper reads, “Go pick out our Christmas tree!” I know we will do that each year as one of our traditions, so I save the paper and reuse it, saving me the time of making it each year! Some of the papers have messages that say, “Let’s share Christmas cheer” and together we will come up with a way to bring cheer to someone that day. Our Advent house has been a source of joy for all of us and another one of our favorite traditions that lasts the entire season!
As you begin to think about creating traditions in your family over the holiday season, keep in mind that each family does things differently. Make your traditions unique to your family. And, remember the importance of establishing traditions in your family. Traditions create a bond and cement relationships. They are life-giving!
Here are just a sample of some simple, fun ideas to get you thinking about ways to incorporate Christmas traditions into your family. . .
- Make plans to attend a candlelight Christmas Eve service together.
- Add a new children’s Christmas book to your collection of holiday books each year. Wrap it up and surprise your children with a present they can open early in the season or on Christmas Eve.
- Have a special viewing of a holiday movie together (Frosty, the Grinch, White Christmas, Elf) and pair it with hot cocoa and popcorn.
- Deliver holiday treats to friends and family together.
- Choose an organization that gives to others and donate an item to a child in need.
- Grab some friends or neighbors and go caroling.
- Make a fun Christmas playlist together and play it while baking cookies or wrapping gifts for friends and family members.
- Take a photo of your littles in matching PJ’s in front of your Christmas tree. Each year, print the photo and make an ornament out of it for your tree!