I absolutely love Christmas. I’m one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music in October and puts my tree up the day after Thanksgiving (I’d do it sooner if I had the energy). Our tiny house can only hold so many decorations before looking like some sort of cross between a hoarding nightmare and Kirkland’s. But I try to fit in decoration where I can, even if it means moving aside piles of clean laundry to put a table runner in the dining room and immediately hiding it back under said pile of laundry…. DON’T JUDGE ME!
Seriously though, I think the best parts about Christmas are about more than just the decorating. It’s a feeling, an emotion, that I’ve come to associate with the season. Every year our HUGE family gathers together on Christmas Eve and spends the evening talking and laughing. Sometimes we give gifts, but mostly it’s about presence and not presents. It’s almost like I can feel that connection with my family as soon as the calendar shows December 1st.
Continuing in that Christmas spirit, I want to focus on bringing that same energy and joy for the holiday to my own children. So I’m exploring some other fun Christmas traditions to introduce, that might be equally as memorable as my own traditions from childhood. Some we’re already doing and other’s not, but maybe you’ll find something equally as fun. That being said, I invite you to start a new tradition this year with your own family as well!
Elf on the Shelf
This is one tradition we’ve already started – and holy smokes it’s hard to remember to move that sucker. I know some parents who have an alarm set on their phones so they won’t forget! Then I have other friends that are amazing and so creative at finding ways to surprise the kids in the morning. One thing’s for certain though, my kids get a kick out of it even if our elf is extremely lazy.
The Christmas Pickle
While the origins of this particular American tradition are unclear, basically the rules are thus: an ornament in the shape of a pickle, is hidden on the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, the first person to find the Christmas Pickle gets an extra present from Santa! This could definitely be a fun tradition to adopt, and fairly easy to personalize as well. I think it might be interesting to try doing on Christmas Eve and the person who finds it first gets to open a gift early. Or in the spirit of giving, the person who finds it gets to give a gift to someone in need!
Good luck pronouncing that one! Instead you can hear it for yourself: LISTEN. Roughly translated, this means “the Christmas book flood”. What started as a tradition in Iceland, it is perfect for any one who loves reading. Books are gifted on Christmas Eve, and the whole evening is then spent reading. I really like this tradition in particular, and not just because I’m a self-proclaimed book-worm, but because I enjoy the idea of an unplugged Christmas, and instilling the love of books in our children. Even more fun would be to incorporate some hot chocolate and PJs into the mix! Hygge anyone?
Homemade Christmas Cookies
What better way to make lasting memories than by making a mess? Get out Grandma’s old recipe book and make some cookies from scratch. Find some cookie cutters, get some icing, sprinkles, edible glitter and go to town! I always enjoyed baking with my Mammy, and I still remember asking to wear an apron every time, then flouring the entire counter top so we could roll out the dough, and cutting out my favorite Christmas shapes. I’m sure it was a hassle for her at the time, but we love talking about it when I go visit her now. Trust me when I say that your kids won’t forget this one!
Christmas Movie Night
As I said in my previous post, we watch Christmas movies all season long. Check out my PG-13 and under list here for some old (and maybe some new) ideas for your Christmas Movie Night. Have some hot cocoa or coffee, grab some candy canes and popcorn, snuggle up in your jammies and veg. I think kids of all ages can get behind this!
Christmas Light Watching
Pick an evening, pile up in the car, put on some Christmas music, and drive around the local neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights! This is a personal family favorite. My boys ask to do this the minute they notice our neighbors have their lights out. I usually like to wait until closer to Christmas Eve since some people prefer to decorate a little later in the season. One of my favorite drives we took, involved little buckets filled with popcorn and reindeer snacks (trail mix I’d put in baggies) that I had prepared a little earlier in the day – just for our drive. There’s so many opportunities for this, as well. A lot of larger/more populated areas offer an entire “land” of lights and you pay by the carload to drive through and see all the amazing light shows and features. But it doesn’t have to cost any money, and the kids still enjoy every bit of it.
One tradition that I know a lot of my friends turn to is the idea of Christmas crafting. This can come in the form of a gingerbread house, or hand-made Christmas cards. Some might even prefer to craft gifts for family and friends. This can be so much fun and relatively inexpensive based on the type of craft. Using supplies on hand can also help cut any unnecessary fluff from the budget. I distinctly remember my Grandmother having books with all sorts of Christmas craft ideas inside: How to Make a Tree Topper, How to Make Your Own Gingerbread House, Make Your Own Winter Wonderland from Cardboard. I can’t for the life of me, remember the names of the books but I’ll have to share as soon as I can find them in her house!!
Host an Annual Christmas Party
Usually our Christmas is fully booked with visits to and from family on both sides (my husband’s and my own). We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying gifts and planning our activities, that it’s easy to overlook our friends – our support systems. Hosting a Christmas get-together is a great way to mingle Christmas with some of our favorite people. And you don’t even have to give gifts!! Make it an ugly sweater party, have a fondue Christmas party, a Christmas dinner party (make it fun by getting dressed up), incorporate a game night into your Christmas party. There’s so many ideas!
The Advent Calendar
Advent calendars can be found almost anywhere. Out church gives them out for free to parents, and each day you open a ‘door’ to a bible passage and corresponding scripture that celebrates the time leading up to the birth of Jesus. Maybe you prefer a non-traditional approach and want a candy advent calendar (no judgement here!). Whether it’s a DIY calendar or a fancy-schmancy advent calendar, counting down the days to Christmas really helps to build up that anticipation, and gives parents time each day with their children, to celebrate even in a small way.
This is an approach I see happening a lot in the workplace. It makes gift-giving fun! But I think it’s also a neat tradition to start at home. Take some of those homemade cookies, add a batch of hot chocolate and a Christmas card and go ding-dong-ditch your neighbors to surprise them with your Secret Santa gift! It’s so great to instill a joy in the act of giving for the sake of giving. Not because there’s any reward in telling them who it’s from. Just being able to see happiness on the face of others is reward in its self.
Whether you do it before Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, decorating together can be a lasting tradition for you and your family. I still remember my Mom pulling out her boxes and boxes of decorations and my sister and I searching through to find which items we wanted the privilege of putting out. My favorite thing to un-box was the huge porcelain nativity set. This thing could take up a space the size of your entire mantle and then some. Unwrapping from years’ old newspaper and placing baby Jesus in the manger was the best part. It was like getting to put the last piece of a puzzle in place. Kids love getting to help, no matter how mundane it might seem at the time.
Christmas pictures are wonderful ways to create lasting memories. Repeating the same photo every year can be a fun way to mark the tradition each year. Imagine just how different you all will look in 10 years’ time! Take a photo with Santa, or ditch the big man and take some pics in your pjs by the fire or Christmas tree. This is one I’m trying to implement but some years it seems like Christmas is over before I can get more than passing photos.
Personal Ornaments Each Year
Take the kids to the Hallmark store, or any place they sell holiday decorations, and let each child pick out an ornament for your tree. Try your best to let them do this on your own, and bite your lip when you child brings back the chainsaw shaped ornament he so desperately “needed”. Who could forget the time we bought a stuffed squirrel ornament for our tree? Nonetheless, it’s fun looking back on. My Mom did this with my sister and I and she still puts all those ornaments out on her tree.
Make it a “Giving” Christmas
I try challenge each of my boys each year, to fill up a garbage bag or box full of unused toys that are still in good condition and aren’t missing any parts. Then we take those toys and donate them to our local child-care board. If they are full or aren’t taking in donations, we drop them at our nearest donation drop box in the hope that another child can still get some use out of them! In this same spirit, I know of families that donate boxes filled with Christmas food stuffs (turkey, dressing, canned goods, etc) so that those in need can still celebrate with full bellies. It could also be a good idea to donate essentials like toothpaste, toothbrushes, wash cloths, soap, deodorant, sanitary napkins, bottled water, socks, old (or new) jackets to the homeless or in bulk to any shelter.
Attend a Christmas Event – Any Event
Take the kids to the local parade, go to a Christmas Craft Fair, go to your town’s Christmas lighting ceremony, attend a church Christmas event, join a local group of carolers. I could name 20 things just off the top of my head, that this might mean. Just get the kids out to enjoy something, at least one thing, that involves your community. Be present in the moment. Make it something you plan to do every year and get them excited about going or being a part of it.