Holiday traditions can be a tricky thing for new families to tackle. Each person coming into a marriage with their own sentimental attachments to everything they did as a child during the holiday season. Thankfully, my husband and I grew up with pretty similar traditions, so it was never a big issue. And honestly for the first several years of our marriage, we simply clung to those childhood traditions. We would travel to each family’s home and celebrate as we always had. Of course, we would put up our own tree, and decorate the house, but we didn’t really give much thought to creating meaningful holiday traditions of our own.
Even after having kids, I think I was in denial for a number of years. I wasn’t ready to give up the tradition of being with my parents on Christmas morning. I spent many years stressing out, struggling with sleep deprivation, packing the entire family up just to get there on Christmas. But thanks to my job, and having to work the holidays every other year, we were forced to create our own way of making the holidays enjoyable. Instead of being depressed and bummed out about working Christmas, we needed to find a solution that worked for our family. I wanted my kids to have a memorable holiday season even if their mom had to work.
Finally committing to building my own family holiday traditions was a milestone for me. A moment that I can look back on and say, “That is when I felt like an adult, a mom with my own family to take care of.” And I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point, I did actually become an adult. Most of the time, adulting is difficult work, but during the holidays I look forward to being the one that can bring the magic for my children.
Every family has their own unique, beautiful way of celebrating the spirit of the season. And I always love to hear about special family traditions. Some of our traditions may be similar to your own. Maybe a few will inspire you to recreate them in your own family. I welcome all of your comments below.
- Decorating the House after Thanksgiving – Every year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we decorate. I love to watch as each kid opens up their box of ornaments, and unearths all of the memories from years past. They talk about their favorite ornaments, remembering where they got each one. As they hang their stockings above the fireplace, the excitement becomes palpable. I like to sit back at the end of the night with a drink, and simply take in the magical transformation of my home. Everything seems to sparkle with anticipation.
- The Elf on The Shelf – Yes, we succumbed to purchasing one of these “magical” creatures several years ago. Sometimes, he is a little pain in the ass, but the kids love him. I will never be one of those moms that masterfully creates fun and messy scenes with my elf. I simply cannot even fathom producing a mess that not only do I have to look at all day long, but I also have to clean it up that night and build another scene for the next day. The kids are lucky that I remember to move him. Besides, thanks to one of their friends, I have now been roped into responding to letters they leave for him every night. Word to the wise, be careful of the holiday traditions you are committing to do on a daily basis for a full month.
- Advent Calendar – Speaking of daily holiday traditions, the Advent Calendar. I have vague memories of doing this one as a child. It was never anything elaborate. Most likely, it was a disposable one from the store where you pop open each day and get a chocolate. And having grown up with the candy variety, I too put candy in the calendar every night. I have seen many unique ideas for Advent Calendars that give the kids a good deed to do every day, and I would love to incorporate something similar for my family. Though, I’ll probably still have to include the candy given our proclivity for sugar addiction.
- St. Nick’s Day – I’m not sure of the exact origin of St. Nick’s Day, I think it came to us from Europe. All I know is growing up, my family always celebrated it. On December 5th, we would put our stockings out, and in the morning, they were filled. It was always small things like lip gloss and candy canes, but I loved it. It was a little something to tide me over until Christmas. I knew it was something I wanted to share with my kids. And seeing their excitement, I’m glad I did.
- A New Ornament Every Year – This goes along with St. Nick’s Day. Every year, I like to get each kid a new ornament for the Christmas tree. I give it to them for St. Nick’s Day, and I love to see their excitement. I try to make it something meaningful, something they love or something that reminds me of them. I know that one day they will have a home of their own and a Christmas tree of their own. I hope that they will take these ornaments with them, and remember our family Christmases fondly. In that same spirit, I always buy a couple ornaments for myself every year. Something beautiful that makes me happy. I delight in adding to my tree every year.
- Baking Christmas Cookies – I love to bake, but I definitely don’t go crazy making dozens of different varieties of holiday cookies. I would most likely eat all of them myself and that would be a problem. And I don’t get involved in cookie exchanges, I like to keep things simple. When we started baking cookies, my intention was just to have an entertaining afternoon with the kids. We make traditional sugar cookies, so the kids can have fun using cookie cutters and decorating them. They look forward to it every year, which is really the point of having traditions, right?
- Driving Around Looking At Lights – It’s really a simple, low cost way to entertain the kids every year and get in the Christmas spirit.
- Christmas Eve Mass and Dinner – I love to get the entire family dressed up for Christmas Eve Mass. Walking in the crowded, but beautifully decorated church and experiencing the true spirit of the season with everyone around me brings me such peace, even if my kids are loud, squirmy and misbehaving. Then coming home to a delicious, decadent home cooked meal feels like the perfect precursor for Christmas morning. It’s one of the only nights of the year that I will justify spending $50 on a really good steak I can cook at home and enjoy with my family at the dinner table.
- Christmas Morning – There is truly nothing better than reliving your childhood through your kids on Christmas morning. The magic of the season can be seen on each one of their faces, even the one that doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. I feel like a kid again, lying awake at night, trying to sleep but not being able to because I am too excited. I swear, sometimes, it’s actually better to be a parent at Christmas than a kid. I love to see the excitement as they open their presents. We take our time in the morning, letting each kid take a turn to open one present at a time because I want to experience each gift with them.
Having our own family holiday traditions has helped me to slow down as a parent and enjoy the little things. Instead of feeling stressed out by the holidays, I am able to experience the magic of Christmas. I hope that one day my kids will remember these years fondly and carry on some of these holiday traditions in their own families.