Christmas Traditions

November 15, 2019

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Growing up, my mother made Christmas the most amazing and magical celebration.  And I don’t just mean Christmas day – I mean the whole season.  As an adult I can still recite our Christmas traditions – from the grapefruits we ate for breakfast every year to how I snuck downstairs with my grandmother to see if Santa came in the early hours of the morning.  Now that I am a mom, I realize just how much effort my mother put in to Christmas to make it seem like a naturally amazing event.  It wasn’t just the perfect gifts and wrapping paper under the tree.  It was the traditions that continued year after year – baking cookies, visiting Santa, Christmas Eve Mass and roasted chestnuts.  Those memories will be with me forever and I can still feel the warmth and love of my parents and grandparents.  Those were wonderful days.

Christmas Changed When I Became a Mom

So, the first year that I was a mom I was obsessed with creating the perfect family traditions.  I wanted to recreate all that magic immediately.  I clearly remember questioning so many people at work as to what they did with their kids to make Christmas special.  I was staring at this little baby who had no idea of what Christmas was and I felt like I had to make it perfect.  I stressed out about it so much and nothing I did seemed good enough – but looking back it was a perfect Christmas because it was our first Christmas together as a family.  My only wish is that I was more relaxed to actually enjoy all the little moments.

How to Create New Traditions

That first Christmas my husband and I struggled and argued over so many little details.  I wanted to recreate the Christmas of my youth but he didn’t want his traditions to be lost either.  We drove each other crazy and went back and forth on so many issues.  I did concede on a few points – but only a few!  It was a good experience for me to realize that everyone’s traditions are different – and that there are alternatives to the traditions my parents created.

What I didn’t realize that first year, is that it takes time to create traditions, to make ordinary events special.  Now that my kids are 7 and 5 we have our own family traditions at Christmas.  Ironically, some of our best traditions are ones that started by accident.  For all the planning and orchestrating that I did – the magic came from the little spontaneous moments we have shared with the kids.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of planning to do during the Christmas season. 

Creating Memories with the Kids

I love eavesdropping on my kids when they are discussing Christmas because the things that seem so important to them are often not even on my radar.  These are their memories – the ones that they will recall fondly with nostalgia as adults. So, as we are gearing up for yet another holiday season, I seek my inspiration from them.  I am somewhat complacent this year – maybe too busy with work, sad because my mom is in a nursing home and can’t be with us for Christmas, longing for simplicity and a break.  Whatever it is, I am not motivated for any of the holiday things this year.  It all seems like a chore.  But I keep plodding along because it’s not just my Christmas anymore – it belongs to my children.

Traditions Provide a Roadmap to the Holiday Season

And that is why traditions are great.  I really don’t need to think of anything new to do.  I can follow the road map that we have created as a family.  And I am hopeful that as we read our favorite Christmas stories, bake cookies way too late at night and ride the Polar Express I will find my Christmas spirit this year.

So, for those of you who are also struggling and looking for new activities to try this holiday season – I’ll share the ones we love that have become our family traditions.

20 Family Christmas Traditions to Try

  1. Visit Santa at the Mall
  2. Ride the Polar Express
  3. Mommy-Daughter Date at the Nutcracker
  4. Decorating Day – Snacks, Christmas Music and Decorating together
  5. Watching Home Alone (or your favorite holiday movie) together as a family the Friday after Thanksgiving
  6. Writing Letters to Santa
  7. Christmas shopping individually with each child to make a wish list and buy a present for each sibling.
  8. Drive Through Christmas lights
  9. Cold Cocoa on Christmas eve – pudding in santa mugs with whipped cream and sprinkles – my son was obsessed with “hot cocoa” his second Christmas but wasn’t ready for a hot beverage – we started making “cold cocoa” and it stuck!
  10. Searching the skies for Santa on Christmas Eve with binoculars
  11. Daddy reads “The Night Before Christmas” at bedtime on Christmas Eve
  12. Eating snacks for dinner on Christmas Eve
  13. Each child receives their first gifts on Christmas Eve – pajamas, an ornament and a new book
  14. Santa leaves one present for each child in their bedroom – This gives mom time to get dressed – Thanks Santa!!
  15. Baking and Decorating Cookies
  16. Making Gingerbread Houses
  17. Light Up Night in Town
  18. Lighting an Advent Wreath on Sundays
  19. Christmas Shopping with the kids for toys to donate
  20. Santa Oranges – When my son was 2 we read this book and his favorite part was the orange in the toe of the stocking.  Santa is a pretty savvy guy so ever since then he has left my kids an orange in the toe of their stockings – a special Santa orange that is red on the inside (blood orange).  I can’t believe how excited they get for a simple orange!

A Few Grown Up Traditions

The kids shouldn’t have all the fun so my husband and I make sure to create memories together as a couple too. Here are a few special activities that we make time for during the holiday season.

  1. Wrapping presents together at night watching old classic Christmas movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Bells of St. Mary and White Christmas.  Ok, I enjoy this tradition – he tolerates it and can’t wait to return to modern TV.
  2. Taking a break one night during this busy month to get a babysitter and go out for a nice dinner and to Phipps Conservatory to see the beautiful lights.
  3. Dessert together on Christmas Eve after the kids go to bed.  For my wedding my grandmother gave me a tea/dessert set that my grandfather gifted to her on their first Christmas as a married couple.  They always shared a special Christmas Eve snack on these plates and my husband and I continue their tradition.
  4. Christmas morning mimosas!

Enjoy your Family During the Holidays

Christmas is a funny time – it is something we anticipate and create so much excitement about. But, sometimes that excitement becomes overwhelming. I look at our list of traditions some times and it can almost cause stress because I feel like I NEED to get it ALL done! But, it isn’t about checking things off on a list, it is about being together as a family and slowing down and enjoying each other’s company. If you think about it – almost any of these traditions could be done any day of the year. So, if you run out of time to watch a holiday movie – watch it in January. Bake that last batch of cookies for New Years. Enjoy your family because the memory you want from Christmas is the feeling of warmth and love.

We all love our family traditions and are so proud of them so please share your favorite Christmas memories and traditions!

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  • Reply Heaven S. November 19, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    This is awesome! Love the pictures of the little ones, they make the holiday season so much merrier! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:48 pm

      Kids really do make Christmas magical. Some of these photos are a few years old – when I look at them I just want time to slow down a bit and keep them little!

  • Reply Trina November 19, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    We had tons of set traditions, but with the passing of time & parents some have changed and dissolved. All of this has led to new members joining our families and grand babies coming along, therefore new traditions have evolved. I loved reading about all of yours! I know one we will be adopting for sure is the mimosa’s!

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:40 pm

      Changing traditions is emotionally hard but a natural part of life. The mimosa’s definitely help us accept that change! Cheers!!

  • Reply Ashley November 19, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Never thought about the orange in the stocking. LOL We always do new pajamas on Christmas eve night and orange cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. 🙂 I think I need to add some more.

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      Orange cinnamon rolls sound amazing! I let the kids eat donuts as a treat on Christmas morning – I’m thinking I might need a more grown up treat – and orange cinnamon rolls would be perfect!

  • Reply Monica November 19, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I can relate to this so much! Christmas is such a special time of the year, but it does ignite stress within me. I have certainly been guilty of trying to make everything “perfect” for my kids. It’s just been over the last couple of years that I’ve learned to not be consumed by traditions and gifts, and just enjoy the season for what I believe, the season is really all about. Many of my traditions are the same as yours. I hope you, your family, and your mom who sounds like a wonderful woman, are able to enjoy this holiday season❤

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you – I am trying to find that balance between meaningful traditions and not stressing myself out. My mom is amazing – but I do remember her nodding off at the Christmas table many years. I don’t want to burn myself out like that.

  • Reply Bella Duncan November 19, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post. Now that we have 2 kiddos to celebrate the holidays with there is more to be enjoyed. We look forward to making new traditions with our children as well as passing old ones down.

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:45 pm

      Kids make Christmas great! It is so easy to get caught up in their magical world and I love that!

  • Reply Aminta Demadura November 19, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I love your ideas for new Christmas traditions! I’m always trying to come up with fun new ones to make memories with my son, and these were super helpful.

    • Reply Liz November 19, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks – We love all of our traditions and it would make me so happy if sharing them helped even one family have a more magical Christmas!

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