For many families, like ours, it is all about traditions. It is the things you do every year, the silly, the fun, the serious, and the crazy. It is these things that our kids will remember. We have done them so many times, that they are just part of who we are and what we do. They change your Christmas from being all about gifts, to something deeper and much more. Here are 12 Christmas Traditions to Start Today.
Buying a real tree
I know for some this may seem like a waste of time, money, and energy. I grew up with a fake tree and so did my husband, but after we got married it was important to us to have a real tree. We wanted something completely different than what we had known. Our first experience picking a tree was going out on Christmas Eve. It was cold and fun but there wasn’t much to choose from. The guy just wanted to get rid of the trees and was going to give it to us for free, but we paid him what he would have charged instead.
Christmas trees are amazing for the environment. The Elephant Journal has a great article about it.
“Those artificial trees do not provide oxygen, soils stabilization, or wildlife habitat, although we might be able to recycle the plastic at some point. In 2011, Americans purchased 9.5 million artificial trees, helping China’s economy.” Vincent Cotrone, Urban Forester of Penn State University, Northeast Extension Office
Decorating a Gingerbread House with your kids
This is always a huge mess. There are spinkles, candy, and icing everywhere, but there are also smiles, giggles, and fun. I know there are some people who actually bake their own gingerbread houses, and that’s great, but “ain’t nobody got time for that,” at least at this house.
This year, I picked up a Gingerbread Villiage from Walmart for $7.98. This way each of my kids has their own building to decorate.
The fun part is when the kids “drag” their dad into the mix. His perfectionism and the kids being kids is fun, messy event. I’m the one hiding behind the camera laughing.
Having a Game Night
We have a wide age range of children, so our game night is usually a combination of many things. We start off playing a game that the littles can play. Things like Candy Land or anything geared towards a Preschooler.
With our middle and older kids we will play a card game, that goes pretty quickly. Since our 12 year old has a short attention span and deals with ASD issues, this is how we keep him interacting with us. Our favorite games are Hand and Foot and Yatzee.
Make Homemade Chex Mix
This is something I didn’t even know I could do until I met Stephen’s family. His mother makes this every year, and it is ther perfect snack while playing games. It is something that we have all grown to love and especially while having a Family Game Night.
My mother-in-law uses the original recipe that you can find at the Chex website. The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe where she kicks it up a notch of course. My favorite way is to make it in my crock pot, from Gimmie Some Oven. If I can make something in the crock pot instead of taking up stove space in the winter, believe me I will do it. I love my crock pot.
When I make Chex Mix, I leave out the nuts, as none of us are really a fan of them. I ALWAYS use bagel chips and the wheat bagels as they are my husband’s favorite.
Also, usually around this time of the year, you can find seasoning packets, if you don’t want to make it yourself.
Give to Someone in Need
We have worked very hard to try and prevent Christmas from being materialistic. One of the best ways we have been able to do this was by giving to someone in need. Every year we fill at least 1 shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. This has become a family favorite thing.
While you can’t do that right now, we have received catalogs from World Vision, Compassion Interenational, and Samaritan’s Purse. All of these are asking you to give a gift that matters. The things they people need are more basic than you realize. They are asking for animals to raise and not only feed them, but help them make money. Items for schools, wells for clean water, money to help women start their own businesses. There are so many ways you can help these people in 3rd World Countries.
There are also local charities. One of my favorites is Jacob’s Well. This not for profit mission is helping women get out of dangerous situations and start their lives over.
Visit a Candymaker
I used to think these places were extinct, but they aren’t. Candymaking isn’t a craft, it is an art. This is a skill that is passed down through the generations.
In fact, our local candymaking shop, Schimpff’s, has been in that location since 1891, that’s more than 125 years. This is a family run business. Not only will you find them making candy the old fashioned way, but there is a lunch counter and a soda jerk. With a little museum in the back it is truly a nostalgic experience.
Bake Cookies and Candies with your children
This may seem obvious, but it really isn’t. My mom makes amazing fudge, and she doesn’t even use a thermometer. She has a knack for knowing when it is perfectly done. When my mom goes, she will take that talent with her. This isn’t cool. So this year my oldest girl who is 17 is going to learn how Grandma makes fudge. This way her recipe will be passed down.
So many family recipes get lost over time because they either weren’t written down, taught or shared. This is truly a sad situation. I was lucky enough to sit with my grandma while she made her maple candy and learn the art. While I’m not grandma, it is better than not having anything at all.
Take some time and share your family recipes with your children. Let them roll out the sugar dough recipe that came from Great, great aunt Sally. Let them eat the dough from the beater of Great, great grandma’s chocolate chip cookies. While they maybe to young to remember, they will remember the memories and that will help draw them back. They will want the gift of making cookies and want to know that recipe when they are older sot hey can share it.
Read an Advent Book
This isn’t something we have always done, but have picked up in the past few years. Every night at 8 pm we stop and read from our book. We read the story, talk about it and then answer a question or two asked by the author.
For the past few years we have been using Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The book picks up the highlights from the bible, covering a story a day. It is written at the level that you middle and even my littles can even understand.
We haven’t never made it all the way through the book, but it has been enjoyed by our family. The great part is that it gets us back into the habit of a nightly family devotional, that we all so richly enjoy.
See a Christmas Production
This can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. You could go to a local high school and watch their Christmas Show. My husband talks fondly of the show his high school has always put on.
You could go to a theater and watch a production of A Christmas Carol or the ballet of The Nutcracker. While this is a more expensive option, for many it is a tradition. So much so that Straight No Chaser wrote a parody about it, that we love.
Something that my children really want to do is the Polar Express Train Ride. I’m seeing them show up all over the place. It is one of their favorite Christmas movies. While we would love to do it, the $20 a person is more than we have in our budget right now. I’m sure the hot chocolate would be the best you have ever had though.
Put up Outside Decorations
First off, if you do this, my children will LOVE you forever. Ok, so I will too. I absolutely LOVE Christmas lights. When driving around at night, I can’t help but smile seeing the Christmas Spirit others are sharing with the world.
As for lights, you don’t have to go crazy, though we will love you if you do. For us, it is icicle lights from the gutters of our ranch style home. Last year, we put up fake trees that I found for free and covered them with colored lights. Those are in so bad condition that we had to let them go. So this year we found a spotlight that puts snowflakes on the front of our white garage.
Read a Gift Book a Day
Each book gets wrapped in Christmas paper and then numbered the days of December leading up to Christmas. Not all of the books have to be about Christmas. We have read a book about Emporer Penguins and last night we read a book about a Polar Bear. Most of the books are geared towards my youngest 2 children, but the older ones enjoy the stories as well.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you could check out your local thrift store. They have a lot of holiday things in stock right now.
Give Jingle Jammies on Christmas Eve
This is one of my kids favorite things. They look forward to this almost more than opening their presents the next day. During my shopping, I pick up a pair of pjs for each of my children to open up the night before Christmas.
For the littles it is usually an outfit, but for my older 4 it is always just pants. Not just regular pants, but something FUN. It is always a challenge to find something new and personal for each child. Some of my kids have even saved their Jingle Jammies because they loved them so much.
12 Christmas Traditions to Start Today
Just like there had to be 25 Casseroles, this had to have 12 Christmas Traditions to Start Today.
Any of these can be started as soon as you finished reading this post, unless you already have your tree up, of course.
The holidays are a busy stressful time, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop and take the time to enjoy them. In fact, it is these traditions that will help prevent meltdowns. Your children over time will come to know what to expect, and will look forward to making these special memories with you.
So Mamas do your own thing. Start your own Christmas Traditions. Make your holidays special and memorable. I promise the mess and hassle will be worth it. Your children won’t be little for ever. Soon your baby will be 18 and about ready to graduate high school, but he will still look forward to his Jingle Jammies and all of your other fun traditions.