I am always fascinated to hear friends talk about their Christmas traditions – ones they have created and ones they continue to do because they were part of their childhood. Once we had children, it seemed the traditions became even more important as we began to navigate the way each of our families did things at Christmas. Our families did things differently when it came to gifts and I remember thinking that I just assumed (I know, I know better than to do that now ;)) that everyone did things the same. For my family, we opened one gift on Christmas Eve and we got to pick out which one. I distinctly remember going through a phase of always opening the smallest gift. In the morning, Santa left our things out unwrapped for us to see as we entered the room. After seeing what Santa brought, we opened all the other gifts from family.
Jon’s family on the other hand, opened gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve from family – they always celebrated with his Aunt, Uncle and cousins, swapping which house they stayed at each year. Christmas morning, they would come downstairs to find their wrapped gifts from Santa.
So, I have to admit, I really like the idea of opening one gift on Christmas Eve. If I had my preference, this is how we would do it mainly because, it gives you a taste of what’s to come the following day and helps build excitement. Because Jon’s family always celebrated on Christmas Eve, they arrive at our house a few days before Christmas and on Christmas Eve we open gifts from them. Christmas morning, Santa has arrived and left unwrapped gifts (which I’m now being told this year it would be more exciting if they were wrapped – I guess this is part of the kids getting older!) and then we open gifts from each other.
Other traditions we love:
Decorate the tree & house together while listening to Christmas music – something a lot of families do. Our tree is very much a family tree of ornaments that represent different aspects of our marriage over the past 21 years!
Each child receiving a new ornament each year – This is a favorite of mine. The ornaments either represent a hobby, a personality trait or something relevant to that particular child’s year.
Riding around looking at Christmas lights – I have done this for as long as I can remember. We always did this growing up. Jon and I would do this before we had children and now the kids enjoy it too. We have friends that do this as well and their girls always ride in their PJ’s!
Attending Church on Christmas Eve – We have attended everything from the noisy children’s service to the more subdued Christmas service.
Volunteering as a family for “Presents of Peace” at our local YMCA – this is a “newer” tradition for us – 3 years in a row. At this event, families are provided a meal and then Parents shop for gifts from $1 – $3 for their children for Christmas. While the parents are shopping, the children are being entertained by teens who are members of Leaders Club at the Y. After parents shop, volunteers wrap all of their gifts for them. When your children get to the age that you can volunteer for something as a family, its a must-do.
Baking Christmas cookies & eating more than we say we will… – this is something all of my children like to do! We have a few favorites and then always like to throw a new recipe or two in the mix as well.
Jon reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the children on Christmas Eve while Mom videos and takes pictures – there is something about this that is so special to me as a Mom.
Elf on the Shelf – Jingle, we have fun with him, but I applaud the amazingly creative men and women out there who are completely engaged with the story behind that elf, for I am not one of them. 🙂 He moves, that’s about it and if he moves every night, well that’s a good week.
Going out to lunch with my sister and brother-in-law the day after Christmas while my parents take the grandchildren out to lunch. That adult time with them is priceless, and relaxed after the busy holiday season.
A tradition I want to start: Volunteering at a soup kitchen. Now that my children are a little older, this is something I really want to do. Its important to me for them to give of their time in their community and to be reminded of the blessings they have and how important it is to be a blessing to others.
What are your favorite traditions?