I was the oldest of 8 siblings and we certainly were NOT a Rockefeller family. In fact, there were years where times were extremely tight. Looking back, I don’t know how my parents did it. The magic however is that as children, we never knew that my parents struggled at time. Never. Christmas was absolutely magical and we thought we lived like kings and queens.
Christmas for us was not just about the gifts. Our Christmas growing up was so heavily steeped in tradition that it was more about what was going on around us than what was being opened on Christmas day.
I see Christmas through different eyes now as a mother. I see that I too have budget constraints when it comes to buying gifts (don’t we all.) However, I want to make Christmas just as magical for my children as Christmas was during my childhood.
I have been asked by a few people to recount what some of our traditions are. Although I think that everyone has the same traditions, it is sometimes therapeutic to get them down on paper… or web…. so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle. We have kept some of the ones that I had when I was growing up and we have added some new ones to the mix. This Christmas season, I am going to document the different traditions and activities that we engage in. I do this to not only keep track of what we do, but also to try to keep on my blog!
* Christmas Elves- Before the Elf on the Shelf was popular, we had the elves at our house. We never physically saw an elf, but we certainly saw the after effects.
* Decorating the tree as a family.
* Every year we go shopping for ornaments. The kiddos get to pick out their own ornament and place it on the tree. I used to think that I would send the ornaments with the kids when they got married and started their own families, however, I think that I will keep them so that when they return home at Christmas time, they will be able to show their kids the ornaments that they grew up with. That is still SEVERAL years away, so I won’t worry about it today.
* We wrap up our Christmas books and place them in a basket. Every night we open one up and read it as a family.
* Polar Express. We read the book as a family. We also watch the movie in our jammies and have hot chocolate and popcorn. I still hear the bell.
* We visit the mall and look at the stores and the lights. We talk to Santa and take a picture.
* After Jingles leaves the mini Christmas trees, we spend an evening decorating them. I love dollar store ornaments for this one.
* We visit Temple Square and look at the lights.
* We look up the list of highly decorated houses and visit them.
* We sleep under the Christmas tree for an evening.
* We watch the Christmas specials on ABC family.
* We read the nativity story and talk about the significance of the true reason on the season.
* We build gingerbread houses as a family.
* We build sugar cube castles… and generally leave them on someone else’s doorstep for them to enjoy during the holiday season.
* We watch specific movies as an entire family: Christmas Vacation, Mixed Nuts, Muppets Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story.
* We open one present on Christmas eve…. pajamas. Yep, no surprises there.
* We have 5 or so advent calendars around the house. Everyone is in charge of one of them and we do a countdown every night. We have a big wooden Christmas tree that has little ornament for every day of Christmas, a snowman that has a moving snowflake for every day, the chocolate boards that they sell at the grocery store. My favorite one is a series of the three Christmas village buildings that have doors and windows and rooftops that open to little compartments. Each compartment has room for a note and a treat. In this calendar, we put the activity that we are going to be doing for the day.
* We have about 6 different Christmas crafts that we do every year. We make ornaments, snowflakes, reindeer and snowmen.
* We bake gingerbread cookies. Yes, I do have the most amazing recipe for the softest, most delicious gingerbread cookies that you have ever eaten 🙂
* We write letters to Santa.
* We do an anonymous service project for someone. Some years it is big and sometimes it is much smaller. I want my children to learn the value of service and that this is what the season is about. In the past, we have done sub for Santas and 12 days of Christmas. Lately, it has been leaving a gift on a doorstep. My kids LOVE the challenge of leaving something small on a doorstep and running away. I think that this was my favorite part of Christmas growing up. I remember this more than I remember any gift that I ever got. Ever. I am so glad that my parents instilled this in us at a young age.
* We each draw a name and spend a week doing something nice for the person whose name we draw.
* We open stockings first of Christmas day. They are filled with fruit and candy and small gifts.
* We have an amazing Christmas breakfast. I have had to modify it the last couple of years to include Nena’s diet, but it is still amazing.
* We track Santa on Norad.
* Santa sends each of the kiddos a personalized video message. I will post the link in a future post.
* We write down the gift that we are going to give to Christ for the year. It could be something that we want to improve, add, augment or include in our lives during the year. We put them in fancy boxes and open up on Christmas Eve the following year. We spend the year focusing on becoming more Christ centered people.
*We hang mistletoe and make people abide by it. Yep, that gets interesting and we enjoy it.
* We burn holiday scented candles and oils. Peppermint, evergreen and cranberries are always filling the air in our home.
* On Christmas Eve, we put tea lights in white paper bags filled with a little bit of sand and we line our driveway and sidewalk.
I am sure that I will be adding to the list during the year, but this is the starter list. It helps me focus and make the season magical for the kiddos. I will briefly admit that it is harder doing it as a single mom. I feel like my plate is already overflowing, but I want my children to someday look back and know that their mom did the very best that she possibly could to make Christmas amazing, in her own little way 🙂
* Not only do we