Let’s talk holiday traditions

Whatever holiday it is that you celebrate.

What sort of traditions do you have in your family?

We have several that the children enjoy. Occasionally we will try something new, add it into the mix and sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t. The Advent calendar is one of those things. If I buy one the kids like it, but they don’t really miss it if I forget, like I did this year. I am going to spend the next week talking about the various traditions that we have established for our family during the holidays.

We are a family of readers. it only makes sense that the first tradition I write about is about books.

Christmas Books

Basket of Chrismas books

Every year I wrap all of our Christmas story books in wrapping paper and put them in a basket. Each day the younger children take turns picking out and unwrapping a book for us to read. And yes, we have over 25 of them. (Advent varies slightly in length from year to year– this year it began December 2nd, so we will double up on a day when one of the children happens to pick a short book.)

The books vary from the tried and true old classics like, Twas the Night before Christmas

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to the modern classic, Polar Express

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to books like the Berenstain Bears visit Santa Bear, I’m not posting a picture of this one.

Every year I try to buy a few more books to add to the mix to replace some of the lesser loved (usually by me) or too juvenile ones in our collection. I look for rich quality pictures and an engaging storyline that appeals to both grown-ups and children.

Today we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey

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This book is a perfect example of the sort I try to find. The story is deep enough that a twelve year old can listen to it and discuss it afterward, but the beautifully detailed illustrations keep the interest of an almost 2yr old while I am reading.

So tell me what are your holiday traditions? Do you do something unique or fun that your family enjoys? Or did you do something as a child that you hope to continue as an adult?

Write about it on your own blog if you like and leave a link to the post in the comments.

42 Responses to “Let’s talk holiday traditions”

  1. Notes from the Trenches » Santa also has ties to the coal industry, battery manufacturers, and overeaters anonymous Says:

    [...] Over on my other blog I am writing this next week about the holiday traditions that my family enjoys. I’d love if you wrote about some of your traditions and left a link over there, no matter what holiday you celebrate. Posted on December 8, 2006 by Chris @ 9:29 am   [...]

  2. Toni Says:

    LOVE the book idea!! Will have to start that tradition tonight! With 2 boys- 12 and 4- finding common ground is not always easy! Thanks for the great idea! My 4 year old and I have a tradition- starting at Thanksgiving, we buy glass or ceramic ornaments from a craft store- we then paint them- We give them to friends and family. This year we are running a bit behind ( I am going to school full time)- but have already had several friends and family ask where are their ornaments?? Nice to know that they look forward to it…..

    Love your blogs!!

  3. CathyC Says:

    I like this thread….hoping to gather/steal some ideas.
    This is what we do:
    1. I buy both kids a new Hallmark ornament, and one for me to keep. And yes, it HAS to be Hallmark.
    2. The Christmas books are scattered around the house.
    3. I take a black and white photo of the kids to use as our Christmas card.
    These 3 are the only things that actually get done EVERY year.

  4. pat Says:

    Every Christmas Eve I have a family open house where all are invited and we share some holiday cheer. Christmas Day my sister has the same thing so our holidays tend to last an entire two days.

    Since my five year old grandson was born and subquently his younger brother, we take them to see Santa and then see the light show in Hershy PA. We make cookies. We buy and decorate the tree together and we watch ( pre-recorded) all the traditional holiday movies/shows that have been out since the time I was little. When my own three sons were little I hung their sockings over the fireplace now I hang my grandsons and by next Christmas I will have a third socking to hang. These children are my greatest treasure.

  5. pat Says:

    Uh? I should have used spellcheck.

  6. dcrmom Says:

    Fun! I just did a series about my holiday traditions on my blog. In fact, I did a post about our Christmas books too! Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree top my list of favorites.

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your traditions.

  7. Lori Says:

    We have a snack night the night that we decorate our tree. My husband’s family always had Blueberry pancakes with Blueberry syrup for Christmas Breakfast. We’ve broken that tradition–we love blueberries too much to save them just for Christmas–but we still have some kind of extra-special Christmas Breakfast. Another tradition is that Santa only fills the stockings. And, gifts are opened on Christmas Day–first thing in the morning—and then we go to Church.

  8. Sara Says:

    Each year we (or I) make an advent calendar. Sometimes it’s quite simple like making a paper chain. Other times (like this year) it’s more involved. Either way, it always has an activity for each day. Some are quite simple, like “put your shoes and carrots by the door for St. Nicholas and his donkey” followed by the next day’s “check your shoes!” or “read a Christmas book”. Others involve a little more planning, like “go downtown to see the tree of lights”. But it encompasses all of our Christmas activities from putting up the tree and decorating cookies and Christmas shopping to school activities like holiday concerts and parties. I only put on one activity per day and try to vary between simple, little/no planning activities and more involved things. I have found that doing this not only helps us focus on and enjoy the one thing that day more, but it helps me plan ahead as well. My kids look forward to each day’s activities while counting down to Christmas.

  9. Mary Beth Says:

    My family does the big turkey & ham dinner on Christmas Eve, then all my siblings (and now significant others) play board games until it’s time to leave for Midnight Mass. After midnight mass, we’re up till 3 a.m. drinking champagne (we could each have a small glass starting at age 13), and eating fancy hor d’eurves. Christmas morning, we wake up slowly, have a big brunch, and don’t get around to opening stockings until 12. In our stockings, we each have a new ornament, themed to coordinate with each other’s. We open presents in turns, everybody admiring each gift, before sitting down to a seafood feast late in the afternoon.
    My boyfriend and I have started our own tradition: instead of buying each other presents, we chip in together to buy a truffle (the mushroom, not chocolate) and cook ourselves an elaborate dinner we would never be able to afford in a restaurant. We just finished our 3rd such dinner, and are already plotting next year’s.

  10. and baby makes 6! » Blog Archive » Holiday traditions Says:

    [...] Chris wrote a fun piece about Holiday Traditions of her blog In The Trenches Of Motherhood and invited everyone to share their traditions as well. [...]

  11. cowmomba Says:

    I love the book Idea.

    An idea I always loved is to buy a special ornament for each child each year. When they grow up and move away, they get their ornaments to put on their own tree- tying their Christmases past to their future.

  12. Mary W Says:

    I have added my traditions to my blog http://mischiefmanaged-ornot.blogspot.com/

    but I LOVE LOVE LOVE your book tradition. We are going to start that one. My mother sends a Christmas book to the boys at Thanksgiving every year so we have a few.

  13. Emily Says:

    Our family has tons of traditions, but here are a few of my favorites:

    baking cookies with my sisters. we have some types that we make every year, but we also scour recipe books and magazines to find a few new ones to try too. as hectic as it can be trying to get the timing right with all the trays of cookies to go into the oven, it is so relaxing to have that time together to listen to christmas music and get into the spirit. i’m not ready to let my daughter (almost 4) invade this time yet, but someday.

    visiting santa. there is a park in town that puts on a free to the public “santa’s workshop”. they set up the cabin that is usually a snack bar, and kids can talk to elves, sit on santa’s lap (who gives out apples), admire a train set-up, drink hot cocoa and eat cookies provided by mrs. claus. the elves are usually well-equipped to answer the childrens’ endless questions, and it’s downright cozy. it is the least commercialized santa event that i’ve seen.

    hand-knit stockings. when i was a baby, my mom’s cousin knit a stocking for me with my name, my year of birth, and a snowman face on it. since then, my mom has knit similar stockings for everyone in the family. they are nice and sturdy, as well as being quite a sentimental piece for everyone. not that my mom will be giving up knitting anytime soon, but i’ve been trying to work on my knitting skills so that this tradition can continue for years and years to come! (i’m the only one of my siblings to show an interest so far)

  14. Karen Says:

    We have the same tradition of opening Christmas stories. Some years I would be very unorganized and be wrapping books all month long. A few years ago I made fabric bags of different sizes (to fit the books) out of Christmas fabric. (I used pinking shears to cut them out so I did not hem the open ends.) I tie them shut with strips of fabric. This saves me a ton of time every year.
    My kids all love opening a book every night, even the oldest one at home (boy 18).
    Jonathan Toomey is one of my personal favorites!

  15. Julie Says:

    We posted our St. Nick’s Day traditions for yesterday’s Love Thursday blog.

    Today, Dec 8, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception and on my undergrad campus we had a huge Christmas on Campus festival that day. Classes were canceled, the whole campus pitched in to make it a winter wonderland: ice sculptures, lights everywhere, nativity scene, huge center tree, etc. The gym was turned into a carnival full of games and activities, classrooms were turned into puppet theators, story reading rooms, and cookie decorating spaces. Then kids from the under privledged neighborhoods were bussed to campus and students could volunteer to sponsor a kid, take them around to the games, shows, stories, cookie decorating, etc. And we gave them a small present. They left around 8pm and we had a beautiful mass. It was the most magical, fun day of the year. My husband and I try to keep that spirit alive and spend Dec 8 decorating our house a and then doing some shopping for a program like Toys for Tots or an adopt-a-family, and of course mass.

    We have a lot of other traditions, but I’ll be following suit and posting them on our blog so I’ll stop hogging your comments!!

  16. tal86 Says:

    Christmas traditions start with setting up our tree on Thanksgiving day, while watching the movie, Rudy. Then on Dec. 1st, we start watching all of our Christmas shows and movies. We have a ton of these. Besides the regular Christmas favorites, we have enjoyed getting many off the ABC Family channel like Three Days, A Boyfriend for Christmas, Special Delivery, and Christmas in Boston. And we also start reading Christmas books.

    Now my husband’s parents used to make the kids their breakfast, send them down to the playroom, and then make and eat their own breakfast. All this, before they’d let them open gifts. We are talking about an hour and a half here. Since my husband and I just consider this absolute torture for kids; we go to Krispy Kreme and let the kids pick out donuts to have for Christmas breakfast. I know, I know sugar rush and Christmas aniticipation combined, but this works for my family. It is a real treat for my kids, as we don’t usually buy donuts.

    I have always loved buying Christmas presents for my kids. I just love anticipating and seeing the excitement in their eyes as they open their presents. What comes after that, I have always hated. The holiday let down. It just goes by so quickly. It’s like coming down (or rather crashing) from a sugar rush. So about 12 years ago, when I only had three kids (I have five now), I started the tradition of letting them open presents from each other on Dec. 23rd and hang their stockings. They draw names each year to see who they will buy for and save their own money to buy the gift for that sibling. This helps them to think of what someone else might want instead of just me, me, me. It also gives them the joy of watching someone be blessed by a present they bought. On Dec. 24th, they open stocking presents. Then, on Christmas they open the rest of their presents. Spreading gifts over three days not only helps with the overload of anticipating Christmas (mine and the kids), but it helps them to enjoy the little presents they receive. Those would usually just get lost among the bigger presents before I started the three days of Christmas. Another thing that has helped is having an elf (one of the kids…they take turns each year) give out presents one at a time. This is important to me. The kids get a chance to be happy for someone else and not just think of themselves. It also helps them to learn to wait their turn. And for me, it makes it last just a little longer. This is a tradition from my husband’s family that I really value. At my house, it was a free for all. Everyone had their own stack of presents and would just rip through them in about 10 minutes. I enjoy it so much better the elf way.

    Another thing I do is have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, we have a buffet spread. The table is loaded with all the trimmings…Christmas punch, turkey or ham (whichever we have that year), sandwich rolls, dips, chips, crackers, cheese log, cookies, nuts, etc… This way the kids can stop playing and grab something to eat whenever they are hungry. And I don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen, when I’d rather be watching the kids enjoy their new toys and gizmos.

    I want my kids to enjoy giving, as well as receiving: so we also buy presents for Toys for Tots and participate in filling stockings for preemies at our local hospital.

  17. Chelle Says:

    I actually wrote about this subject just this week. I think traditions are incredibly important to maintaining an functional family. Well, that and the fact that I LIKE doing fun things year after year after year :)

  18. Chris Says:

    We have a few favorites. My daughter’s favorite is Cookie Hooky. It seemed there was never enough time to enjoy baking cookies together and get all the chores done on the weekend. So sometime in December I keep her home from school, take the day off work, and we bake. We also fill wooden advent calendar with family/friends names. WHen a name is taken from the calendar we tell a favorite family story about that person- some which live far away and the daughter has seen only once or twice. Lastly, after attending an early Christmas Eve Mass. We come home to a suppoer of blintes, latkes and applesauce. THis tradition developed partly because it was fast food, but also to honor my ancestors that were Jewish. We then sit around singing Christmas carols, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Luke’s Christmas story. A nice old fahsioned time.

  19. Steph Says:

    Our holiday traditions include going caroling on the 23rd (man, could I tell some stories), my grandparents on Christmas Eve, always getting pajamas (nice pictures the next morning), Santa at my parents house (ok, so I’m 27 and Santa still comes to see me-I still believe), then my mom’s side of the family Christmas day, then my husbands family Christmas night. And if you make it through all that, shopping on the 26th!

  20. Nicki Kelly Says:

    Here is a post about our traditions.


    Note both adult movies listed are R rated with some curse words included. Just in case someone decides to rent them…I wanted to add a disclaimer.

  21. Fold My Laundry Please Says:

    We haven’t been away from our extended family enough to really form a whole lot of holiday traditions for our family, but Christmas Eve, we always have a dinner similar to what Mary and Joseph would have had to eat, meat (deli slices and summer sausage in our case), cheese, and bread. Then, after the kids have gone to bed, Santa sets up a train set under the tree and has it weaving in, around, and over the presents he left. Their faces light up when they see that train going in the morning!

  22. Katie Says:

    Chris, you are a genius! I love the wrapped book idea! I need to collect all our Christmas books together now.

    I never really thought the stuff we did were considered traditions until I started talking to other families and they say, “you do what?”

    St. Nick visits and fills the kids’ shoes. Except I always forget to have the kids put their shoes out on the 5th so the shoes go out on the 6th and the kids wake to little gifts on the 7th.

    We decorate a gingerbread house and we make our own Christmas cards. We’ve had Advent calenders before but the kids tend to open everything in like two days so I didn’t get one this year. On Christmas Eve everyone opens new Christmas PJ’s and they receive a new ornament that has something to do with what they’ve done this year (last year it was Maryland themed since we had just moved out there). I’m sure there are more things I’m forgetting!

  23. Katheryn Ostler Says:

    I love the book idea. I’ll have to start this one for sure.

    We always open family gifts on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning we have Santa’s gifts. I like this because this way the gifts the kids get eachother aren’t overshadowed by Santa’s gifts.

    We also have a program on Christmas Eve. Everyone has to participate. Play an instrument, read a story, anything goes pretty much. We also have our big Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is relaxed with us eating leftovers and playing with toys.

  24. Blaine Says:

    Just a heads up on some great Christmas books if you have a few that are in need of replacing. Max Lucado has written some very high quality children’s book. The stories are poigniant enough to draw in the “coolest” of kids (and adults for that matter), and the illustrations are always lovely. I can’t really recommend one over another, as they are all outstanding.

    Merry Christmas to you and your’s!

  25. guinness girl Says:

    Oh! This is such a great idea! And the children’s Christmas book thing - when Wilman and i take the plunge into parenthood, we will definitely add that to our Christmas traditions! So cool.

    Anyway - my absolute favorite thing my family has done since I was a kid is something we still do now. The story goes that my mom was always the Christmas shopper, and Dad was always the official present-wrapper. So, after some time, he got tired of writing “To guinness girl From Santa” and “To Chosen One from Santa” (or from Mom and Dad or from the cat or whatever). So, he started making the “from” section of the gift a hint about what the gift would be. It started easy - like if I was to receive a gift of a pair of shoes I wanted, it would say “To: guinness girl. From: foot.” When we got old enough to figure out the clues, they got harder. I also have heard he had a tendency to drink bourbon while he wrapped, so as his wrapping night went on, the clues became more random. Now, we all - my sister and I, and our spouses, too - make up clues for our gifts (and then as the person opens it, we say “That’s also from me!”) I love love love it. As Christmas neared, my sister and I would huddle near the tree, trying to figure out our gifts based on the clues. Now, we’re not allowed to look at them until Christmas Eve, because I usually figure them out (my sister is still horrendous at deciphering my dad’s semi-drunken logic). It’s so fun. I’ll post some actual clues this year to give you a better idea (because, frankly, the “To GG from Foot” one is crap).

  26. judi Says:

    In our house we celebrate both christmas and hanukah. our kids get a kick out of the fact that one night of hanukah, we always give them a christmas ornament that symbolizes something important that happened to them during that year.

  27. Carolie Says:

    Every year, my mother and I make about three hundred (300) very plain sugar cookies, cut in all the Christmas shapes. We mix up icing in at least six colors, and pull out all the sprinkles, red-hots, silver dragees, etc. Then we spend hours “painting” the cookies with the icing. The more OCD among us (that would be me) spend hours with a toothpick, painting the toys in the top of Santa’s pack and carefully placing silver dragees on the painstakingly-painted reindeer harness. Others (that would be my littlest brother) slap icing on cookies and then test to see just how many sprinkles and crystals of colored sugar will stick to one small cookie.

    We do this EVERY year. The best party I ever had in high school was when Mom insisted I have a cookie decorating party my junior year. I thought it would be DUMB…but everyone came, even the boys, and everyone had a blast and stayed far later than they were supposed to.

    My favorite photo of my eldest niece is of her in a voluminous apron, decorating cookies at 3 years old. She’d been very fastidious until that point, when she absent-mindedly put a finger in her mouth. The look on her face is priceless…”Oh MY! This funky-colored stuff is GOOD!” She spent the rest of the decorating alternating icing between the cookies and her lips, streaks of color radiating from the corner of her mouth.

    We always go to Chriistmas Eve midnight services, and I always burst into tears at “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night”. (”FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL on your KNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES…”)

    Mom used to read us “The Night Before Christmas”…now, at 40, 38 and 36, we all recite it from memory in unison…and my nieces are beginning to join in.

    Everyone can have stockings first, but we always read the King James Bible Christmas story (”And it came to pass in those days that a decree when out from Caesar Augustus…”) before we see what Santa’s brought.

    We used to go Christmas carolling…which sounds dorky and silly until you do it. The looks on the faces of those who come to the door, especially elderly folks, is worth every minute of cold, every minute of feeling silly.

  28. Carolie Says:

    (cont’d) This year, I’m celebrating Christmas in Japan…away from my family, and with my husband for the first time. We’ll be having a Christmas cookie painting party with our Japanese neighbors, and having an “open house” party. We’ve trimmed our tree (the “theme” is the same as we’ve each always had — every mismatched ornament that’s ever been given to either of us, along with glass balls and multi-colored, NON-blinking lights, strings of popcorn, and strands of tinsel) We’ll recite “The Night Before Christmas” for me, and read a Norwegian story that’s part of my husband’s tradition. We’ll have stockings for each other in the morning, then he’ll read the KJV Christmas story from the Bible before we open presents. When either of us opens a gift that we’re 99% sure we know what’s inside, we’ll say the stupid family joke “I wonder what’s in THIS bag of oranges?”

    We’ll incorporate traditions from his background (Norwegian meatballs at Christmas dinner??) and from mine…and we’ll make some new ones of our own (a collection of snowmen, for some reason, and an ornament from everywhere we’ve been stationed, for example).

    Merry Christmas.

  29. Elizabeth Says:

    I have overdone things on holidays past, so this year we are scaling back - half the decorations, half the cookies, half the events, etc. - so, we are getting to think about which traditions we really love and which ones we were just doing out of obligation to the tradition. The books, we kept!

    I bought one new, beautiful Christmas story each year for years. Some ended up as clunkers in the story department for one reason or another. The keepers always end up being the ones that I have a hard time getting through - Jonathan Toomey being one of them! Also Tomie dePaola’s Clown of God, and Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant. I’ll have to try wrapping them, as my son doesn’t embrace the idea of just grabbing one to read every so often like my daughters used to.

  30. Fairly Odd Mother Says:

    I just love the book idea! I’m not sure we have 25 holiday books yet, but we are probably halfway there—the kids would LOVE this. We started a new Advent calendar this year—I made 24 envelopes out of holiday scrapbooking paper and inside each one I put a fun thing to do. I looked at our calendar to decide which days could include a more ‘intense’ activity (like today, we are putting together a gingerbread house). On our really busy day, we might just make peppermint hot chocolate or hang candy canes on the tree. So far, my three (ages 2, 3 & 5) love this, so I think it’ll stick. We also always get a photo with Santa taken but I have been ending up in the picture b/c my younger two are afraid of him. I have a special photo album with just the kids & Santa photos in them and it is fun to look at the change over the years.

  31. Nicole Says:

    I love this idea! I’m getting married after Christmas, and you inspired me to sit down and think of the Christmas traditions my future husband and I will start!
    ps, I adore both your blogs… I think you are a wonderful writer and person!

  32. MotherReader Says:

    That book idea is so cute!

    Our biggest tradition is that we always order pizza on Christmas Eve because we are so wiped out by the holidays prep. We also used to call our tree shopping the Domino’s experience, because our idea of the perfect tree was the one that could be picked out, paid for, and brought home in thirty minutes or less.

  33. Laura Says:

    Oh gosh, let me just say I am a christmas junkie. No one else in my family is, though. For starters, my parents are divorced, so every christmas eve I spend the night at my dad’s. ( I am seventeen, so I still do x-mas at home) X-mas morning I open presents at his house, then go to my mom’s and do christmas there with my brother and her. My brother is my half brother, so he is also at his dad’s that morning. My mother enjoys having christmas morning to herself, only because after spending a night of wrapping and preparing, she can sleep in. Wait, lets back up. A tradition in my whole family, my extended family is x-mas eve dinner. We all go to my grandparent’s house for a huge tamale, rice and bean dinner. (we are mexican) It is so fun, we eat and talk and then go on a walk to see all the decorations. It is so fun, simply because we do it every year. Also, the tamales are delicious. On x-mas day, my mom brother and I all eat lunch then open presents. After an afternoon spent by the fireplace, we actually shower and put on real clothes, and have another big extended family dinner. Oh how I love the holidays!

  34. Tired But Happy Says:

    Love the book idea. Reminds me of my favourite baby shower– each guest brought their favourite children’s book, and wrote a note inside the cover to our daughter. The wee one’s still in the book-chewing stage (so am I some nights), but she already has a nice collection of the kiddie classics.

    Sorry my comment has nothing to do with holiday traditions. Our major traditions were never very creative: give and receive gifts in an orgy of consumerism, eat till you look like a “before” picture, that sort of thing…

  35. Petunia Says:

    Since 1964 my family has written a letter on New Year’s eve. You could even start it on Christmas. But we start in the early evening with my father writing and opening by saying This is (the present year) sitting here with my family and reflecting about the year gone by. Then he highlights all that has happened. He ends with “And now I pass the pen on to”…whoever is writing next—they tell all that has happened to them that year and they pass the pen etc. Whoever is there writes from young to old. If the immediate family is not there they will write in the next few days. My mother ends the letter in the next few days and writes all we forgot. We put the letter away in a safety deposit box for 10 years without looking at them. The frist ten years are the hardest but then you get to the year when you write and you read outloud the one written ten years ago. It’s wonderful to see your own writing as a child, writing from those who have since past away, old boyfriends, etc. It’s a wonderful tradition that we treasure and look forward to each year. It’s amazing the things you forget.
    We also watch “Scrooge the musical” while putting up the Christmas tree….it’s a musical from 1970 that we still LOVE! Great music - wonderful acting…..

  36. A Gaggle of Girls » This was going to be a whining post Says:

    [...] I’ve got one or two more present ideas coming, both perfect for the person who has everything, PLUS made by moms! So please check back! I’m also going to have cute pictures from yesterday’s holiday party and some thoughts on holiday traditions as inspired by Chris. This entry is filed under Good Things, Kid Stuff, Linky Linky, Health Care, bloggity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave a Reply [...]

  37. T in HD Says:

    I love the Christmas book idea. We have a number of well-loved Christas books (my favourite is Weihnachten in Bullerb├╝ (Christmas in Bullerb├╝) by Astrid Lindgren) which we try to read during the Christmas season but I’ve never actually gathered them all up and wrapping them is a great idea.

    Some of our traditions:

    1. Every year, I make the kids’ advent calendars. Each child has 24 little sacks made out of Christmasy fabric which I fill with chocolates and little surpises (like children’s tatoos, toy cars, fun erasers, etc). This year I got them the Nativity from Haba which is made of little wooden figures and blocks to build the manger. The blocks were way too big for the little sacks, so they got them on St. Nikolaustag on the 6th. The little figures go into the cloth sacks. They also each get a homemade advent calendar from a close friend who wraps up 24 little gifts and candy for each child. Each night after dinner, the kids get to open their sacks and packages (these really are very little–we’re not talking presents every day of the advent season!)

    2. We buy a fresh advent wreath which the children and I decorate or, this year, we made our own. The living room smelled lovely after we were done with it! (Tip for keeping your wreath fresh longer: store it outside in the cold and just bring it in in the evenings during or after dinner when you want to light it).

    3. We make our own beeswax candles for our candelabra, advent wreath and everything else. Beeswax makes the house smell lovely and cozy.

    4. On the eve of St. Nikolaustag (Dec. 6 here in Germany) the kids leave their boots outside the front door and Nikolaus fills them with nuts, fresh and dried fruits, chocolate, Lebkuchen and evergreen boughs and he usually leaves one or two small presents. Last year I found some clear rainboots and they look so great stuffed with all the goodies.

    5. On Christmas Eve, we make a shepards pie for dinner. It’s a yummy, hearty meal but a one-dish wonder that is quick and easy to make (even ahead of time and frozen, if needs be) and leaves plenty of time for Christmas Eve festivities.

    6. Each child opens one gift on Christmas Eve, usually new jimjams.

    7. Christmas day opening of pressies is usually an all day affair, sometimes in jammies, sometimes dressed. We usually like to open a present and play with it/enjoy it for a while before moving on to the next. We snack on fruits, nuts, cheeses and hot tea and then break for breakfast late morning, which is *always* monkey bread (also called bubble bread–breakfast bisquits baked in a deep baking dish with cinnamon and sugar, raisins and sometimes nuts) and spinach quiche. Opening presents can stretch into late afternoon, though we don’t really have a ton of them, we’re just very slow about it, then we laze around and nap while the kids who aren’t tired play.

    8. Christmas “dinner” is really just platters of chips and dip, crackers, deli meats and cheeses, bowls of fresh fruit and veg, smoked salmon paste, platters of Lebkuchen and other yummy but more or less light and healthy titbits to snack on. It makes the whole day more relaxed and lazy, which is just how we like it.

    9. Boxing day dinner is our big turkey dinner with all the fixings. Dh starts it in the morning and whole house smells yummy all day while we hang out and play with all our new stuff.

    10. Between Boxing day and the night before New Year’s Eve, dh and I watch The 10th Kingdom. Don’t ask me why, we started this years ago and it has become another one of our traditions!

    11. Sylvester or New Year’s Eve we set out the whole table with yummy titbits like we do on Christmas only generally a lot more stuff and a lot of baked goodies as well and also freshed squeezed orange juice, which the kids love helping me make. We spend the whole afternoon and evening snacking and playing family games.

  38. T in HD Says:

    Oops, forgot. Dh *always* bakes and decorates cookies with the kids. Always. The mess factor is far too high for me to enjoy this particular activity with the kids so it falls to dh! Someone above postd about a “Christmas cookie party”. What a neat idea. My kids would love to have something like this with their friends.

  39. carrien Says:

    We celebrate Hanukah and Christmas, cause my MIL is Jewish. Hanukah has all of the traditional stuff, the kids love to light the menorahs, some years they make their own menorahs out of clay and paint them, like this year. (They tend to break so we always need new ones.) We make latkes and they get little presents every night, or gelt [chocolate money], and we spend many of those nights with their grandparents and family who live close by. THey love being allowed to light their candles and looking at them in the window.

    For Christmas we are way less traditional. We don’t get a tree, we don’t do presents. THey get plenty on hanukah. We do most of our talk about the nativity during sukkot which is in the fall and most likely closer to the actual time of Christ’s birth. (Yes we are totally mixing traditions, but it works for us.) So we read about the Christmas story while we camp out in the Sukkot and talk about the promise that God will someday dwell with his people that the feast remembers as well as when they lived in the wilderness. So CHristmas for us is a day that we choose to give the baby Jesus a present. We usually go and help feed dinner somewhere, or make friends with a family in need and give them a day. Sometimes we will host a traditional dinner in our home and invite people who have no where else to go as well as our family. The kids are each given a little bit of money and it is their job to decide how to spend it so that it will help other people. I just learned about the Samaritan’s PUrse gift catalogue[https://secure.samaritan.ca/gift_catalogue/2006Christmas/Default.aspx?pjc=013657] and we will be looking at it together to see if that’s what they want to do because they have a section with gifts that kids can give.

    My favorite tradition as a child was when my whole family got together on Christmas eve to sing Christmas songs. Since everyone also brought a dessert it involved a lot of eating as well. I’ve started learning a new song a day with my children. I pull out the music books I have and sit down to play, and we sing them together. My favorites are the classic old hymns.

    We take the days of Hanukah off of school and spend that time making a lot of seasonal treats together, and eating them.

  40. Texas Says:

    My mother-in-law started the tradition when we were first married of giving us a box of all the “good” staple groceried we could not afford (brownie mix, chips, squirt cheese, etc.). We looked forward to it every year, and made it last for a loooonggg time. I was a little disappointed when that tradition stopped for me. I guess it was a sign we were “real” grown ups! So this year, I’m resurrecting the tradition with our son who moved out to his own place since last Christmas. I know some weeks he can’t get groceries, and shows up at Mom’s kitchen door around supper time, and that’s great! I’m glad he’s trying to make it on his own. So I’m filling a box for him and can’t wait for his reaction Christmas morning.

  41. Allie Says:

    I posted about Holiday Traditions today on my site as well… Thanks for the idea…


  42. Storybook Advent « Spinning Memories Says:

    [...] This year I went to the library and checked out loads of Christmas story books. I wrapped them all up and put them in a box under the tree; an idea I got from Chris. Each night we unwrap and read one book for a bedtime story. My three-year-old princess loves the anticipation of what book she will get. My one-year-old loves unwrapping. In fact, he usually unwraps a book in the morning and another in the afternoon. I have a lot of extras, so I don’t mind. And it is really gearing him up for Christmas morning. He will know exactly what to do. [...]