Ahhhhh, December – what a wonderful time each year! I love our December traditions most of all, and they bring us close as a family.
Christmas Card Tradition
When I was a child, my Daddy ordered special, custom-printed Christmas cards every year until I went to college. He made many friends during his military career, and this was his way of maintaining those relationships. We also have a VERY large family (I have over 60 first cousins!!), and cards were a way of staying in touch with them between our summer reunions. I adopted Dad’s penchant for sending Christmas cards when we had our first baby, and we’ve sent over a hundred cards every year since. Now that the children are older, it will become more and more difficult to get a family picture together each year, so I’ll have to get creative with my card ideas.
Tradition was to take a family picture together in late November or early December, and have enough of them printed to insert into whatever cards were purchased, and then send to all our friends and family by mid-December. We’ve done many different designs, and sometimes there’s a family newsletter or silly poem in the card, too. I love buying Christmas-themed stamps at the post office, and I hand-address each card.
They aren’t always on time. Folks don’t always reciprocate. I love sending Christmas cards, and I’ll keep this family tradition going. I hope my children will, too. I LIKE being part of very old traditions!
Tradition: Hand-made Items for Gifts
I love to make things for Christmas! It could be ornaments, baked good, or even drink mixes or baking mixes, but gifts made by hand are unique and special. Years ago, I began by making a really pretty bean soup mix and packaging it in pretty jars with fabric-covered lids and recipe tags. People who sew can easily make decorative pillows, stuffed animals or dolls, or simpler items like cloth napkins. There are many types of Christmas ornaments that are fun to make: fabric, felt, wood, beads on wire, or salt dough. Nice ornaments can be treasured for many years by the recipient. There are practical things to make, too. You just need to be creative in your ideas. I look for ideas all year long, no matter what season, so I can be ready for the holidays.
If you need ideas for Christmas gifts you can make, check out the latest offering from Ultimate Bundles – the Handmade with Love Super Bundle. I just bought mine, and there are lots of GREAT ideas of quick projects to make for gift-giving! (Let me know what you think of this bundle offering.)
Tradition: “Adopting” a Family and Playing Secret Santa
When our children were little, I was a public school teacher. Every year, the school counselor would give teachers the opportunity to play Secret Santa to a needy family. Both parties were anonymous: the counselor would provide information on all the family members needs, and the teacher would buy and wrap gifts and deliver to the counselor. The school counselor made the exchange on behalf of both parties. This was an excellent opportunity for our children to learn about giving. I always chose a family the size of ours, and each of us would buy a gift for a person in the family. While we wrapped the gifts, we talked about those people – especially children – from poor families, and how we could share our blessings by giving. The children really seemed to click with this tradition.
Tradition: Baking Christmas Cookies
We love baking cookies, and this is a great family activity! We can enjoy togetherness in the kitchen while making delicious treats for peers and teachers at school and co-workers at work. Banana bread in those mini-loaf pans is a delicious treat, too. Let each child decide what treat they want to make, choose treat bags together, and spend the day mixing, baking, and decorating!
Cutting Our Own Christmas Tree Tradition
In the early years, we bought a real tree at the discount stores, like most people. However, we wanted to be sure our tree was fresh, so we began looking for a Christmas tree farm. Our first visit to a farm provided us with a beautiful tree, but that was it. We parked the car, got a bow saw, walked into the fields, and cut the tree. They helped us tie it on the car, and we drove it home. Efficient, but nothing special.
Then we decided to try Old Baker Farm for our Christmas tree, since we just got our pumpkins there. We made our first tree purchase there in 2000. We LOVED Old Baker Farm. At the shed where we picked up a bow saw, there was hot cider and peppermint sticks to enjoy and baby goats to pet. We could walk into the nearby fields or take a hay ride behind a tractor to the more distant fields to find a tree. We loved the hay ride!
Monty is a very picky tree purchaser, so we tromped through EVERY field of trees. The chilly air felt great, and the children ran to different scrawny trees, showing us they were like “Charlie Brown trees.” When the family had finally voted on the perfect tree, Dad began sawing the trunk with the bow saw. He let each of the children take a turn (until they were bored) sawing, and finished the cutting himself. He wore work gloves and dragged our tree to the road where we awaited wagon pickup. Back at the shed, men loaded the tree onto a “shaker” machine to shake out the dead needles. Then they shoved our shaken tree into a tube of netting to hold it, and helped Monty fasten it to the roof of the car. We had a bit more hot cider and a few more peppermints. The entire experience was SO wonderful, we knew this would be our traditional way to get a tree!
We developed the tradition to continue into the evening at home. We brought our tree home, and put it on a tree stand on the front porch. Dad told the children it needed to relax after being bound in the net for the drive home, and that would take hours. That sounded awful to the children, who were ready to decorate. So, we put our Christmas CDs in the stereo, put a pot of cider onto the stovetop, and heated the oven for cookie-baking. Meanwhile, I brought out construction paper strips I’d cut to make paper chains. I gather the children around the table and began making paper chains with them. We used glue sticks in the early years, and graduated to mini staplers as the kids got older. They competed to see who could complete the longest chain!
We enjoyed some cookies, sipped some cider, and then the tree was ready. Dad brought it into the house and set it up in the living room. With our gloves on, he and I adorned the tree with strands of blinking, colored lights. I helped the kids join their paper chains to make a very long garland for the tree, and we went around and around with it. The tree was already BEAUTIFUL! Then the children opened the boxes of ornaments and began putting unbreakable items on the tree. Dad got the ladder to put the tree topper on, and we all marveled at our beautiful Christmas tree.
This tradition continued for ten years, and we all looked forward to repeating this day every year. In 2003, our friends Anthony and Molly joined us, and we added a brunch at the Pancake House on the way. In November of 2011, it was time for the children and I to join Monty in Hawaii, and we had no need for a tree. For the sake of tradition, we joined Anthony and Molly and their kids and accompanied them as they chose and cut their tree. It was a sweet way to say goodbye to them.
In 2015, our family was fortunate enough to visit Alabama for two full weeks in December. One of our first outings was to Old Baker Farm with the kids to get our tree. It was WONDERFUL to do all those same things, and even our 20-year-old enjoyed reliving this family tradition.
Pajamas on Christmas Eve Tradition
When the children were little and we still went to see Grandma on Christmas day, we thought of great way to make it easier to make the trip – and initiate a new tradition! We began having one present each to open on Christmas Eve. We bought the children new warm house-shoes and pajamas (actually a matching sweatshirt and pants) in a Christmas print. The children would excitedly open this present, then wear their new PJs to bed. They were dressed and ready for the long car ride (hour and a half) to Grandma’s house the next day after opening their presents. They would “konk” out and sleep the whole ride . . . COMFORTABLY.
We still get PJs as a present on Christmas Eve! Even in Hawaii, pajamas are a warm, comfy tradition.
Christmas Day Tradition: Stockings in Your Room Until Seven
One potential problem with Christmas morning when you have small children is this: they wake up EARLY – especially on Christmas day. So, we came up with a tradition to help with that, too! We filled their Christmas stockings with goodies and toys that would hold their attention for an hour or so. They would wake up and have little mini-Christmas right there in their rooms! They would venture out into the hall and laugh and giggle about this present or that one, but it allowed Monty and me to wake up slowly and get moving before the craziness of presents and toys really kicked in. We’d leave the baby gate closed, instructing the kids to play together while we got breakfast ready. We’d have coffee and get banana bread (baked the day before) sliced and milk served on the table. Then we’d get the kids and bring them down to see the magic of Christmas!
Christmas Day Tradition: Christmas Presents
Our family always opens present on Christmas morning, and presents are from people. We’ve never told our children that Santa Claus brought them presents, but they’ve always been JUST as excited! Monty likes for each individual item to be wrapped – even if it goes in the stocking. I like unwrapped items in the stocking and SOME under the tree. I compromise and wrap everything, because it just isn’t a big deal. We don’t sit quietly and take turns, opening one gift at a time. We have total chaos and carnage, with wrapping paper and bows tossed into a pile. Within a half hour, the entire gift-giving event is done, papers are tossed, and batteries are being inserted or items charged.
What tradition or traditions do you want to start this year?
Think through some things. Talk about ideas with your family. What are some traditions you’d like to try? If you try something, and it doesn’t work for your family, drop it and try something else!.