Family Traditions: Making Christmas Memories Together
In our family, Christmas is everyone’s favorite time of year. We have five children between the ages of 6 and 18, and you can almost feel the buzz of excitement in our household right now. We have many traditions that we love to share with our kids each year. Some are rooted deep in our families’ histories, some my husband and I built together with our children, and others teach our kids about the importance of sharing with others, especially around the holiday season. I’d love to share some of these traditions with you and your family.
We always remind our children how lucky we are, and that even when times are tough, there are many families who are not nearly as fortunate as ours. Christmas is no exception, and amidst the chaos and excitement, we like to keep the kids grounded and remind them that it is also a time for giving. We help others in several ways:
We donate to thrift stores. Each November the whole family goes through our belongings and we gather items that we can donate to the thrift store. These items include books and toys the kids have outgrown or no longer play with, clothing, and other items we no longer need. We remind the kids of how the less fortunate can benefit from these items and that our donations can bring joy to families that need it. The kids know these items need to be in good working order so they can be fully enjoyed by others, so they never include broken toys.
Donate to a charity: I have worked with several nonprofits, and I'm in the process of starting my own, so my children are familiar with how nonprofits benefit others. We like to donate to Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, or another group that helps kids have the Christmas they deserve. You can even let your child pick out the toy and add it to the collection bin themselves. This will help them get into the spirit of giving to others.
We also have several traditions that are rooted in our families’ histories. We are honored to have grown up looking forward to these and now being able to pass them on to our children. These traditions include:
Counting down days on a calendar: As a young girl, I remember moving the mouse each day on our Christmas countdown calendar and feeling the excitement mount as Christmas crept ever closer. My mom still uses that calendar in her home. In our home, my husband and I have stockings that are also countdown calendars, and our kids wait anxiously each year to start the countdown. From December 1st to 24th, they can’t wait to move the little felt star one day closer to Christmas. In fact, it’s the second thing they do each morning.
Getting an ornament each year: Every Christmas Santa brings an ornament for each child’s stocking. The ornament reflects one of the child’s unique interests from that year (a movie or TV character, sport, etc.). We write each child’s initials and the year on their ornament so years later they can look back at it and remember that year and the ornament’s sentiment.
Choosing a live tree: My husband and I both always had live trees growing up. We share that with our children now by walking amongst the many trees and finding the one that is just right for us.
We also have many traditions that we have adopted and made our own as a family. While we can not take credit for “creating” all these, we did make them special in our own way. These include:
Making reindeer food each Christmas Eve: To make reindeer food, you simply mix glitter in a bowl with plain oats and spread it all around the yard. The glitter shines in the moonlight to show the reindeer where to land, and while Santa is leaving the gifts, the reindeer snack on the oats. We make this during the day on Christmas Eve and the kids store their food in zipper bags with their names on them. We spread them around the yard just before the kids go to bed.
Hanging the Santa key on the front door: We have a bronze key with a picture of Santa on it. We don’t have a fireplace, so that is how Santa gets in to leave his gifts. After the reindeer food has been spread, our youngest hangs the Santa key on the front door to make sure he can get it. Only Santa’s magic allows the key to work.
Christmas crafts: Dollar Tree sells many small craft kits and items that make wonderful activities for children on cold days. Our kids love making these, and even more, they love decorating our home with things they’ve made. Since they’re affordable, it’s easy to buy several kits for each child.
When we purchase and decorate our tree: Even the week we buy our tree is a tradition in our house! We put up interior and exterior decorations the week before Thanksgiving (earlier this year, because with COVID, who doesn't need extra cheer?), but we buy and decorate the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Though our children seem to forget how to put up their outside toys despite daily reminders, this once-yearly tradition is not forgotten, and the kids never fail to remind us that it is time.
Decorating cookies for Santa: Each Christmas Eve we bake and decorate sugar cookies. The kids add icing and sprinkles and choose one of their cookies to leave on Santa’s plate. We enjoy the rest.
S’mores and stories by the fire on Christmas Eve: My husband builds a fire in our fire pit and we gather around. While he helps the kids with s’mores, I read them a Christmas story. Our favorite is “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” We also like "The Polar Express."
Christmas movies: All December we watch Christmas movies together. Our favorites include “The Santa Clause” films, “The Polar Express” and all the classics like “Rudolph," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "Frosty."
Elf on the Shelf: Our list would not be complete if I did not include Butterbean. She is our elf. Remember how I said earlier the second thing the kids do is move the star on the countdown calendar? Finding Butterbean is the first. Butterbean comes home the week of Thanksgiving, with her friend Jingle in tow. Her arrival is one of the highlights of our kids’ season, and they wake up each morning eager to find her and discover what she was up to the night before.
Christmas is a magical time for our family. I treasure every memory made. The holidays can be stressful, but we should take the time to slow down and remember the true meaning of Christmas. Celebrate the joy of being together with your family and creating new traditions together. Our children grow up in a flash, so this holiday season, let’s take the time to savor the little things and make our Christmas as magical as our little angels know it is.
Do you have any Christmas traditions with your family? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!