Every family has its own holiday traditions. Some of them you can pinpoint when and how they started, some just… happened. In honor of Christmas being just one week away, here’s a list of our family traditions. Do you have any similar ones? What are your family’s favorites?
- The Advent Calendar: I bought a wooden box advent calendar at Christmas Tree Shops many years ago when all my kids were very little. I used to be extremely creative about what went into it. One year we made a jingle bell wreath, one year a shadow box with a mini winter scene, another year we decorated a mini Christmas tree with mini ornaments that I stuffed into each “day.” This year we’ve scaled back a bit, we are doing Christmas trivia each day. I’m usually scrambling in the days after Thanksgiving to fill this thing.
- Elf on the Shelf: Yes we have one. I do feel we were a bit pressured into this one by our middle child some 6 years ago. I won’t even get into the panic 4 am awakenings…
- Red Robin… Yummmm: Somehow stopping to get burgers and fries on the way to get our Christmas tree became a tradition. I’m not sure how it happened, but it’s something we all look forward to.
- Decorating the Tree: There must be Hood eggnog in the fridge and classic Christmas carols playing. (Think Nat King Cole, not Taylor Swift.) And no one else puts the lights on the tree except for me.
- Christmas Movies: There are certain movies we have to watch before Christmas. “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” and the Rankin and Bass classics are on the list.
- Gingerbread Houses: We never eat them, but the kids love making them. How else do you use up leftover Halloween candy? (Don’t ask…)
- IHOP: Every year we go to IHOP for breakfast on Christmas Eve Day. I don’t even remember how this one started, but it is now expected. I don’t even dare suggest anything different.
- “Last Minute Shopping”: After IHOP, we go out to do some last minute shopping. Obviously this one started out as a necessity because someone couldn’t get out to do what they needed to, but now we go even if no one needs to buy anything.
- NORAD’s Santa Tracker: After last minute shopping, the computer is logged on to the Santa Tracker for the rest of the day, and we keep up with where Santa is and how many presents he’s delivered. It’s a geography lesson and a threat all in one. Nothing gets my little one to bed faster than the thought of Santa passing us by because there are kids still awake.
- Christmas Eve Mass: If we are lucky, we will get to sit down instead of standing. We used to be one of those families that attended mass every week, and wondered where all these people came from on Christmas Eve. Now we are one of the latter. Oops.
- Pizza for dinner on Christmas Eve: It’s varied from takeout, to frozen, to make-your-own Naan pizza, but this is a tradition born out of pure convenience.
- “Reindeer Food”: We mix some oats with glitter (to make it easier for the reindeer to spot from the sky) and sprinkle it on the lawn. I’m sure this one came from my many years as a preschool teacher.
- “The Polar Express”: Christmas Eve is the only night of the year this movie ever leaves its case. It’s a sacred tradition that’s never been broken, and I’m always in tears at the end of it.
- Milk and Cookies for Santa: Some years it’s just Girl Scout cookies or Oreos… It is what it is.
- 7:00 am Wake-up Call: Although two of them are teen-agers, everyone waits until the clock chimes seven times before racing down the stairs.
- Stockings First: Even when confronted with piles of gifts under the tree, everyone empties their stockings first.
- Christmas Coffee Cake: The only time of the year this recipe seems to come out, my husband makes this treat, and we can’t imagine having anything else for breakfast on Christmas.
I’ve found that family traditions are a rather organic thing, growing out of habit, need, or necessity, sometimes a bit of all three. This list has been almost the same for the last 10 years of so, but it changes and grows as our family has. I cherish the memories these traditions bring, as I watch my kids get a little bit bigger each year.
Cheers to all of the holiday traditions!