what are your christmas traditions?

When Ben and I first got married, we didn’t really even talk much about Christmas traditions. It’s amazing how that all changed when our first child was a few years old. I think it was a few weeks from Christmas and I thought, “Crap. We need some traditions. That’s what families do, right?!”. And I remember making a long list of all these great ideas…things we had to do each Christmas or we would get a failing grade. Ha! Thankfully, I have calmed down some since then (some!).

I want to share how the hubby and I have maintained our sanity with traditions. Because let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to search for Christmas ideas online and be completely overwhelmed with all the creative stuff out there and then think that you aren’t doing a good job. No no no! What works for one family, doesn’t always work for another. And what works for us are categories. I know, sounds a little strange. But each year we look at the categories and decide what to do (I organized our traditions below by the categories). We get the calendar out and decide what will fit and what won’t. And if it stresses me out, it’s not worth it and it doesn’t get added to the calendar that year.

So remember, what you and your family do this year is just what your family needs. If you see an idea you like somewhere, write it down and pull it out for next year when you have time to plan. Don’t see another family’s tradition and get upset that you didn’t think to do it. Just enjoy what you have! And really when you add it all up, below are just the things we do as a family to enjoy and celebrate the season and they will probably change from year to year as our kids get older. The real tradition our family has is teaching our kids that the reason for the season is Christ alone. 

I would love to hear some of your traditions for Christmas too. Here are ours…

CHRISTMAS TREE: So far we haven’t really had this wonderful family moment where the Christmas music is playing in the background as we put up all of the decorations. Maybe one day. But this year it was very chaotic and we still only have 6 ornaments on the tree. I’m blaming it on the fact that my 16 month old will just take them down. But the one thing we try and do each year is to add a family picture to the tree. Each of the kids has their own baby picture on it too. I just love the idea of a tree filled with pictures…what a way to remember the years! This is the picture we added to the tree this year…

FOCUS ON JESUS: This year we started the Advent Calendar since at least one of our kids is old enough to understand. I know we will keep this around for years but will probably change it up each time. In fact, when the kids were younger last year, we didn’t do the calendar but instead a 12 Days of Christmas countdown with the nativity set we had. (You can see the original idea HERE.) But the kids loved it! Each morning they would wake up and look outside to find a bag with another piece of the nativity set (angel, wise man, sheep, etc.) and a card that gave them a hint before they opened the bag and looked inside. And on Christmas morning, Jesus was waiting for them! And for this year, our Advent Calendar is sharing all of the prophesies of Christ in a relevant way for a 5 and 3 year old (read HERE)!

CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES: We like to set specific activities or Christmas outings each year. Last year I went all out and made little cards with our options (go see Christmas lights, drink hot chocolate, make a Christmas craft, watch a Christmas movie, etc). And every few days we had the activity laying out in an envelope for the kids to open and get excited about. But since I didn’t have it in me to write it all out this year, I changed it up some. So for now we just set a plan of Christmas activities on Fridays (those are the family fun days since daddy doesn’t work!). A few days ago we went Christmas shopping together, this coming Friday we hope to see some local Christmas lights as we drive around together and get hot chocolate somewhere and the next Friday we will make a special Christmas treat and watch a Christmas movie together (in a fort we make, I’m sure!). Simple family fun celebrating the season together!

GIVING TO OTHERS: The last few years we did Operation Christmas Child so the kids could pick out gifts for others. We did that this year and also went a step further and created a Giving Jar. You can read more about the post on it HERE. But essentially when the kids serve someone else, they get a dollar in the jar. On Christmas Day we will add all of the money up and give it away. So far I think they have about $15! That will buy someone some baby chicks for eggs, or a few blankets or milk for a child for almost a month (all taken from Samaritan’s Purse catalog).

WHAT SANTA BRINGS: A few years ago we decided that we didn’t want Santa to get the credit for all the loot the kids got. So in our house, he just brings them a book on Christmas Day. Ok, it’s not as lame as it sounds! The book is always one that focuses on Jesus in the season. Here is what they got the last two years…

candy cane

I think this tradition is one of my favorites because I know in a handful of years we will look back at all of these books and remember our babies growing over the years too. And it gives us some great Christmas books to read all month. Now if I were really on top of it, I would start writing a few highlights of that year in the front cover of the book or trace their handprints. Ooooo…I’m getting inspired!

CHRISTMAS MORNING BREAKFAST: I don’t have a magic recipe for Christmas morning, but we like to make something a little special for the kids after we tear open the gifts. Since we are getting on the road right after opening gifts this year, it might just be santa faces on pancakes:)

TRAVELING: Since we are the only out of towners on both sides of the family, we do a lot of traveling over Christmas. So this year I decided to add a little fun to it by surprising the kids with a few extra goodies in the car for the 7+ hour drive. They will have a new DVD to watch that we actually buy and don’t just rent. I found $4 fleece blankets at Kohls that I got each of them because in this cold weather, we all need to snuggle up. And then I will have their favorite snacks waiting for them too. It’s a mini Christmas in the car which I think they will love for years to come!