I don't know why I am so obsessed with traditions.
I've always been a bit nostalgic,
and I felt validated when a college professor of mine told us he had written his dissertation on the value of family traditions and how they build family identity.
But I love creating traditions for our family,
and creating traditions for children to look forward to and come to see as normal is so fun!
And Christmas traditions are some of the best of all.
Here are some Christmas traditions we enjoy in our family!
Service for Baby Jesus
This is a tradition I enjoyed as a child.
We have a small, simple wooden manger and we wrap up a baby doll to be the baby Jesus.
We have a bag of pieces of yellow yarn "hay,"
and each time someone does something to serve, they get to add a piece of hay to the manger.
The goal is to get it nice and soft for Christmas.
I love how this directs the focus of children to serving during the holiday season!
I have yet to get my act together on this one--I thought this was my year, but not so!
But I did make advent calendars for a couple of my siblings in years past,
and I love the idea.
It's helpful to have activity tags and decorative tags (such as nativity pieces or ornaments),
so you can choose activities according to your schedules
but always have decorative tags.
For the calendar shown above, the activity tags are hung on the buttons at the beginning of the month, and each day you remove an activity card as you do the activity and replace it with a nativity piece.
My five-year-old is always asking me how many days there are until Christmas,
and I know this will help when I finally put something together for our family!
Note: I created about 50 different activity tags and included some blank ones so activities can be varied from year-to-year and changed based on schedules.
We make it a point to drive around and look at Christmas lights multiple times throughout the month.
It is a joy to hear the exclamations of our children, from Talmage at 15 months exclaiming excitedly, "Ohhh, WOW! Oh, Wow!" to Talmage and Wesley pointing out, "Mow Cissas Ights!" as they grew into toddlers.
When our kids get older, I think we'll add a scavenger hunt list during our drives.
And since we're living in Utah now, we get to enjoy the beautiful lights at Temple Square!
One year we were alone in Texas with no extended family to celebrate with and we got a case of the after-Christmas blahs as Christmas evening rolled around. Our spirits were lifted as we decided to go for a drive and enjoy the lights one last time. I think we'll make this a tradition now as well!
As a young girl, I always looked forward to my grandma's visit and the chance to make homemade chocolates with my mom and her, from nut clusters to chocolate-covered cinnamon Santas to nougat-filled chocolate nut-balls.
Although my grandma has passed away, her chocolate-making has not, and it wouldn't seem like Christmas without it!
I'm hoping I can continue this with our children.
The 12 Days of Christmas
There are so many opportunities to serve at Christmas time,
and we love to involve our kids in as many as we can.
One we've really enjoyed is dropping off small gifts for a chosen family for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas. There are few things that make service seem more magical than doorbell-ditching!
Christmas Storybook Countdown
I wrote the details of this countdown to Christmas yesterday--find them here.
After our kids have been overloaded with new toys from their many family members,
we like to have them pick out a few toys each year on Christmas or the day after that they would like to give to someone in need. So far, they have shown tremendous compassion for those in need and periodically, throughout the year, our oldest (he has a very tender heart) will bring some toys to me and tell me he wants to give them to people who don't have enough. I love that he is grasping that notion.
Extended Family Celebrations
Christmas Eve is the time my side of the family gets together,
and in addition to our traditional Christmas dinner we have a talent show/program, reading of the Christmas story, pajama opening, and other activities from year to year.
It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas!
We also get together with Sam's side of the family on Christmas afternoon,
and it's a great way to end the day.
Breakfast Feast on Christmas Morning
On Christmas morning, just our little family is together,
and we take this opportunity to enjoy an indulgent breakfast together.
I plan foods that require minimal amounts of preparation on Christmas morning
because who wants to spend the morning in the kitchen when you can spend it watching the stars in little ones' eyes?
Menu ideas and recipes will be coming later this week!
Sam's family had a tradition growing up where they would say one thing they were grateful for before they opened each gift.
I love doing this, and it's something we've continued with our kids.
Finally, a tradition that is still in the works (but will be implemented more when our kids are older)
is to introduce a project on Christmas that we will work on throughout the following year.
We will come up with an idea and wrap it in a box, perhaps along with something for the family that will help us remember the project throughout the year.
These projects would be things like collecting donations and assembling ziploc bag kits to give to homeless people we encounter,
or sewing bags and collecting supplies to donate to humanitarian aid groups.
I'm really excited about this idea, and I hope this becomes a beloved tradition in our family.
What are your favorite traditions--for Christmas or any occasion?
More Christmas Fun
Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas for Adults
Christmas Storybook Countdown
Christmas Morning Feast Menu & Recipes