Holiday Traditions

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Shortly after getting married the holidays rolled around, and Mark and I had to quickly learn how to balance our two families, while starting traditions of our own. Living a few hours away from our families, and eventually having an ocean between his parents, has helped us create many of our own holiday traditions. Some have stemmed from traditions we each had as a child, and some are brand new to us.
Perhaps you are just beginning your family and looking for some new ideas to bring to the holidays, or maybe it’s been a couple years and you’re looking for a change up. Surely something on this list will become a yearly tradition in your home.

1. Cookie Baking Day: Set aside one day every year to not do anything but bake cookies with your kids, or maybe your grandkids. Enjoy the laughter and joy that kids are sure to bring to this tradition. It is something they will always remember.  I made some gingerbread cookies last week, that were so fun to make, but even more fun to decorate with the kids, that I knew between the smell and smiles I would have to do this again next year.


2. Christmas Book: Starting last year I decided I wanted to buy one new Christmas book with the kids each year. Reading is important, and having a seasonal book is a fun way to promote it with the kids. This year we decided to read one of our books each night. We started with the our new book this year (The Polar Express), and will continue until Christmas Eve when we read the story of Christ’s birth. This tradition evolved from my parents Birthday Book they let us pick out every year on our birthday.


3. Decorating Day: Set aside one day each year to decorate as a family. Put up the tree, lights, nick knacks, and stockings.  Have some goodies, and hot chocolate to end the night. This might be a good night to let the kids sleep under the Christmas Tree as well.


4. Holiday crafts: Find some holiday crafts to do with the kids, and make it a part of your holiday traditions.


5. Sledding: Although it’s something you ought to do (if you get snow) every year, making one day all about sledding, and playing the snow will delight your children. Put off errands and chores, and go have some good old fun.


6. Looking at Lights: I have so many fond memories of riding around in our car all bundled up just to look at Christmas lights. My dad was pretty good at finding neighborhoods that went all out. We now enjoy doing the same thing with our kids. Hearing their shouts of joy every time we’d come to some holiday lights put us all in a festive mood – especially after a trying day.


7. Christmas Breakfast: Make something special for Christmas morning breakfast! It doesn’t have to be fancy, or time consuming, but keeping it the same year after year will leave fond memories for your child. My dad always made us Poffertjes, while Mark’s mom always bought them Christmas Crunch. We have evolved the two of these breakfasts into one – I now make Aebleskivers (glorified poffertjes) and if we get lucky to be in the store the day they sell Christmas Crunch it is added to our Christmas morning as well.


8. Cultural Holidays: Branch out from your childhood Christmas celebration and incorporate a holiday tradition from another culture. For my family, we celebrated Sinter Klaus on December 5th by leaving our shoes by the door with carrots for his donkey.

9. Penny Auction: Say what now? This tradition stems from my dad and his childhood, but is one I would love to bring back now with my kids. Throughout the year little trinkets, usually from yard sales, would be gathered and stored away. Come the holidays, and these would all get wrapped and tossed in a big red Santa bag. My Dad then donned the Santa hat, while one of us kids donned an elf costume. We’d invite friends and neighbors to join us. Every one was given 10 pennies to bid on presents from the bag. You never knew what you’d get, and bigger definitely did not always mean better.

10. Pick a new ornament. This is a simple tradition that can be added each year. Go out shopping as a family for one new ornament for the tree.

11. Open a present on Christmas Eve. When I was a kid we always got to pick one present to open on Christmas eve. The only catch was it had to be from someone that was present so they could watch us open it. Christmas morning was then a free for all with no order opening presents. In Mark’s family they also got to open one present, but it was always pajamas. We have continued with the opening of pajamas on Christmas Eve.

With new traditions, and thinking outside the box, you can make memories that will last a lifetime with your children. It may take a few years to find what works the best for your family (it’s taken us 8), but once you have it, keep it going.

Please share your holiday traditions with me!

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