Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Traditions

My husband and I both wanted to continue traditions from each of our families and add some of our own when we got married. Both of his parents passed away when we were teens and we live far from most of our family.  We feel that traditions help keep us connected to our past and the people who are important to us, especially around the holidays.  Here are a few of the traditions we have incorporated into our holiday celebrations:

Sometime before Thanksgiving, each person in our family fills out a wish list.  This started out just to help me know who likes what kind of Chapstick and other random information for stockings.  The wish list we used this year asks for things like clothing sizes, favorite colors, items needed, items wanted, etc.  There is usually a week grace period after filling out the wish lists and then nothing can be added.  Also, once the forms are filled out, no one has permission to show me the new things they want at the store.  This has been fairly successful in cutting down the “I wants” as all of the Christmas sales begin.  I give copies to grandparents and other family asking what the kids want for Christmas and everyone is happy with their gifts because they are things they like. 

We keep fall decorations up and celebrate Thanksgiving with a big family meal.  This is one of the few completely kick-back days of our year.  Because we all like to cook and a crowded kitchen makes for a grumpy mama, each person chooses one dish to help prepare. The list is posted so I can call that person when I’m ready to make his/her dish.  Throughout the day, we shuffle the ads around to decide what we’re shopping for, but the only shopping done on Thanksgiving is online after dinner.  During dessert, we make a thankful tree.  Each person puts things on the leaves that he/she is thankful for.  We usually end the day with a movie or two since we’re not really into football. 

The weekend after Thanksgiving is divided between shopping in the stores, making cards (yes, we still send cards), and decorating our house for winter.  I didn't say that we decorate for Christmas for two reasons.  My time is precious and I don't want to spend a lot of time putting things up that will come down in a few short weeks.  Also, we decorate with snowmen and a wintery theme that will last through January rather than Santa Claus.  Our tree is the only thing that comes down on New Year's Day and the rest stays for a while longer. We also get gifts for a local charity to keep ourselves focused on giving rather than getting.

Throughout December, we use our advent calendar to count down to Christmas and keep us focused on the reason for the season.  Normally, the kids each get an ornament to hang on the tree that represents something from the year, but this year we’re making ornaments.  Dozens and dozens of cookies are baked to give as gifts to neighbors, coworkers and loved ones.  We also get our gifts wrapped and under the tree. 

On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story, unwrap our pajamas and one family gift that is usually a board game.  We spend the evening watching movies and playing games.  Towards the end of the night, each person fills someone else’s stocking.

Christmas Day begins early in the morning with stockings.  We have a simple breakfast and then unwrap some presents.  My mom and dad come over for a late lunch (our big meal) and then we open the rest of our gifts.  There is always a treasure hunt for something - either a big family gift or something special for someone in the family.  The evening is low-key with dessert and playing with new toys. 

We finish out the holiday celebration by inviting friends over for a big New Year’s Eve potluck dinner.  We celebrate my mom and dad’s anniversary (December 31), our son’s gotcha day (January 1), and the new year all in one.  It’s the best way to welcome a new year!

I’d love to hear how your family celebrates!




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  2. It is always great to get ideas of family traditions. I use to always finish my Christmas shopping in Sept or Oct so I could avoid the crowded stores. Now we finish before the first weekend in Dec. I buy what I like for the grand kids and Bob buys them what he thinks they will like. On Christmas day we start the day with Bob making breakfast and serving me breakfast in bed. We say a prayer together then sit in bed eating and watching the morning news. After we are done eating we open gifts. Both of Bob's parents have passed away as has my Mom, so we make sure to call my Dad to wish him a Merry Christmas. Then Bob leaves to feed cows and break ice so they can drink while I stay home and cook. Around 1:00 PM we meet up with our family, exchange gifts and enjoy a great meal. After we are all done eating we usually play a game or two with the family.