Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Making New Christmas Traditions

Growing up, there weren't many family traditions at my house(s). See, everything was already a bit off to my first generation American eyes because at my mom's house we opened our presents on Christmas Eve - making Christmas morning a bit of a letdown. And things tended to change a lot at my dad's so the traditions only tended to last a few years before something else took their place. If I had to sum up my childhood Christmases in just a few words, one of those words might be 'inconsistent.' None would stand out as particularly amazing and a few would actually fall entirely on the other end of the spectrum.

That being the case, I'm pretty concerned with making sure that my kids have a much richer, more memorable Christmas experience. I want them to remember the traditions we enjoyed every year when they're grown up and on their own and maybe far away and parenting their own children. But it turns out that inventing new traditions isn't all that easy... 


Here's what we have so far:

We trim our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving to make sure we have plenty of time to get into the spirit and enjoy the season. That started two years ago when I was planning to ignore Christmas entirely because the holiday coincided nicely with the first anniversary of my miscarriage, but P. had other ideas. On Black Friday she asked out of nowhere to decorate the tree and so we did. And then we did it again the next year and the next.

We make it to most of the Santa Parade, we are notoriously bad at remembering. We have seen anywhere from the last 15 minutes to the whole parade and then some depending on the year. There's nothing like a middle school marching band playing Sleigh Bells to get you into the Christmas spirit!

making Christmas cookies from scratch

Making Christmas cookies and homemade icing from scratch and then having one or even more than one big, messy cookie decorating day has become a tradition. Even though I kind of cringe at the amount of cleanup involved and how sprinkles seem to end up everywhere so I am still finding them under furniture a month later. Also, I have a love/hate relationship with our cookies. I love to eat them, but hate that the sugar gives me headaches.

Christmas music dance parties are now a holiday staple - especially now that P. loves to dance and to put on shows for me and Bo most mornings. I'll freely admit that I like some of the less popular Christmas music - some of the really cheesy stuff and some of the depressing stuff, too. I just wish Pandora had more of the latter and less of the former.

Going to the Christmas house at least once is a big deal. There's a guy with a house near ours that hangs something like 60,000 lights every year and puts up all kinds of other Christmas decorations up, too. We trek out to check it out at least once every year. I'll admit it's awesomer in warm years where the walk downtown is pleasant versus, say, last year where P. was so cold that she didn't really enjoy herself. I could definitely sympathize.

And finally, we decorate the leftover Christmas cookies and listen to one last round of Christmas music on the day the tree comes down. P. hates to see Christmas put away for another whole year and having a fun mini Christmas party on the day we do just that softens the blow. Plus it's an excuse to bust out the frosting and sprinkles!

As for things that have not made it onto our growing list of Christmas traditions include making homemade Christmas presents because DIYing the whole holiday is just too stressful to do every year - mostly because I'm either the one doing it all or coordinating the whole thing, going to my mom's house for Christmas proper because I want P. and Bo to have a magical Christmas morning just the way I didn't most years, and opening a parcel containing new jammies on Christmas Eve - just because it's never worked out. I'd forget to buy them or forget to bring them to my mom's in New York or we'd forget to open them so I finally said enough, no more pressure to remember jams on top of everything else. And we didn't make it to the Hayride with Santa this year because we went to the annual Cookie and Ornament party. Tradeoffs, don't you know!


Now that I've written up this list, though, I feel like what I was thinking of as traditions are just the things that most families do. Not anything out-of-the-ordinary enough to count as traditions. I'll have to ponder that for a while, I guess.

So now you tell me: What holiday traditions have you and your kids embraced that weren't your family's traditions when you were little?


  1. You are so right that the traditions are what make Christmas so memorable. My mom was pretty good for that. I remember some great presents over the years, but mostly I remember the little things - opening a movie on Christmas eve and pigging out on junk food, driving around looking at Christmas lights, the best turkey dinner ever - those things. I can't wait to keep some of these traditions going with my daughter, starting this year. We didn't do everything I'd like to do, but we decorated cookies and made crafty presents. It was a fun start. I love your tradition of having Christmas dance parties and having a little fun on tree take down day. I definitely plan on stealing those traditions.

  2. Inconsistent. I like that word. I come from such a religiously-confused and mixed background. And then I married my husband who comes from the same! (mom is Jewish, dad is Mormon). Eventually we found our groove with Christmas but it took until I was an older kid.
    We do things now that my daughter has grown to expect and love - when we get our tree. The town tree lighting. A play or movie. Our town's holiday parade, etc.

  3. Even if your traditions are the same ones that other people in your culture use/have, they are still your traditions. And they're great!

    My parents bought a home in 1984 and started getting live evergreen trees with root balls. On Thanksgiving, after eating, some of the adults would work off calories by digging a big hole for the tree. We'd select and pay for the tree at a local nursery, and they'd tag it and deliver it late in December. We'd only have the tree in the house for a few days because a rootballed tree can't stay in a house too long or it'd die, so I'm used to having a Christmas tree up for only a short time. We'd usually take it down on the 26th and put it back outside. My parents now have an impressive row of lush green evergreens along the side of the house... some taller than the house!

    I married a man who's Eastern Orthodox and celebrates Christmas (Bozic) in January. So our holiday celebrations get spread out. In the past, I got really antsy when the Christmas tree stayed up too long. It's December 19th and we haven't put our tree up yet or done any real decorating. We're still trying to find the sweet spot of Christmas Cheer without getting overwhelmed.

  4. my childhood Christmases were inconsistent too. There were a few yars we didn't even celebrate because my mom became a JW for awhile. holiday traditions help make wonderful memories for kids! Plus, they have less to blame you for when they are adults and talking to their therapist!


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