I don’t think many of us would disagree about the importance of traditions in families or life in general. I won’t go into the psychobabble of it all, but there’s something to be said for traditions and the role they play in our lives.
I love traditions. Ones from my childhood and ones Mike and I have created with our own little family. I’m also always on the lookout for new traditions to add to our family both during Christmas and throughout the year. So I thought I’d share some of ours with you, and then I’d love for you to share some of yours with me in the comments.
DECORATING THE TREE
My husband and I both have birthdays around Thanksgiving time. Sometimes each of our birthdays are ON Thanksgiving. It’s a crazy time of year. But somewhere around Thanksgiving (my husband prefers after the actual Thanksgiving holiday, I’m slowly trying to move it up a few days) we get out our tree and decorate it. I let my kids do all the decorating (after I get all the stinking lights working each year–I have a layer of lights that don’t work that I’ve pushed back on the tree and added working ones on top). My kids are still young and the youngest still doesn’t respect the “don’t touch” rule of ornaments. So we’ve got cheap-ish ones (that won’t cause heart ache if they get broken) and the kids get to put them wherever they want on the tree. Which right now means lots of clumping of ornaments. I kinda dig the clumps It’s a good indication of the phase of life we’re in right now. My oldest daughter has tried to start spreading them out, but our youngest keeps moving them back to clumps. Apparently the ornaments like to have friends nearby.
This is one tradition that gets a lot of questions from people. Understandably so. When I was a kid, starting on December 1st we’d put our shoes out by the fire place. Each night, “the pixie” would come and leave some sort of small treat in our shoes. We’d do this each night until Christmas day. I can’t explain why, but it was one of my MOST favorite traditions. So we carried it over to our family (much to my husbands dismay–he doesn’t get it) and my kids love it just as much as I did. My sister also continued this tradition (my four brothers did not) and now that her youngest is 13 and she has two kids in college, the pixie still comes. Her kids insist. 🙂
I honestly have no idea how this started or why. I’ll have to ask my parents. Regardless, it’s fun and the kids looooove it.
STOCKING FOR JESUS
We put a stocking out for Jesus each year. We are celebrating his birthday after all. The intent was to write things on a piece of paper that we would “give” to Jesus that year and then focus on that all year long. Turns out we haven’t really done that yet. We’re still in little kid survival mode so best intentions don’t always get carried out. But one year we’ll start doing that. I still like the white stocking hanging up there to help us keep the focus on what really matters. (And yes, we have some non-matching stockings there at the end–we added those kids after I bought the matching red and white ones and Target didn’t carry them anymore. One day we’ll get all matching stockings. Or not. Cause it doesn’t really matter).
Starting December 1st, we read a Christmas story each night. We wrap up 24 Christmas books and each night one of the kids gets to unwrap one book and we read it together as a family. When we had super young kids this caused a little drama as they wanted to unwrap the book each time (or all the books at once). But the kids are old enough now they do pretty good at taking turns and they really look forward to this each night. I bought most of these through some Scholastic school orders so we got good prices on the books. You could start with less than 24 books and slowly add more Christmas books each year until you have enough.
This is one of my personal favorites. Several years ago (1995 to be exact) my mom had the idea to write down family memories. Each person was assigned another person in the family and we had to write a memory (or memories) about that person. As you can imagine there was some significant grumbling about this each year, but the tradition lived on for 7 years. I come from a family of extremely talented writers so there was some “stressing” about writing well-written essays. It was entertaining to watch different people (who will not be named–and I was not one of them–I write how I talk and I’m perfectly okay with that) finishing their final drafts just before we started reading them.
Christmas Day we’d go around to each person and they’d read their memories out loud to every one else. It was one of my favorite parts of Christmas. As we added in-laws, they got roped into it too. And when grandkids started getting old enough, we included them as well.
One year for Christmas my sister and I collected all the written memories (my mom saved them all in a folder) and we put them into a book for each family to have.
My family is funny. Really funny. So there were definitely tears of laughter as we read this. But my family is also not super emotional. We don’t say “I love you” to each other and we aren’t great at expressing feelings. So this was a great opportunity for us to tell each other things we admired or loved about another person. It got kinda uncomfortable sometimes but being uncomfortable can be a good thing.
When we assembled the books we included a few pages of pictures from each year as well.
FRIEND MEMORY BOOKS
Each year I have a friend Christmas party with 6 (there were 7 of us total) friends who were pretty much inseparable growing up. I loved the memory thing so much, I somehow talked all of them into doing it one year. So we each wrote memories about each one of the friends (nothing long–just a few memories of each person) and put them all in a book. We had plenty of memories to draw from as some of us have been friends since we were 7 years old which basically makes us family. It’s SO fun to go back and read these stories. Some of my friends have memories of me that I have NO recollection of. I also think it will be fun for my kids to read these one day and see what my friend dynamics were like when I was a kid.
TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
We didn’t do this every year, but we did it several times when I was growing up. Twelve days before Christmas, we would start “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for a neighbor or friend. Each night, we’d leave some sort of treat on their doorstep usually with some clever poem (my mom is a genius writer and came up with some award worthy poems with our treats). We’d continue this for 12 nights. It was a riot to try and leave it at different times of the evening (so they wouldn’t know when to anticipate us) and get hidden before the door was opened.
A few years ago, a friend did this for my family only they left a piece of a nativity scene each night with a scripture that went along with it. This was a year when we had four really young kids and life was feeling pretty chaotic. The Christmas spirit was hard to come by at the time and this service made a HUGE difference for me personally that year. Each evening when the doorbell rang, we’d find another piece of the nativity with a scripture that corresponded with what piece it was. And on the 12th day (Christmas Eve) they gave us the baby Jesus and sang a carol for us. I thought it was such a great idea and something I’ll never forget as I put that nativity out each year. This is a tradition I plan to add to our family that we can do for someone else each year.
PHOTOS FOR AN ALBUM
This is something I started last year and it’s MY favorite gift to give and was one of the kids favorite gifts. Two of my kids specifically mentioned they wanted it to happen again this year, which it will. It’s a tradition I plan to carry on each year. In my opinion, it’s the best kind of gift you can give. You can read all about it HERE.
These are a few of my favorite family traditions. I’m always looking for more and would love for any of you to share some! Hope you all have a holiday season filled with peace.