Growing up, my dad’s side of the family had a few Christmas traditions that were fun. Each year an adult would dress up like Santa and bring toys to the little ones. On both sides of the family we would typically open one present on Christmas Eve but later that became opening all presents on Christmas Eve and having stockings for Christmas. Though I think that was a lack of will power rather than a tradition. However, I started my own family at age 18 and didn’t bring over any real holiday traditions. So, I love asking other families what they do and seeing if any of their traditions stick for us.
Traditions are important to a family dynamic. They state, “We are a family and this is what we do together.” They also keep things focused on family and friends rather than being sucked into the commercialization of this special holiday. However, they shouldn’t be so ridged they cannot change over time or tweaked as the family changes and grows.
Ideas for Christmas Traditions
Cut down a Christmas Tree
A lot of families have opted for the artificial tree over the live tree. This is terrible. It is plastic trying to be nature! A fake tree is a liar in your living room.
We get a new tree every year and, if we can, prefer to cut it down. Each year the tree gets a name (this year it is Spruce Willis) and each tree is unique. Part of the fun is going to pick out a tree and, after looking at a dozen or more, having the whole family unanimously say, “That’s the one!”
The great thing about caroling is the reactions from your neighbors as you surprise them with a song and the “Merry Christmases!” between everyone when it’s done. Getting a few other families to go along won’t be as tough as you think. In addition, you can hand out cookies to the families you visit. Oh, and if you are worried about not having the pipes to pull off O Holy Night, don’t worry. Stand in the back, keep it quiet, and you will blend in just fine.
Christmas Lights Judging
We recently started a tradition of judging the best lights in the neighborhood. We get a pile of kids together and check them all out. Everyone cast their votes and then we award the 1st-3rd place winners with some cookies and a card.
Serve the Less Fortunate
If you want to throw it back into the face of commercialism there is no better way than serving others. It is even better than simply not buying “stuff” because it promotes the selfless act of truly thinking of others above yourself. Commercialism on the other hand is always appealing to the serving of ourselves, even through the giving of gifts to others. (Pay close attention to the commercials next time and see who they are targeting…the buyer or the gift recipient?)
There are several ways to make Christmas about others:
- Volunteer with a church to help deliver presents to selected families
- Serve at a soup kitchen or homeless center
- Visit an elderly or retirement home
Bake Cookies, Pies, and Other Goodies
Popcorn, buckeyes, gingerbread, haystacks, cookie exchanges…yes please! Have the family members pick a few treats that only show up once a year and devote a night to making one or all of them. Invite friends over to share in the bounty. Oh, and yes there is bacon on those cookies pictured. If you want to try your hand at Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies (and you do) check out the recipe here.
Walk Through a Live Nativity\Bethlehem
Around here they are called a Walk Through Bethlehem. Usually a church will setup a small field of lean-tos, each of which has an element of the time and place Jesus was born. As you attend each booth, making your way through town, the people will tell you about their trade and sometimes have bread to eat or something related to their trade. They will also talk in confidence about the news about town, of some baby king that is to be born. It’s a great build up. The good ones also have Roman soldiers bullying people for taxes. At the end there is a live manger scene which brings it all together.
Make Christmas Cards
Yes, actually make them. Some construction paper, glue, and cotton balls will get you a long way towards sending something truly special. (Plus it keeps you out of the stores, staring at cards…something I abhor)
The hardest part about picking Mistletoe is finding trees that aren’t too high or are easily climbable. During the holiday season this parasitic plant can be fairly lucrative and may earn some Christmas cash for those who are willing to work for it. One note: don’t over prune the plant when gathering, else it may not reappear next year. Store the branches in an air-tight container with water until ready to use. Hang in the appropriate place for smooching to occur.
Watch Christmas Movies
We aren’t a big movie family but we do save a few for this time of year. Elf, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas and few others top the list. Not that creative but they do bring plenty of cheer into the home. I will likely watch Elf a minimum of 4 times this Christmas and will love it every time!
What are your Christmas traditions?
There are some things that just seem to stick around from time to time and become a tradition of sorts. In my experience it doesn’t have to be really unique but it should be unifying and most of all fun.