Barreling down the Interstate at 75 mph, I got the call. My body felt flooded with energy and my mind immediately raced to so many things – some practical and some ridiculous. After I had heard the one thing that I’d been waiting to hear, I heard nothing else.
One of the more ridiculous was wondering how I would create amazing Christmas traditions. This was it. I was pregnant!
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I quickly learned motherhood was not all about mind-blowing December traditions, sweet woozy babies in pristine onesies sleeping sweetly in their cribs, beautiful Santa pictures, or ever “dining” again…
When I found out that motherhood was just as much about late nights, carpools, meals, snacks, and after school activities as anything else, I worried.
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How would I make special events really memorable? I was scared and felt like I was going to blow it. My family traditions had been simple, and I wanted more; I wanted fancier; maybe more Pinterest-y? I didn’t know where to start, so I started crowdsourcing and creating traditions until I figured out one important thing…
My first crowdsourcing focused on friends and neighbors – “What were your favorite Christmas traditions in your family?” I moved to social media – crowdsourcing from Facebook friends and friends of friends: “What were your best childhood memories of December traditions?” What ‘cha got? Give it to me! I heard great ideas that I decided to take advantage of.
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Christmas Traditions: Kid Friendly All the Way
Our son was six months old for his first Christmas and curious about everything! It was important to me that we make everything about the holiday accessible to him for exploration.I didn’t want to be the mom who wouldn’t let her child near the tree! That meant that everything needed to be safe.
I decided to decorate our tree with nothing but unbreakable ornaments! First, I ordered gross grain ribbons that I cut to 10 inches long in a variety of colors. I then just tied them, really simply, around the branch tips. Then I found snowflake ornaments that were insanely cheap (I didn’t put these right by the bottom of the tree so that these couldn’t get into his mouth). This was my original plan for the whole tree – lots of colorful ribbons and white snowflakes. By then I had a beautiful tree with all new “ornaments” and had only spent about $40. So I added a little more money and splurged on a few “fancy” felt ornaments to spice it up. I’ve added to the felt ornaments over the last seven years – but it has stayed completely kid friendly so I never have to worry about my children or other children who may visit throughout the season!
Since then, with the exception of the lights, we decorate the tree as a family.
I loved all that I had done for the tree – but I didn’t feel like it was creating the memory that I wanted. My son wouldn’t know the difference; he had never seen the tree decorated any other way. I thought it was charming, but it was still lacking… I hadn’t found the special sauce yet.
Christmas Traditions: Sparkle
Every Saturday night in December, we turn mommy’s car into a “sleigh.” The boys dress in jammies and cozy up in snuggly blankets with cups of hot chocolate, and we cruise the neighborhoods looking at all the beautiful lights and displays. This is by far my favorite tradition!
Now we were getting closer to something that felt enduring! But would they remember? I still hadn’t figured out the secret to making sure that they would remember; that it would stick; that it would be passed down.
December Traditions: Cookies & Reindeer Food
And what would the holidays be without cookies for friends, neighbors, guests, and Santa? We always have at least 2 days where we decorate cookies. Because decorating cookies requires maximum mess, I cheat (I’m hanging my head right now, I promise) and buy pre-made cookie dough from our local baker – with only the best, most delicious ingredients. I also hit up my whole foods grocer (that has a bakery department), and they are willing to sell me their frosting! So I have the most delicious cookies and frosting without chemicals, added oils, or artificial colorings, and we get to spend our time and energy decorating (and cleaning up)!
We also make reindeer food on Christmas Eve. Trust me – Santa is not the only one working hard!!! We mix 2 cups of quick cooking oats with 1 cup of birdseed and however much glitter your child talks you into. We say the sweet poem and sprinkle the food on the front lawn for the reindeer. It’s also a great activity for younger children at a party!
Sprinkle on the lawn at night.
The moon will make it sparkle bright.
As Santa’s reindeer fly and roam,
This will guide them to your home.
Again, I was getting so much closer. This felt like I was there. But why? What was the difference? If I was going to replicate this for years to come and for other special occasions, I needed to know what it was about this that felt like I was creating a real memory that would be cherished for a lifetime. (no pressure…)
Christmas Traditions: It’s About Others
As the boys get a little older, we’re incorporating more sharing and giving so that they know the true joy of the season. It’s easy to have your children take part in giving and helping others – they were born for this! Just give them an opportunity to spread their wings during the season; children are natural givers and care-takers!
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December Traditions: The Real Deal
And here’s the thing. After all, my recon and tradition creation, what I learned was that none of the great times that we share are in and of themselves “memorable” in the way that I wanted them to be. They needed something else. And I’ll tell you what I figured out after several years.
There has to be a thread of consistency for the memories to be created and to stick. So we do these things every year. And the boys know that they are coming – “Is it time for the tree?” “Is it time for the lights?” “Is it time for hot chocolate?” It doesn’t have to be picture perfect or even fancy.
But the expectation that they get to spend time together as a family – that longing and anticipation for these special moments that have been set aside just for them and their most dear parents – that’s what implants the memory and the joy that will last forever. It doesn’t matter what you choose as your December tradition(s), and it doesn’t matter if they are fancy or simple/expensive or frugal. But you must follow through consistently and make sure that your children have an expectation of family time together. It’s that expectation and anticipation that will make all the difference in creating beautiful, happy, long-lasting memories that your children will pass down to your grandchildren.
I hope some of our traditions will inspire you to try a few new ones of your own. I’d love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions on my facebook page!
Here are some resources to give you a great start if you’d like to share some of our traditions with your family!