I have wonderful memories of holidays from my childhood. There were a handful of things that our family did every year, without fail. When I reflect on those activities my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles cultivated, I smile. They bring a wonderful sense of familiarity and belonging.
Mark and I have had many discussions in the past few years about how we want our boys to remember their childhood and what holiday traditions we hope stand out for them.
Today, I thought I would share a few of our family’s favorite holiday traditions.
But before I do, I need to shout a few things from the rooftops.
- Don’t have to be expensive, or even cost money at all. The tradition of time spent together making meaningful memories is the most valuable of all. I agree completely with the adage, that “presence is the best present.”
- Don’t have to be complicated. Now, before anyone gets mad, I’m not dogging anyone who has an Elf on the Shelf and moves him / her around every day from Thanksgiving until December 25th. If that is something you enjoy doing with your children and you have the time and energy for your Elf, go for it! Really. Conversely, if you are a mama who feels exhausted just looking at the Elf on the Shelf ideas on Pinterest, that’s 100% okay. You’re children won’t be traumatized because of it. 🙂
- Don’t have to be perfect. I know, you want it to be Facebook picture worthy, but what really turns out perfectly with children? Let go of that perfection, that idea that cookie baking with Christmas music playing in the background is going to go off without a hitch. There will be a mess if your kids are in the kitchen. Someone will lick the spoon, and probably even sling icing on the ceiling. Wear an apron, bake with no agenda, and know that you can clean the mess up together later. Aim for perfect memories, not perfect cookies.
- Don’t have to look like everyone else. Personalize your holiday traditions! It’s your family, make them your traditions. Is baking cookies not your thing? Then buy some sugar cookies at the store and call it good. Maybe you’re the family who visits houses door to door singing Christmas carols or the family with Christmas lights on every available outdoor space (which my kids would LOVE), but if you’re not, that’s okay. I’ve heard of families who eat cheeseburgers as their “traditional” Christmas meal every year. Isn’t that a fun and unique way to celebrate?
Simple Holiday Traditions
While our holiday traditions aren’t exactly the same every year, they typically carry the same themes.
- I make a festive holiday treat with the kids. We’ve made cookies, gingerbread houses, and little elf huts (that’s what we called them) out of ice cream cones and icing.
- We buy or make a Christmas ornament for the year. I’ll be completely transparent here. I used to pay $15 each for these ornaments at Hallmark when I had one or two children. Now that I have four, we make our own ornaments! Not fancy, but my heart melts a little when I see their sweet baby faces or kiddie scribbles on the back.
- We watch Christmas movies. We only own one Christmas DVD (Polar Express, in case you’re curious), but use Vid Angel to stream our Netflix movies. I will sometimes make popcorn to enjoy as we watch.
- We read festive books. We don’t have a large collection of holiday books, but I am gradually adding to them. Until we have amassed several, the library fills in the gaps. Our local branch has a wonderful selection of Christmas titles.
- The kids sometimes wear Christmas pajamas. Not always, but grandparents and aunts have purchased a lot of festive sleepwear over the years. If we have a set available in an appropriate size, the boys usually ask to wear them. If we don’t, I don’t stress about it.
- We enjoy Christmas morning at our house, with our boys on Christmas day.
- We visit with extended family. We usually visit with our Tennessee family the week before Christmas, and both our immediate families on or just after Christmas day.
- The kids get a few gifts and stockings from Mark and I. There is no judgement here on anyone else, but we keep gifts simple at our house for a variety of reasons. This year, each of the boys got two gifts and 4-5 smaller items in their stockings. For our four children, we spent roughly $100 on their gifts.
- We send thank you cards. It is important to us to teach our boys gratitude and how to express thanks. I love a handwritten note, so I assume others do as well.
- We make a holiday photo. Some years we have had this professionally made, and other years have been a last minute snapshot. I am always thankful for the memory, even if I look back and laugh at how silly my hair looked, what I was wearing, or how wiggly the kids were. 🙂
On this Christmas Eve, I wish you and your family well. May you make many memories that become holiday traditions in years to come.
Now, I would love to have you share your family’s favorite holiday traditions in the comments!