Monday, December 2, 2013

What Are Your Holiday Traditions?

What are your holiday traditions?

Our Christmas countdown is in full swing!

At the end of this post I have a question for you about holiday traditions. I'm so intrigued by people's traditions and how they first came to be. I have been thinking a lot about holiday traditions over the past few weeks. Maybe it's because this is only our second Christmas all together and in someways it feels like family traditions are just getting started for us, yet at the same time we also have traditions that go way back too.

I remember over ten years ago how my mom loved to decorate for Christmas and was sad that none of her college aged kids wanted to help with bringing some extra cheer into the house. Knowing that experience, I wondered if Sam and I could make setting up the tree a fun experience for our kids while they were really young that would make it a long lasting family tradition for years to come. 

We brainstormed and came up with a few ideas.

What if the Saturday after Thanksgiving was our special day together as a family to decorate and prepare for the joyful month ahead. Our plan became...

1) Decorate the tree (we have an artificial one)
2) Enjoy a special family meal all together at a restaurant (that way cleanup is a snap and no cooking is involved!)
3) Then come home and enjoy watching a Christmas movie together.

To me this seemed like some great components to make decorating fun and to create some special family time during this joyous season. 

Although, how that all played out this year was a bit comical really. The day started out by clearing the living room and making room for the Christmas boxes. Sam and my dad were hard at work cutting tile for the bathroom remodel project. I put together the pre-lit Christmas tree that we have had for nine years and discovered that even more lights weren't working this time around. If it were a bigger tree we might be able to hide all of the bad lights by simply wrapping new ones around such luck! I decided to tackle the inevitable project of taking the wrapped lights off...

pre-lit Christmas tree not working

...almost three hours later!

The kids were ready to go to help put up the ornaments but I needed to pause and quickly paint the ceiling of the bathroom so that the guys could finish up the floors. At that point it was nap time/quiet time and I was having a mental breakdown because the ceiling paint was leaving stuff (other than paint) on the ceiling. I finally got that fixed and done and checked out the ornament options in our boxes. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find some ornaments that I had scored on sale after Christmas last year.

ornaments from Target

I wasn't excited however to discover that each one needed a hanger tied on...all of which I tied wrong and half of them needed to be re-done (don't mind the paper clips hanging on our tree...just call me Mrs. MacGyver.) It was at that moment that I also decided that it would be easier if I just hung all of the round ornaments by myself and saved the other ones for the kids to hang. 

The kids scurried downstairs after quiet time and it took us about two minutes and 30 seconds to hang the rest of the ornaments.

The night before we had given the kids the option to...go out to a restaurant or we had mentioned that we could stay in and order pizza. Not just any kind of pizza though...the "expensive" kind with ham & pineapple and we could even order some bread sticks and POP (oh how my old East coast upbringing still wants to say "soda.") We usually stick to cheese or pepperoni pizza and a glass of water or milk. Our kids were in heaven at the thought of a glass of sierra mist...SIERRA MIST?!? I guess it really is about enjoying the little things.

They picked the stay at home pizza option.

I was scrambling to place our order so that dinner would be ready before the next step of the bathroom floor commenced...mortar. We enjoyed our holiday meal on paper plates with paper clips scattered on the table. I won't even try to describe the rest of the house and its reckless condition. 

The night continued to look something like this: Mom (that'd be me) forgot to make the popcorn for the movie, we went through three movie options (one they had recently seen, one was too scary and the third one was just right) and I learned that our tradition should just be the movie Elf every year! At some point I got sent to the store to track down more mortar because the floor project was live and they were about to run short.

I'm pretty sure I got there and back in record time all with the gas light on wondering if I was going to end up stranded on the side of the road.

The night came to a close and the kids were gathered in the living room commenting on all of the pretty lights, decorations and the train that daddy had set up around the base of the tree.

Christmas tradition setting up the tree

We paused to take our "traditional" lighting of the Christmas tree picture. (Something that I had come up with last year because it meant that I didn't have to attempt to capture all five kids looking at the camera, let alone smiling all at once...genius, right?)

Oh how they have grown.

measuring heights by the tree

The Christmas music was playing and the kids were as happy as could be. I discovered that they could lay around that tree for hours making pretend tunnels and watching the train go by. 

train around the Christmas tree

I also discovered that traditions can be adapted and changed and that flexible is better than being disappointed that things didn't turn out like I might have first thought.

This day came to a close and became an unexpected time of reflecting and thankfulness. I sat on the couch watching the glowing lights after the kids were tucked into bed. I chuckled thinking about how they all said their favorite part of the day was decorating the tree (all two minutes of it!), eating yummy food (gourmet Little Caesars pizza!), and watching the train go by.

I witnessed my husband and dad pour their talent and sweat into a floor that will last for years to come.

Most of all I learned a lesson that traditions don't have to look the same each year and that flexibility mixed with family will create more special moments and memories than you ever expected!

What's important is that the traditions we do have as a family are teaching our kids about what's really important in life and in this case it's the love of family, the fun of spending time together, and the value of knowing the reason for this joyful season of celebration we are stepping into.

Who cares if it doesn't always go as planned?

As I reflect on traditions I am always excited to hear what others do in their home to make this time around the holidays extra special. Do you have a favorite tradition that you look forward to each year? Do you remember back to the first year that you started doing it?  I would love to hear about it!

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  1. Sarah, I think this sounds like a perfect Christmas tradition. You did the tree together (the important parts!), you had a special family meal (what the meal itself is changes as your little people grow and are interested in different foods), and then you had a Christams movie (who cares about popcorn! The just had pizza!). I love that you have a tradition. And I guarantee that they will remember these moments for ever.
    My Christams tradition is that I watch White Christmas while I put up and decorate the tree. And on Christmas Eve my sister and I go to our parents house and play board games and int he morning Santa comes and we sit around the tree together. The details change each year, but the rhythm remains. And I love it :-)
    E xx

    1. Erin,

      What a special time with your family! And what fun to watch White Christmas while decorating the tree...I love it.


  2. When I was little, my parents would put a new Christmas coloring book and a pack of crayons for each of us (me and my 2 brothers) inside the front screen door. At some point while we were decorating the tree, one of them would say, "Did you hear that?" and we would all listen until we too heard something at the door. Then we would run to find the little present that the Christmas Elves had left for us. I loved this as a child, and loved doing it for my kids when they were little.

    1. Tracy,

      What a sweet tradition...this totally made me smile!


  3. What a great story. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one whose 'vision' never quite matches reality on special days. Our biggest Christmas tradition is a gift giving tradition. My husband's grandmother gave him a nutcracker every year starting when he was a little boy. She died the year we got married so I have carried on the tradition. He began his own tradition of making me a present every year. Now we just have to figure out a present tradition for our little boy.

    1. Carrie,

      That is so precious that you were able to continue the nutcracker tradition and that you have unique and special gifts for each other!


  4. Our Christmas Family traditions are numerous.
    1. We drink hot chocolate out of Santa mugs as we decorate the tree.
    2. We watch It's A Wonderful Life
    3. We sang a special at church on Christmas Eve as a family, but as the kids got older, we were eliminated from the group. It was more fun for us to watch anyway.
    4. We went to the shut ins from church and caroled as a family.
    5. We served a meal at the Mission on Christmas Eve with the King family and had Christmas Eve dinner with them.
    6. David makes a yearly Christmas CD for all of us.
    We would include Grandparents in as much of our festivities as possible.

    1. Marijo,

      Wow, so many great traditions...I love every single one! :-)


  5. I love the idea of your family photo, having 4 children I know how difficult it is to get a "good" photo of all of them at the same time!
    My husband and I have started a tradition with our children over the last few years that sounds similar to yours. We put on Christmas music as decorate the tree, eating a yummy dinner (this year home made pizza) and watch a christmas DVD (this year Veggies tales!)
    PS. I love your blog.

    1. Katie,

      Thank you, you are so sweet! What a special day in your home creating great memories with your family that will last forever. It makes me want to go and watch Veggie Tales now. :-)


  6. J-has hair i forgot how light his hair was that made him look bald, N- Sure likes stripes just like mom,
    Anyway we always did the tree after Thanksgiving.
    Love chantal

  7. I started a tradition with my 3 boys - we would decorate gingerbread houses the weekend of Thanksgiving. That tradition stopped when they became teenagers and began making zombie gingerbread houses, because that is what 14 year old boys do - try to shock their Mom. My boys are all grown and on their own but this year we picked up right where we left off and made gingerbread houses with grand children. The boys talked about all those years of making gingerbread houses when they were young. We had a great time and will now continue that tradition again for years to come.

  8. The only tradition that I have at this point for our family is that Santa brings our tree (fully decorated no less) to our house. I remember being a little girl and going to bed christmas eve and everything looked the same as always. But on Christmas morning, my sister and I would wake up and there in our living room, Santa had brought us a Christmas tree. I can still remember the glow of the tree lights sparkling up and down the hallway. So, while my son is still young, the tradition continues.

  9. We get a new ornament for the Christmas tree for each person each year. My mom used get one for each and now with so many grandkids she gets an ornament for each family each year. I've taken to getting them for each of my family members. This year my tree is covered with these ornaments and very few extras. Amazing how we've accumulated enough to cover a whole tree now. :) they make me smile to think of all the memories. Someday my boys will get bring theirs to their own family trees. :) -becca

  10. We open stockings on New Years Day. The kids love having that to look forward to after Christmas is over.


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