Starting New Holiday Traditions
One of the most interesting and complicated parts of starting a family is combining or creating holiday traditions. In our case, only one of us had true traditions to consider. For a couple of years it was easy just to continue with what had been done in years past. Yet, two children later we started discussing which traditions we wanted our own kids to take away when they left for college.
Talk about some spirited dialogue! It took us a couple more years, but we now have a few events that we hold near and dear this time of year. Our hope is that these holiday memory-making activities are ones our children will remember fondly as well. Here’s a rundown of our holiday traditions for the family:
There are always opportunities for volunteer work, and we try to incorporate some throughout the year. However, this time of year brings one event in particular that we cherish as a family: The Manger.
The Manger is hosted each year by a non-profit in our area and is dedicated to helping families during Christmas. Toys and gifts for various ages are collected weeks prior to the event. For two weeks, a “store” is set up in a normally empty shop space.
During the “store” hours, qualifying families can come in and shop for gifts for each other. Volunteers help guests with shopping who are seeking that 1 big item that would make Christmas extra special. The guests pay only $1 for large items and $.50 for small items. It all gets gift-wrapped for free.
My whole family appreciates working on this, from gathering collected presents to organizing the “store.” Most importantly though, we enjoy the connection and warmth we receive when we spend time working with a family to make their Christmas a little brighter.
Another family initiated this new holiday tradition for us. Every year, our friends make the gingerbread, and we bring all the supplies for decorating. After eating together, we embark on a Gingerbread House challenge where we divide into groups to make the best house possible. There is no judge and no winner for best house. It’s not a competition, but we do get into the gingerbread house decorating experience, and the houses have become quite grand in recent years.
This tradition was also brought to us by someone else. The first year friends invited us to come along, we were quite shy. No one felt comfortable belting out our favorite Christmas songs to complete strangers. Yet, after seeing the smiles that singing brings to others, it became easier and easier to do. Now, we look forward to singing with gusto. We’ve embraced Buddy the Elf’s motto, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
Elf on a Shelf
Oh my goodness, this trend has become almost a national epidemic! We have two elves that were passed down from our family. They are unlike anyone else’s, but the tradition is the same. Each December they join the family and cause shenanigans and wreck havoc throughout the house at night. Really, as parents we alternate between hating and loving this particular tradition. But, the children love it, and sometimes that’s what it’s all about.
On Christmas Eve we get together with one side of the extended family and all the kids have presents. The adults do a sneaky santa and everyone fills up on spaghetti. We wind down by 4 and each family then gets to return home for their own time with immediate family. It’ s a nice way to embrace the big, extended family and the intimacy of our small family in the same day.
New Year’s Day
We’ve also started to host our easiest annual party on New Year’s Day. On January 1st we throw open our doors for donuts and coffee for a few short hours. All of our friends and neighbors are welcome to show up in pajamas as it’s a most relaxed affair. This year, footie pjs seem to be making a comeback, so we have ordered these for a couple of us.
Holiday traditions for the family are important to us, and these are the ones that we enjoy. Check out this post from The Mother Huddle for some more inspiration. And please share your own traditions with us on our Facebook page!