The holidays are approaching so quickly, to say I'm excited is an understatement. Christmas is my absolute FAVORITE time of year. There is not a single thing about it that I dislike, our tree has been up since the weekend after Halloween, I shit you not. If my children take only one thing from our ultra amazing parenting style, I hope it is my husband and my insane love of the holiday season.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is learning about different family traditions. It's so important to me to enjoy and pass along fun traditions with our children. Some come from my own family and upbringing, and some I have picked up along the way. What better way to prep for these next few weeks than to pass some of our favorites on to you!
Build Their First Christmas Tree
An ornament a day keeps the doctor away. If that isn't a saying, it truly should be. This is a tradition I picked up when the twins were toddlers. Every year we let each child pick out their own ornament to add to our collection. Not only is it super fun to see how their choices change throughout the years, it is such an awesome representation of their personalities throughout all of our phases of life together. It fills our tree with tons of memories, and doesn't leave a branch bare. The theory is to eventually pass along all 18+ years worth of ornaments on to them when they have their own first Christmas tree to put up. Ideally, all of my kids will live close to us and we can spend an entire week putting up trees together at each others house...but, I suppose I'm willing to allow them some space to do their own.
Sugar Cookie Decorating
One of my all-time fav's! This is a tradition I remember doing with my mom, grandma, and siblings, and have loved doing since I was a tiny toddler spelling cuss words in the backseat of my mom's car. To this day, if schedules allow, we still ALL get together with our own kids and do it as a huge family activity. In the event we can't all make it work, we still always do it ourselves at home as well. I bake dozens of sugar cookies, mix as many colors of frosting as they request, and take them to the store to pick out all of their own accouterments.
This is one activity where I have to seriously control my micromanagement tendencies. I want them to make it their own, without my input, so I have to make plenty extra so my husband and I can decorate our own right along with them. It is so much fun to see all of the crazy concoctions they come up with, and to watch them so happily smearing frosting across their faces, while sprinkles fall to the ground. I am never so happy to be cleaning up a mess as I am these nights.
Cocoa and Christmas Lights
This is hands-down my husband's favorite tradition, and one he initiated with us our first holiday together! Initially, we just drove around areas that looked well decorated and hoped for the best, but as the years have passed, we have made a serious strategical plan.
I like to google the updated list of the best Christmas lights in our metro area to give us a rundown of where we're heading and map out the best route. We load up the yeti's with some hot cocoa (and ice, learned that the hard way the first year Kill burnt his tongue after he refused to listen to me say it was hot. Damn you, Yeti, for your perfectly executed products), find the best Christmas music on Pandora, and hit the road with all four kids in tow! It's always fun to pick our favorite houses and see the looks on their faces when someone really pulled out all the stops.
I imagine as they grow and have families of their own, my husband will want to hire a party bus and take the WHOLE family along...I also imagine as they hit that ripe old age, he will gladly spike their drinks with whiskey, and really make it an all night adventure.
Pickle on the Tree
You may have heard of it, my grandparents did it with us growing up, we were always told it was an old German tradition, which I have since learned is a myth (way to crush my dreams, Google)! Since we're German, I'm going to go ahead and say it is a German tradition at this point. Anyway, we have a glass pickle ornament, which is hidden in one of our trees (yeah, I said one of, we have ALL of the trees). On Christmas Eve, whoever finds it on the tree gets an extra little gift we have put aside. The kids love it, and start looking for the pickle as soon as the tree goes up, we always move it to a new spot before the big search begins. The gift is usually something small or a game they can play together. It's always fun to watch them search so intently, it reminds me of when my sister and I used to race to beat our cousins to it at Grandpa's!
This one definitely works better with the older kids, but, with the right amount of patience it's feasible for any age. Another tradition I recall doing with my own family growing up, my daughter and I have recently started designating one afternoon and evening to baking everyone's favorite holiday goodies and packing them up for neighbors, friends, and to take along to our big family Christmas.
Our goodies vary every year, but you can almost bet on oreo balls, buckeyes, haystacks, peanut clusters, and spritz cookies every year! My daughter's dream is to be on Chopped Junior or Kid's Baking Championship, and she absolutely LOVES being involved in the kitchen. She looks forward to this day all year, and I love throwing on our aprons and letting the boys taste test everything as we go.
Watch & Wrap
My fondest memory of Christmas with my mom, outside of the obvious, was wrapping presents while watching The Trouble with Angels. Now that we're grown, she has since purchased us each our own copies, it is truly a Christmas staple for us. If you haven't seen it, it's a movie from the 1960's and I'm still not entirely sure how it became a Christmas tradition, that is a question better left for Mom, but no holiday season is complete if I haven't spent hours on the floor wrapping by the tree, low back pain kicking in, losing feeling in my toes, and this movie playing on TV. Even if this particular movie isn't your style, find an old movie from your childhood to share with them, and make it your own.
Making our own traditions with our children is so important for later in life, when we aren’t there to remind them of the “good ol’ days.” I will forever be grateful to my parents and grandparents for all of the fun memories and experiences they gave us along the way. I hope my kids look back on their childhood and laugh at the way their Dad would Clark Griswold the house with Christmas lights, and how their Mom started playing Christmas music as soon as the last trick-or-treater left the porch.