Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Traditions

10 Holiday Traditions
*My personal list of our favorite holiday traditions.*

1. Gingerbread houses. What could look sweeter or bring to mind the holiday spirit than a cluster of gingerbread houses on display? Every year we get together with family/friends to decorate gingerbread houses.  The children, and adults, look forward to it and the end results are priceless!

2. Elf on the Shelf.  This is a new tradition for us and for many other families, but if you don't have an elf visiting your house yet - jump on it! Our elf arrives on Thanksgiving night to watch over us and report to Santa if we have been naughty or nice! Watching the children jump out of bed, go on a scavenger hunt to find him, and then seeing their eyes light up with joy when they eventually do find him, is a wonderful way to begin each day during the holiday season. Also, when you catch them actually standing there and talking to him, whispering to him what to tell Santa they want for Christmas - stop, watch and listen. You never know what you may find out!!!

3. Advent Calendars.  These days Advent calendars come in many shapes and sizes but the ultimate goal is the same, to count down and celebrate the days until Jesus' birthday. Whether you have one that has pockets for tiny treats, doors to pop open or numbers to add or take away doesn't matter. What matters is the joy everyone receives by doing these together as a family. An easy way to make a quick Advent calendar with your children is to make a paper chain with 25 links and once a day remove one until you get to Christmas morning. 
Hudson removing his Advent number for the day and getting his candy cane. We remove ours every morning before we get started on our day. 

4. Reindeer Food.  Every year the kids and I get together with our giant mixing bowl, some oatmeal, glitter and colored sprinkles and pile together on the kitchen floor and mix up a giant batch of reindeer food. On Christmas Eve the reindeer need energy too, so we make them a special treat! We always make extra for our friends and neighbors and then we all pile up in the car, blare Christmas carols and go and deliver it. 

5. Angel Tree.  It is important to teach our children, and remind ourselves, that there are those less fortunate than us and that the spirit of Christmas is about giving and not receiving. So each year we go to our local mall and get 4 children off of the Angel tree, one child for each of my own. Dreaming about the smiles on children's faces when they receive a gift on Christmas morning, when they weren't expecting one,  puts the spirit of Christmas in your heart immediately! 

6. Cupcake Party.  Each year my children get to invite 3 friends over a piece and we have a Christmas cupcake decorating party. Their parents drop them off and when they come back to get them they are given a tray of a dozen cupcakes decorated especially for them. There are carols, holiday treats for the children to munch on while they are hard at work, sprinkles and gumdrops a plenty, and huge smiles of anticipation on the children's faces as they imagine how surprised and delighted their parents will be. It's great fun and gives the children a chance to make a gift for their parents. 

7. Christmas Books.  A great holiday tradition to bring to life the joy of reading to your children is to read a holiday story with them every night. Each year after Thanksgiving while the children are in bed I wrap up 25 holiday books. I label Twas The Night Before Christmas as #24 and the Christmas Story about the birth of Jesus as #25. The rest of the books range from traditional to Santa Claus and elves and are not numbered. Every night beginning from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25 they get to unwrap a book and we cuddle up and read together - saving #24 and #25 for December 24th and 25th. 

Our holiday books ready to be unwrapped and read together as a family. 

The children as we get ready to begin our holiday book reading.

8. Nativity Scene.  My Nanny gave me a Nativity Scene the year I had my oldest son, Ethan. Along with the Nativity Scene she had written me a letter with the meaning behind this gift. I was to start out the Christmas season by setting out the empty manger. Then I was to wrap up all of the animals, shepherds, wisemen, angel, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. Counting back the pieces in correlation to the days till Christmas we were to unwrap one piece with my son every day, building our Nativity scene, saving Baby Jesus for Christmas morning. This is a very special tradition and gives you the chance to discuss the meaning of each piece as you open it. 

9. Holiday Performance.  At least once during the holiday season we go as a family to a local holiday production. It could be the Christmas pageant or Advent workshop at our church, a local stage performance of The Nutcracker, a concert of Handel's Messiah, the local parks Garden of Lights, etc.. There are many available options in your local community to experience as a family the feeling and meaning of Christmas. If the truth be known, I usually try and attend as many as possible with my children and look forward to sharing these experiences with my family.

10. Holiday Baking.  Most families have some treasured holiday recipes handed down to them that it just wouldn't be Christmas without. Once a season on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon,  I pull out the Christmas aprons, the worn out recipe cards, and gather all the children in the kitchen for some old fashioned holiday baking. We turn on the Christmas carols and get to cooking! The kids really enjoy getting down and dirty in the batter and it helps them to feel like they play an important part in the holiday preparations. Nanny's Christmas Holly, Mimi's toffee and even recently added snowman cookies are on the list. After the baking is done we place our holiday treats on trays and the kids get to proudly deliver them to our friends and neighbors. 

Some of these traditions take a couple of hours and others only take a moment - but the impact they make on so many lives lasts forever. When trying to decide which traditions to take as your own there is 1 big one that can't be forgotten :

On Christmas Eve always remember to set out cookies and milk for Santa, and the reindeer food for the reindeer. We usually sprinkle our reindeer food outside where the moon light can shine on it so the glitter will sparkle and shine to alert the reindeer where their food is!

***Any thing can become a treasured family tradition with love, laughter and a little pixie dust!***

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