{ Christmas Traditions Past, Present, and Future }

I love Christmas traditions! There is something unifying about the traditions that we create around the Christmas season. They seem to bring us closer to Christ, closer to our families, and closer to everyone around us-our neighbors, our friends, and hopefully even our “enemies”. I love remembering things we did growing up during Christmas, and have loved being able to continue some of those same traditions year after year. Here are a few of our Christmas traditions-past, present, and ones I have heard of that I would love to incorporate next year:

1.Decorating the Christmas tree together

Scott by Christmas tree blog

Past Growing up we would always drag out the tree the day after Thanksgiving-EVERY YEAR without fail. As a kid I loved it because by that time of year you were positively busting with excitement over the Christmas holiday. We always had an artificial tree because of family allergies, but we didn’t know any different, it still seemed to bring the sweet smell of evergreen into the house. We would many times have two trees. One with all the kid ornaments on it in the family room-bring colored lights, ornaments we had made, plastic balls, glittery silver tinsel, and candy canes. All the presents under here would have fun kid like wrapping paper. Then my mom would have her nice tree in the living room. It had white lights and all the breakable ornaments, ones I had helped her to make, and a few I made for her as a Christmas gift one year. Presents under here were usually ones friends had brought by, ones for others that were all wrapped up with pretty matching paper and beautiful bows, and a few for us that she didn’t want us to shake around. I loved both trees, and remember how fun it was to help decorate them. I remember sitting with my mom in the living room once we had all helped decorate the tree, and turn off all the lights, and watch the lights from the Christmas tree magically light up the room. I loved that.

Present These days we set up our tree December 1st. The day after Thanksgiving usually just sneaks up on me too fast, and many times we have family here for Thanksgiving or we have left town to go visit someone during that time. December 1st seems to be just right-not too early that Thanksgiving gets slighted, but enough time for us to enjoy our tree. We have had both artificial and real trees. When we lived in Reno, some friends of ours the Ritters gave us a free artificial tree that Amy had received from a lady at work. It was HUGE, and we loved it. In Reno we couldn’t even put all the branches on it because our apartment was too small. When we moved here we could finally set it all the way up. It was made up of a ton of branches we had to individually put in one by one. It took a long time, but the kids liked doing it. The branches were kind of prickly so they started wearing winter gloves to keep their hands from getting scratched up. We used that tree until the pine needles started falling off, and our poor tree was starting to look a little more like a Charlie Brown tree than a nice full tree. We moved to the real tree stage for a few years, and we really liked that too. The first year we spent almost two hours driving around trying to find this Christmas tree farm so we could cut down our own tree. After two hours and no tree, we headed to Lowe’s to get a tree. It was big, beautiful, and I didn’t mind one bit that we hadn’t found and cut it down ourselves. Finally, last year we opted to buy a new artificial tree once again. It is tall, in only three pieces instead of 60, and is prelit. The part about this I love, is that now we get to spend more time putting on ornaments instead of all night sticking on branches. I thought the kids would agree, but when we put up the tree Austin groaned a little bit that we didn’t get to put all the little parts in, “ That’s the best part!” So funny. While we decorate we always watch The Polar Express movie while drinking hot chocolate made from our Cocoamotion. (And then sing and dance when we get to the HOT CHOCOLATE song.) Funny story from this year-Scott was constantly taking off the balls on the tree (luckily plastic this year) and then would through them back at the tree trying to get them to stay. When Austin was his age the first year we lived in Georgia, he would throw all kind of random stuff into the tree. When we disassembled it after Christmas was over we found all kinds of toys, gloves, shoes, etc. in there.

Future Something I think would be fun to do next year is to read the story The Tale of Three Trees by the light of the Christmas tree after we put up the tree. It’s the story of 3 tress that later become the manger, the boat, and the cross in Jesus’ life. It will start Day 1 of our story reading days. (See Story Tradition)

2. Christmas Ornaments

Past Ornaments from childhood mostly consisted of ones we had made. Some we made at school, others at church craft parties, and a few at home. I don’t remember a specific ornament I made, except this one reindeer. There was a young adult in our ward who did a fun Santa’s workshop at her house a few weeks before Christmas. We would come and make presents and ornaments for our family. This one in particular was made out of an old fashioned wooden clothespin. We painted it brown, added a red small pom pom for a nose, some squiggly eyes, and a pipe cleaner for antlers. We then tied a little bell around the neck.

Present We decorate our tree every year with lights, round balls, candy canes, and then all the individual special family ornaments. When Brianna was 3 we started the tradition of getting a new ornament for each of the kids, and one for the family every year. The idea is that when our kids get married someday they will get to take all of their ornaments to have on their own tree. I remember the first year Aaron and I were married-we didn’t have any money for a tree or ornaments. My brother’s mother-in-law who lived there in Provo had pity on us and gave us this little tabletop one to borrow for Christmas. I just think it will be so cool for our kids to have their own ornaments that first Christmas. The family ornament or ornaments is usually one that has to do with something important that happened that year. For example, the year we first went to Disneyland we got a Disney ornament, or the year we went to see the Nauvoo temple open house we got a special gold temple ornament. For the kids it is sometimes something specific for them that year (like a baby’s first Christmas), but as of late they are all the same type of ornament, just personal to them. For example, two years ago I spray painted these cute small frames my mom had got for me on clearance. I painted them all red, put a ribbon the the top, and they each had their Christmas picture in it from that year.  Last year’s ornament was a copy of a story about the symbols of Christmas, and a little red bag for each of them, filled with all of the symbols. I have had the story for a long time, but received one of the bags at a Relief Society Christmas party-I loved the idea and it became our ornament for that year. Now when they have their own families, they can open the little bag and tell about the symbols of Christmas for a FHE in December. To personalize each bag I printed out a yearly picture, put it in a cute scrapbooking frame thingy, and sewed it to the front of the bag. This years ornament was an idea I found online. It was a small 4x3inch board with a picture of the Savior on the front. On the back was a little sewn bag to put in papers that say your gifts to Jesus. Since we write our gifts to Jesus every year (see tradition #3) if was a perfect way to keep track of them. We have also strung cranberries in years past, which I love to do. The kids also have many ornaments from school that they have made. I have a master list on the computer that lists everyone's ornaments and the years they got them. I love being organized like that, it’s fun to see how old everyone was when they got a particular ornament, and sometimes I write a short little thing about it.

Future I think for next year I will do ornaments where everyone does some sort of handprint. I love to see handprints of my kids at different ages, and how much they’ve grown.

3. Giving Our Gifts to the Savior

Past I don’t remember doing anything similar to this growing up, just always a focus on the Savior as the center of the season. My mom would have Christmas music playing, and we would go watch her sing in the Christmas program at church.

Present The year we were married Aaron and I started a tradition of writing down a gift we would give to the Savior for Christmas. It was something we would try to do better in our actions, a spiritual goal, or a specific deed that we would do for others throughout the year. We write it on an index card with the date, and keep them in a envelope all together. It is so fun to see everyone's handwriting as they have gotten older, and see how their testimonies have grown through what they picked to be their gift. I am really excited to have our new ornaments to keep all of our gift to the Savior cards together in one spot. We usually write these on Christmas morning in our room before we all go out to see what Santa brought.

Future The one thing I would like to do in the future would be a way to see those goals more throughout the year. Sometimes we tend to write them down at Christmas, and then forget about them after the new year. Still thinking about how to do this one.

4. Reading Christmas Stories Together

Past I remember reading stories together like The Bernstein Bears Christmas and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree. I loved Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree, and had forgot about it until this year when my mom reminded me. I promptly order a copy for our family too.

Present We have lots of Christmas books we read as a family. We have sometimes had them as part of our advent calendar and read one a day. Other times we have just randomly picked one to read. I love the special feelings we get as we hear heartfelt stories of love, service, and fun at Christmas. I think my favorite is still Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.

Future This one I have wanted to do for a couple of years, but I ALWAYS forget. My friend Libby does this with her kids and it seems so fun. She wraps up all the Christmas books they have and put them under the tree (or in a basket, I forget). Every night they pick a book to unwrap and read. I LOVE this idea. I am so doing this next year.

5. Advent Calendar

Past We had this fabric advent calendar that would hang on the back of a door. It had a big felt Christmas tree at the top and then 24 little pockets at the bottom. Each pocket was filled with an ornament, and everyday we would take turns pinning on an ornament.

Present A few years ago I found a wood advent calendar at Target. It has  little doors to open up to reveal a little surprise inside. The first year we got it we put stuff from our Christmas story binder. Each day had a song, a scripture, and the name of a story from the binder to read. The year after that we would put treats and specific names of Christmas books to read part of. This year we used an idea from my friend Lisa’s sister-she found the same advent calendar and made a list of fun stuff to do each day. (Decorate cookies, watch a Christmas movie, someone’s special day…)

Future I really love our advent calendar, but I think next year I will make one just for a change. I saw a ton of ideas online that had cute ones-a shoe organizer filled with stuff, cute cones made of pretty paper with numbers on them with a surprise under each one, little buckets with numbers, maybe one hidden in the house somewhere? Lots of possibilities.

6. Looking at Christmas Lights

Past We would always go drive around and look at Christmas lights. There was a house on Ashworth road that had a ton of lights, then we would go look at Continental westerns lights, and I remember once going to drive around by my aunts neighborhood where everyone had filled white paper type bags with sand to weigh them down and then put candles? in them. They lined all of their driveways and the side walk. It was amazing!

Present We drive around and look at lights too. The last few years we have made a couple plates of cookies, then printed out a big tag that says, “Congratulations! We think you have the best lights on the block!” to attach to the top. ( I am sure we got this idea from someone else. If it was you, thank you!) When we find the best few house we drop it off, ring the door bell and run. This year we found this house that was unbelievable. It was raising money for the Make a Wish Foundation, and had the whole house and a few on either side, covered in lights. Think National Lampoons Christmas Vacation kind of lights. The lights blinked in time with the music. It was awesome! We made our way there quite often as we were killing time when someone came to look at the house.

Future I am sure we will just keep trying to find the best lights around!

7. Making Gingerbread Houses

Past For years around Christmas time our house would turn into a gingerbread factory. My mom would bake and bake and bake for days making all the pieces she would need to assemble multiple gingerbread house for friends, family, neighbors, home teaching and visiting teaching families, and school teachers. She had a special recipe which would make the finished cookies a bit harder so they would withstand all the candy we loaded on them. We would help her mix up the dough in our huge Tupperware bowl and then roll it out with our clear Tupperware rolling pins that were filled with water to make them heavy. Then she had tons of little containers filled with all sorts of candies-red hots, gum drops, small candy canes, m&m’s, peppermints, chewy peppermints, …everything! I remember she used to keep them at the top of the corner shelf of the kitchen, right above the microwave, and in the off season we used to go sneak candy.

Present When we lived in Reno we started our gingerbread making tradition with the Ritters, and then the Carter’s too. Every year our houses would get more elaborate, and we would end up eating more candy. We usually watched Lampoons Christmas vacation, while the kids sat and mostly ate candy. It was super fun, and it makes me sad we haven’t kept that tradition very well since moving to Georgia. The one year we did do it was when the Ritter’s came for Christmas with us.

Future My goal for next year is to reinstate this tradition, hopefully with a few other families-the more the merrier.

8. Christmas Movies

Past The only Christmas movie I ever really remember watching as a child was A Charlie Brown Christmas. I am sure there were others, I am just not remembering them now. Aaron’s favorite Christmas movie from his childhood was A Christmas Story-bundled up kid with his tongue stuck to the pole and the gun that would shoot his eye out. Good stuff I tell ya.

Present We watch as many Christmas movies we can get our hands on. Some of our favorites are:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Elf (Austin used to tell us he wanted a midget for a brother)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon and real characters)
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Little Women (not technically a Christmas movie, but it has a Christmas scene so we’re counting it)
  • The Polar Express
  • The Snowman

Austin eating his 100th candy cane while watching a Christmas movieAustin eating candy cane blog

Future Keep watching movies together while we cuddle on the couch, eat candy canes, and have a fire in the fireplace.

9. Christmas Eve Activities

Past Christmas Eve always consisted of my dad reading us the story of the Savior’s birth. He would read it to us and would often times get quite emotional when doing so. I remember this as being one of the first times, with many to follow, of seeing my dad get emotional when it came to spiritual things. We would then get to each open one present. My mom would usually pick which one it was-it was a great way to start out the Christmas festivities.

Present For Christmas Eve we have a special Jerusalem dinner of lamb, fruit, grape juice, crackers..the types of food from the times. Then we act out the Nativity on some form. This year we video taped it with music in the background. Other times we have acted it out while someone read from the Bible. Once we just had the kids act it out and video tape it during the day and then we watched it that night. We love to use our wooden manger, especially when we have a real live baby to use in it. Ryan was our baby Jesus this year, and ALL the girls where fighting to take turns holding and trying to carry him around. After that we each get to open a present-which is always new pajamas. The kids have caught on that this is always the present-but they still love seeing what new PJ’s they got. We end out the night by putting out some cookies for the big guy along with some carrots for the reindeer, as well as letters for Santa in their stockings with any last minute requests.Christmas Eve kids blog

Future One thing we have never done with the kids is actually read them the book T’was the Night Before Christmas. This would be fun to add into the mix.

1 comment:

Amy Ritter said...

We haven't stopped making gingerbread houses since we started with you guys 11 years ago