Christmas Traditions

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are gearing up for a fantastic New Year! Around here, we’re also gearing up for a very special birthday party, because someone in our family is turning THREE YEARS OLD in just over a week.

But before we get too far past Christmas, I thought I’d share about some of our family’s Christmas traditions, because I love Christmas, and I love traditions, and I love hearing about other people’s traditions so I can steal adopt them for our family! So many good ideas out there. Here are a few of ours:

Every year our family, including my parents and sometimes other members from my side of the family, goes to a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm to pick out our tree. Sometimes it’s great fun, sometimes it’s freezing cold and the kids are miserable, but whatever the case, we always take a photo in front of our selected tree.

When I was little my parents would buy me a Christmas ornament every year. Peter’s parents did the same thing, so it only seemed fitting that we carry on the family tradition from both sides. Every year the girls each get a new ornament for the tree that will go with them when they move out into their own houses. Some years I pick them out. Other times we let them choose their own. When it’s my turn, I try to find things that remind me of them in some way. This year Alethea got a Clifford ornament I scored on eBay. And since both girls are currently obsessed with ducks, Lydia got this cutie:

Our second ornament tradition is that whenever Peter and I take a vacation (with or without the girls), we buy three souvenirs: something small for the house, a charm for my charm bracelet and an ornament for the Christmas tree. We actually managed to start this tradition on our honeymoon with a blown glass Canadian flag and have continued it ever since. This year we went to San Francisco and after much searching, located this one:

I love our ornaments because very year decorating the tree is like unpacking a box of memories. A bit of our childhoods, mixed with great travel, and a dose of “oh my goodness, our children are growing up too fast”!

Two years ago I was trying to figure out how to make Jesus’ birth more central to our Christmas celebration when I stumbled on this magnetic advent calendar. It was a bit more than I was hoping to spend, but it’s been totally worth it. The girls look forward to pulling out a new character every day leading up to Christmas. Truth be told, I think they were just as disappointed to find out on December 26th that there wasn’t a door to open on the calendar as they were when I told them there wouldn’t be any more presents that day either. Most importantly, it has inspired conversations, both spiritual and otherwise, about the nativity and Jesus’ birth.

Favorite advent calendar moments from 2013:

Lydia rearranging the figures, when Alethea looks over and says, “Lydia, you have to leave ONE of the angels in the stable because SOMEONE has to say, ‘Do not be afraid’!”

Alethea constantly calling the “innkeeper” the “lightkeeper”. Thank you summer camping trip in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

This is one of our more unique traditions, so it deserves a brief explanation of its origins. Many years ago, Peter’s grandfather and his siblings owned and ran a hardware store and by the time they closed up shop on Christmas Eve, nobody wanted to cook and the only place open to eat was the Chinese restaurant. Although the hardware store has long been out of business, the family tradition continued and evolved in Peter’s father’s generation to become a formal sit-down chow mein dinner. In keeping with Peter’s heritage, every year on Christmas Eve, we go to church and then come home to eat Chinese take-out with our friends and family. And because family traditions should evolve, we order a variety of other dishes in addition to the usual chow mein.

This tradition is a favorite with me because it combines everything I love about entertaining… the decorating, the formality, using my china and crystal, and having good conversations over a meal, while eliminating the thing I dislike most… cooking for a crowd.

Here’s a tradition that came along as a bit of a practicality. We are very fortunate that we get a lot of gently used hand-me-down clothes for the girls from some of our church friends. For whatever reason though, we always seem to still need more pajamas. Thus the beginnings of our “wear new pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve” tradition. Here’s Alethea modeling hers Christmas morning 2009:

Alright, I know this is getting long, so last one… a tradition I stole from one of the designers on HGTV. (I think it was Genevieve Gorder, but don’t quote me on that.) Every Christmas morning the kiddos are required to stop on their way down the stairs and let me take their picture before they get to open presents.




Our stairwell is completely devoid of natural light, so I know this will never be the world’s best photograph, but it does mean I get at least one shot of the kids together in their jammies on Christmas morning.

So there you go. A few of our family Christmas traditions. Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Any that our family should try out? Please do share!

4 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions

  1. Is it terrible that I almost teared up when I saw your place setting…it’s beautiful! The stair picture tradition is wonderful and I just may adopt it :) We also do something similar with ornaments – selecting one that has to do with something significant that happened the past year (usually a trip of some kind).

    One of my favorite family traditions: my dad and I host “the kinfolk smack down” which includes Christmas themed minute to win it games. “Grandma’s team” and “Grandpa’s team” compete for bragging rights for the year.

    Oh, and you forgot one slightly important highlight of your Christmas….Lydia and Alethea were largely responsible for a record breaking attendance at church’s Christmas eve service thanks to their part in the promotional video…at least that’s what I attribute it to ;)

    • Awww… thanks, Ericca! I love the idea of a family smackdown. I can’t really see either side of our family being a part of it with me though. Maybe someday when I am Grandma of “Team Grandma”. You can bet my team will win too.

      Alethea and Lydia’s video definitely was a highlight this year. Since it was the first year for a promotional video though, I thought it was a little early to label it a tradition. I guess we’ll have to make another one next year, huh?

  2. Post Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year to you and the family. Our family always go to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. My neighbor’s children that where not catholic always came with us. All for a good reason. Back to my house for hot chocolate and my home made cookies. When the children where teens they where aloud to open one gift before going to bed. The tree would have decorations that they made in school and yes I keep them until they had their own family and I passed their crafts on to them. The girls are so cute in their jammies. Now I have just all blue lights , clear icicles, snow flakes and silver balls. I miss the old days.

    • Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories, Pearl! I have to admit that I sometimes wish for a more thematic tree with a color scheme and whatnot, but I know I’ll miss these days when the kids are all grown up and out of the house.

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