Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday traditions

It's that time of year again.

This year, more than years past I am being intentional about what traditions we want to create in our family. This is the first year that HP will really "get" Christmas, and it's also the first year we'll be having Christmas in our home.

I am not sure of the right balance to strike in our approach to Christmas. We are not religious, so focusing on that aspect of the holiday--other than as part of our cultural heritage--is not important to us. But we also don't want to make it all about the presents either. Instead, we will try and center our celebration around family, food, and the values we cherish (as vague as that may sound).

I loved that growing up we always had Christmas in our home with specific traditions we did year after year and want to create that for my children. Here are some that I want to either continue or start for our family:
  • The tree. We decorated our pallet tree this past weekend. Maybe eventually we'll have a real tree, but for now, this works for our space.
  • Chex mix. We always had huge tins of homemade chex mix during the holidays growing up and I would have a bowl for breakfast while we were waiting for everyone to get up to start opening the stockings. If I had to choose between chex mix and holidays sweets, I would choose the chex mix every time.
  • Advent calendar. Growing up, we had a giant board my dad made. It was divided into squares and each square had four nails. We'd go to the grocery store and buy bulk candy, then fill little drawstrings bag with the candy. Every night after dinner each child got to take down the bag from that day and eat the candy. I do not want our calendar to be focused on candy, but I would like to find a way to celebrate Advent and mark the days before Christmas. Maybe reading a different Christmas book each day? Something with crafts? An advent wreath? A nativity set? Any ideas (that do not involve candy or food) are welcome!
  • Treats. I will be sure to have cheese ball on Christmas Eve--another staple of my childhood. Growing up, we also had a "treat tray" that would come out after dinner. My mom went all out--fudge, toffee, chocolate covered oreos and pretzels, haystacks, almond crescents, lebkuchen, the list goes on. Making all of that feels like too much to me, but I'd like to pick a few to make myself.
  • Christmas breakfast. I want to make egg casserole and my great-grandmother's cinnamon rolls for breakfast Christmas morning. The rolls are a bit complicated, so I'm not sure I'll actually do that one, but I will try. When we're at my house, my sister makes stollen that is delicious, so maybe I'll go that route. The egg casserole is non-negotiable.
  • Stockings. My great-grandmother (of cinnamon roll fame) knitted every family member a stocking. My mother has taken on that task for the newest generation. In my family, we always wrapped all of the stocking presents. In Neil's, they did not. I think we will not wrap them to help simplify--less wrapping, less trash, more time. Sounds like a win to me.
  • Christmas dinner. I know I do not want to do the traditional feast, as that seems like too much work on Christmas day. I am contemplating making a tradition of having a simpler meal like enchiladas or lasagna that can be prepped ahead of time and popped in the oven. Or maybe a particularly delicious soup with bread and salad. I want to be intentional about not creating too much work for myself or Neil so we can enjoy the holiday.
  • Christmas presents. Neil's family opens one gift at a time with the whole family watching. My family did this on Christmas Eve when we all got to choose one present to open, but not on Christmas day, partly because we often had fifteen people in the house and that would have taken hours and hours. When it's just a small group though, I love doing it more slowly and really focusing on each gift and giver.
This will be the first year that I am the person responsible for creating the memories rather than the recipient. I am excited to make the season special for our children and see how our old traditions evolve and new ones develop throughout the years. 


  1. I love that you're being so intentional around the holidays for your family! Growing up, we had an advent calendar that was a little wooden tree with ornaments for each day that we hung on the nails. December 24 was always the star on top of the tree. (This is the exact one we had: Thanks Etsy!) It was very exciting to get to decorate the tree day by day and not unlike your pallet tree in miniature. :)

    1. I love it! It is very much like the pallet tree. Neil's family had a felt advent calendar that was a similar idea, made by his grandmother (I believe). This year (since it's already Dec 1!), I think I am going to make a paper chain to count down the days. Clearly, I need to plan ahead a little more...