Christmas is my favorite time of year! The lights, the sounds, the smells, the magic! But my favorite part? The traditions!
Traditions are an important part of any family. They help create strong bonds and relationships, as well as creating wonderful memories. I look forward to our Christmas traditions all year and I know my girls do the same.
I try not to make things too crazy for us. The holiday season is already a busy time, so I don’t ever want to feel like I’m trying to force us to do something just because “it’s tradition.” Traditions should be fun and enjoyable and a great way to take a breath and spend some time with the people you love most.
Here are the fun and simple Christmas traditions our family does to come together and celebrate the season:
1. Advent calendar
An advent calendar is a fun way to count down the days until Christmas, helping the excitement build and build. Knowing that the girls are going to get plenty of treats in their stockings (and that we still have Halloween candy we’re working through), I opted to buy this non-candy Advent calendar instead of one filled with candy. Emma loves it and will remind us every day that she gets to put a new ornament on the tree.
2. Bake cookies
Nothing says “Christmas Spirit” quite like Christmas cookies! I’m sure we all have some sort of memories of helping our mothers in the kitchen during their own Christmas cookie baking session. Baking cookies seems to be one of the few Christmas traditions that really stands the test of time, repeating generation after generation. So whether you’re baking them for friends, neighbors, co-workers, or just yourself, smelling those yummy Christmas spices is sure to bring back fond memories of Christmases past, while creating new memories for Christmases of the future.
3. See the lights
This can be as simple as taking a walk through the neighborhood or something “fancier,” like driving to a local light show. The important thing is to take the time to slow down, enjoy the scenery, and spend time together as a family. Our favorite Christmas light tradition is to spend Christmas Night strolling through a local neighborhood’s Festival of Lights. It’s a beautiful way to end Christmas Day.
4. Read books
We have an ever growing collection of Christmas books that only come out during the holiday season. After Christmas is over, they get packed away with the Christmas decor until next Christmas. We try to make it a point to read as many Christmas books as we can during December and Emma gets excited to rediscover all the wonderful stories when they’re finally brought back out.
5. Watch a movie
The cold weather of December just screams, “Curl up on the couch, with a fire in the fireplace, and watch Christmas movies!” And I give in to that feeling as often as I can. But the one movie I have to watch Every. Single. Year. is White Christmas. My mother, sister, and I have watched it every year for as long as I remember. It’s our Christmas movie. Our tradition. So pick one Christmas movie that your family enjoys and watch it together, every year. This is maybe the easiest of our Christmas traditions, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.
6. Watch The Nutcracker ballet
My mom started taking my sister and I to see The Nutcracker every year when were were young girls. It was a tradition I looked forward to and one I plan to pass on to my girls. I tried to take Emma to watch it last year (with my mom) but she was still a bit too young to sit still and be quiet, so it didn’t go as well as planned. But I think by next year she’ll be old enough and then the tradition will begin again!
7. Christmas Eve Box
This is another tradition I started when Emma was born. The Christmas Eve Box is a box of goodies that the girls get to open and enjoy on Christmas Eve. It builds the excitement for the next day, while also taking the edge off of all the waiting.
8. Special breakfast on Christmas Day
I love the idea of having a certain special treat to eat every Christmas morning. Something easy, that can bake while we open gifts. I’m trying to find The One recipe that will be that annual tradition, but haven’t quite found it yet. I’d been trying different Cinnamon Roll recipes, but I think I’ll try a French Toast Casserole this year. Wish me luck!
9. Buy an ornament
I started this tradition with my niece on her first Christmas. Every year, I would buy her a new ornament that represented her at that time in her life. Now that I have my own children, I do the same thing with them. Every year they get a new ornament (Emma is now old enough to pick out her own), and after Christmas they’re put away in the girls’ closets in ornament boxes with their names on them. The idea is that once their grown and move out on their own, they’ll already have their own collection of ornaments to decorate with.
10. Celebrate St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas was a bishop who lived during the 4th century. He was known for his generous spirit and was a champion of the poor, especially poor children. St. Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. So on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, family members leave their shoes on the hearth or by the door where they will be found the next morning with small treats inside (I bought gold coins just for the occasion).
11. Make a birthday cake for Jesus
It’s easy to get lost in the lights and gifts and forget about the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus. Making a cake, and singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus is a simple way to refocus on what we’re really celebrating and an easy way to teach kids that lesson too.
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?