Those traditions are sometimes the things that your kids will carry with them through the rest of their lives; they are likely to have wonderful memories from those special times. When I was growing up, it was tradition for my mom and me to trudge out to the woods and come back with a Christmas tree ready to decorate and just cherish every handmade ornament that came out of those boxes. We always put on the old Christmas records while we were decorating. I think that's why those old Christmas songs still comfort my soul and just fill me with excitement and joy. Then, we'd always make cutout sugar cookies with icing and watch Christmas movies. Much to my husband's disdain, I still fill up the DVR with Christmas movies at this time of year.LOL Fun times! Of course, on Christmas Eve, we headed to my grandparent's (on my dad's side) for supper and presents, and then Christmas morning, we were off to my Grandma's house (my mom's side).
When trying to make new traditions with your children, think back to the memories you might have. Even if you didn't grow up in an ideal situation, there might still be a wonderful memory stuck inside somewhere. Think of what your children love to do; what do they like? What is one thing that just lights up their faces? Maybe there's a Christmas movie they love, like The Polar Express. Maybe they love to help decorate. Maybe they love to make things. Go off of their talents, their likes, and their requests. You don't just have to stick with one tradition either; make up a few! The more, the merrier! Here are some ideas for you to think about:
1) Make a new ornament with each child every single year. Even if you can't fit them all on the tree every year, it still gives a great assortment of memories, and maybe some day the kids could start their own Christmas ornament collection with the ornaments they have made throughout the years. The conversations those handmade ornaments will drum up is worth every single creative second.:)
2) Find a few recipes that your whole family loves, recipes for yummy desserts or snacks for this time of year. Then, make a new recipe each week right up to Christmas Day. Some of our favorites are buck-eye balls (chocolate covered peanut butter balls), sugar cookie cutouts, pumpkin cookies with icing, etc.
3) Put up a Christmas tree together; whether you head out to chop down your own, or whether you use the tree that's stuffed in your closet, get it out, and make it a family project. Even if the kids don't place the ornaments right where you would want them, just let it go.....have fun with it. This makes having handmade ornaments even more fun because it will lead to great memories and conversations like, "Remember when....?" Be sure to put that Christmas music on....I've found a great online station that you can play anytime of the year at Live 365- Christmas Broadband. Maybe go to your local craft store, and pick out a mini tree for your kids' room; Jacob and I just got one for $1.50 the other night.
4) A fellow bloggy friend, Ruth over at The Stiles Family Blog, wrote in about her family's tradition of getting together with her husband's parents on Christmas Eve. They actually go and stay the night, and all the kids sleep in one room. The adults all stay up and play games, and they actually make 8 pies for 10 people!:) Now, that's a lot of pie....
5) Light some candles on Christmas Eve, slip on your jammies (maybe even buy new jammies for the occasion; Melissa J. actually suggested the new jammies), grab your children's Bible story book (or even your Bible), and read the Christmas story with your children. Then watch a great video together like one of the Veggie Tales Christmas movies.
6) We actually sit down together on Christmas Eve, with candles flickering, cookies baked and ready to snack on, and we watch The Polar Express together as a family. My boys love trains, and that movie just captures their attention, even Jaden. We snuggle up together under the blankets and just enjoy being together. Of course, we can't forget the hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Then, we get up Christmas morning and enjoy all the presents that have suddenly appeared under the tree overnight.:)
7) This great idea comes from Disney Family Fun. This family prepares all kinds of treats that forest animals would love (i.e., pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, popcorn and cranberry garlands, orange and apple slices suspended from pipe cleaners) on Christmas Eve, and then they go out into the woods and decorate a specific tree with the treats. Their idea was actually inspired by the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting.
8) Get your family together, and go Christmas caroling around your neighborhood or even a different neighborhood. You never know who you might bless; there could be someone you visit who may be depressed and feeling very alone, but as soon as you knock on their door, it may brighten up their Christmas. I remember one night when I was a teenager; our little country church always got together to go Christmas caroling, and we went to a local miser's house....he was a bachelor, and he always really just kept to himself. I remember seeing a tear roll down his face that night just because someone had made the time to come to his house.
9) An Advent calendar is a great way to ring in the holidays. You can make your own calendar, or you can buy one. Then fill each little space with a new treasure for each day. Your children will love opening up the compartment for that day and seeing what is inside.
10) Get your children involved in a local ministry, maybe feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen for a day or helping out in a food pantry for a day. Maybe Thanksgiving morning could be dedicated to just helping to feed the hungry. They could even make up shoeboxes to send out for Operation Christmas Child. This is the time of year, especially, that people need our help, if we can possibly give it. It's a time of year when many volunteer opportunities abound. Maybe your older teens could visit a local children's hospital to help hand out gifts or just to spend time with the children there, let them know someone cares. Volunteer opps and ministries for the holidays will be embellished upon later in another post for this series.
11) Take your children shopping for Daddy or for Mama or for Grandma or for Grandpa or whoever else you may have to shop for. Let them pick out something small to bring home and wrap up.
12) Pick a family or even a group to play Santa to. There might be a family in your area who you know is struggling this year. Get together with your children to brighten up their Christmas. Maybe make up a few snacks, or set aside a little money to buy presents for that family. Maybe even get some of your friends to go in with you on this one....then leave the stash of gifts and snacks on their porch on Christmas Eve. I remember one year when we were particularly struggling (I was in nursing school, and we had just a little money to our names); a lot of the girls in my nursing class got together, and to my surprise, filled up my car with presents for my kids, for myself, and even some cash so we could go shopping for the kids. I will never forget the look of complete joy on their faces when I opened up that car door, and my mouth dropped to the ground. Family Fun even had the wonderful idea of surprising some of the public servants who have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas (i.e., firefighters, police officers, nurses, etc.). Make a batch of special treats for them, and go drop them off. Let them know how much you appreciate them. You could even put together a special package for a soldier serving overseas.
13) Pick out a special Christmas program to go see, like maybe the Nutcracker or another Christmas play or concert. Maybe even get involved in your church drama or choir production. It can make for great times!
14) Get together with your children, and think of someone new each year who you could invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner or on a Christmas outing. Maybe think of someone who is spending Christmas alone....if you live in a college town, you may find a whole group of college kids who are homesick for family at this time of year; or maybe the older lady who lives next door would love to have Christmas dinner with your family or go to your kids' Christmas play with you. You just never know!
There are way more ideas that I could list, but I know you and your family can come up with even more to suit your situation. Disney Family Fun has wonderful ideas. I especially love the post-holiday button tradition that they tell about. Now, let's have some fun! What are your Christmas traditions? We can get new ideas from each other to make our holidays even more special. Post up on your blog, making sure to link back to MamaBuzz, and then come sign Mr. Linky below. The more that participate, the more fun it will be!:)
You can read more of Mel's thoughts over on Real Heart Prints.