I was very lucky growing up. The Christmas season was always full of little traditions and family events for me. On the weekends surrounding Christmas, my Mom, Dad, sister and I drove to see our extended families every year. The Christmas season was a busy time for us! Yet despite all of our traveling and busy schedules, my parents always made sure we were home for Christmas Eve/Day. We had our own family traditions that we almost never deviated from. I’m so grateful for this.
I believed in Santa. I remember opening gifts from Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, the little elves, Frosty and just about every Christmas related character out there. I absolutely loved it. I always looked at the tag to see who gave me a gift. I remember at least one year we even baked cookies for Santa. I’m sure there were more. When I got old enough to know better, my Mom still did this all for me. She still wrapped gifts when I wasn’t looking and labeled the gifts from Santa and company. She still occasionally baked cookies. She still built it up for me. She still made it special.
I remember getting so excited to get our tree out and set it up. I remember diving into the decorations box and carefully hanging every single one. I remember each decoration bringing back different memories for me, even at a very young age. I remember saving my very first decoration to hang last. It was so special to me. I still have it, and I still hang it last.
I remember being so excited to turn the lights off in the living room and turn the Christmas tree on for the very first time every year. And I’d be just as excited every evening after that. I remember waiting impatiently every day for night to come so we could turn the outdoor lights on. I remember sitting in a snowbank in the front yard, in my soaking wet snow pants and coat and my sopping mittens and hat, but not caring one bit as I stared at our house in wonder.
I remember getting out the decorations for around the house. One decoration in particular always kept me entertained for hours. It was a spinning nativity set with candles. Kind of like this, but bigger. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t worth $250 or my Mom wouldn’t have let me play with it all the time! But I remember just sitting on the living room floor next to the coffee table and admiring all of the little figures and details while slowly spinning it around and around and around. I was sometimes even able to light the candles. I would turn all of the lights off in the room and silently sit and watch it slowly turn on its own in the flickering candlelight. The little figures glowed like magic. The angels on the top were beautiful and magnificent as they flew around and around. This is my favorite Christmas memory. I don’t know why, but even now, thinking about that nativity set just makes me feel the magic of Christmas down to my very core.
Family traditions are what makes Christmas so special to me. It gives the kids something to look forward to just that one special time of the year. It’s really important to me that we continue traditions of our own because I want the kids to feel the same way about Christmas as I do. I want them to feel the magic and excitement. I want them to look forward to something as much as I looked forward to setting out that spinning nativity.
Some traditions I’d like to do every year with the kids is either setting up our fake tree or picking out a live tree together. Decorating the tree together and letting the kids hang their first decorations last in a special place. Hanging lights outside and setting out decorations around the house together. Watching old Christmas movies. Preparing for Santa on Christmas Eve by baking cookies, tracking his progress, writing him a letter and/or reading stories by candlelight before bedtime. I want to have lots of simple but beautiful non-electronic family time.
Another handful of traditions I’m looking forward to are on the religious side. I grew up with no religion, so I never went to midnight mass (aka: Christmas Mass). I never really heard the story of the birth of Jesus Christ as a Christmas tradition. I never really appreciated the religious side of it. I didn’t disrespect it, I just didn’t know it. I’m definitely not bitter for the fact that I never had a religious Christmas, because I truly believe that my Mom made it a very special non-commercial season for our family even without it. She helped me to appreciate the magic and wonder of it.
Since I’ve never regularly had any religious Christmas traditions, I’m not entirely sure where to start. I don’t want to saturate the holiday with either Santa or Jesus, but I definitely want the kids to have at least one or two things that we can do every year together to celebrate both figures. I’m excited to see what we come up with as they get older!
What favorite traditions do you practice over the Holidays? Do you prefer the commercial or religious traditions? Please share! I would love new ideas!