Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Traditions at Our House ...

Hi! :D I have been noticing that there are some very major differences between the way various people celebrate Christmas. Some just buy a million gifts and call it good... some have no Santa, and then there are a million other ways to celebrate Christmas. I don't think there are any two families that celebrate EXACTLY alike; and I think that is a GOOD THING. I don't believe there is one right way to celebrate. I think each family needs to do what is best for their family and not worry about what the rest of the world says or thinks they should do.

With that in mind... this is NOT a "here is how we think Christmas should be celebrated" post! In fact, our traditions and way of celebrating evolve and change as rapidly as our family changes. Therefore, this post is simply a compilation of thoughts and memories of our own families traditions. May we all show respect for each other and enjoy discussing our traditions without comparing or criticizing... :) And may we enjoy our own traditions, even when we find the need to change them up a bit... or even save them for another year...

OK, on with discussion about traditions! :D (BTW - I made a few additions and am re posting this. Sorry if you already read it! :o)

I recently noticed that the older I get, the more organized my mind seems to desire to be... and the more my desire grows to always live with purpose.

I'm thankful... :)

Because this helps me to waste less time and further engage in activities which help me to accomplish my goals purposes. And, yes, upon making a list of our Christmas traditions, then thinking about why Christmas is important to me... I realized that I even do this with how I celebrate holidays!

At the same time I also think it is important to RELAX and enjoy life. Since I am pointing out in this post the 3 purposes that I realized many of our traditions fill, I think I should point out that every tradition or activity does not need to serve some grand purpose. Sometimes the most grand purpose of all is simply to be happy and enjoy life with family and friends! I hope you catch the spirit of what I am expressing here today and enjoy this reading... ;)


1. Remember Christ and all He has done for us, and draw nearer unto Him. 2. Find ways to serve Christ by serving others and finding ways to follow His example more fully. And 3. Build memories to last a lifetime... and strengthen family ties.

*My husband and I want our kids to remember CHRIST at Christmas time, AND have fun (though we don't usually try to do them both at the same time). For our spiritual activities, we always re-read the Christmas story from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve. If we haven't already gone Christmas Caroling and delivered plates of homemade goodies earlier in the week, we do that too (purposes 1- 2). We also go visit the elderly in a nursing home near by (purpose #2). Of course, inadvertently we accomplished purpose 3 by doing these activities as well... :)

Once we came to the nursing home during the evening meal, and the employees, knowing our plans, invited us to go ahead and sing to the residents while they ate. This ended up being an incredibly spiritual experience! It was a great mixture of fun and playful songs mixed with sweet and touching songs of the Savior. The residents were so touched, that I was in turn touched to the point of holding back tears to continue singing. It was fun to have the residents join in and sing with us; and the friend we went there to visit (Marjorie) was incredibly happy to hear our children sing. After that, two of my brave children began to sing for this sweet friend in her room from time to time. :) I cherish the sweet moments we spent in the dining hall that amazing Christmas Eve...

*When the kids were very young, we did skits of the Christmas story with some friends (the Hayes family); man we had fun! Of course, after lots of practice (and a little bit of sweat and stress) we invited the neighbors to come watch the final production. It was awesome! (purposes 1, 2, and 3!)

*Christmas cards and/or letters are a must 90% of the time... :o (I love to write these! :D) (purpose #2 - and since writing can bring memories to mind this can sometimes inadvertently contribute to purpose #3 as well)

*When the kids were young we did lots of cookie baking and gingerbread houses, usually from scratch. They wrote letters to Santa and either mailed them off, or tossed them in the out of doors for the wind to carry them to Santa (they learned that from Winnie the Pooh; my kids were really big fans, especially the twins). We also read lots of Christmas stories (nightly) and sipped hot chocolate with tiny little candy canes after coming in from snow sledding (preferably on the huge and epic, "Cherry Hill! This tradition is simply about having fun together and is one we will never out grow! I hope there will be snow again this month so we can sled down Cherry Hill again soon!) (purpose #3)

*Speaking of baking... I love the way the counters look on Christmas morning! :D  ~ One of the things the family love most on Christmas day is waking in the morning to see the counter covered with Christmas goodies and the aroma of a delicious breakfast in the air. I will admit... I love it too! :) This year I am going to have a breakfast casserole ready the night before. It only takes 15 minutes prep time, and it smells and tastes divine! Of course, oranges or OJ is also a must! In addition to the food, I also have a small Christmas tree on the counter all lit up so there is a soft glow lit upon the goodies when kids wake.

These are a few traditions that make Christmas fun and memorable at our house... (purpose #3)

 *Another tradition I really enjoy reminiscing is a tradition we started many years ago in which we all traced our own hand to make a wreath with. We each wrote Christmas activities that we wanted to do during the holiday season on each hand - then scheduled these activities into the calendar, usually during the "12 days of Christmas." As we participated in the activities... the hands got placed on the wreath. This was a ton of fun when the kids were little.

In the past couple of years we have not done this tradition. We have focused on Christ, which is good... but I don't think we've focused enough on spending time enjoying each other. I missed this tradition and time spent with family. Now the kids are all teenagers, and we have a much harder time finding things to do together; our youth aren't as eager for family time as they were when they were kids (sniffle again...). When they were young kids we were very good about spending time together and they loved to do just about everything! I see the need now to double triple my efforts in this area and seek balance among the purposes of Christmas traditions and activities. I'm sure we will be doing Christmas activities with this tradition. But if activities are chosen which are simply "fun" that will be just fine! Because the focus of this tradition this year is simply to have fun together and on strengthen family bonds.

By Christmas day... we will have created a wreath which will be the symbol of having taken time to strengthen family unity and never ending love... by spending time with family members, doing what they want to do...  (purpose #3)

*This morning as we discussed our wreath tradition and reminded everyone to be thinking of two family activities they would like to do together, I came up with another idea. What if we did two wreaths... one for family activities, and another for service? Of course, we could use a chain or do any number of other crafty visual service reminders... Any ideas for teens? (purpose #2)
I think I will suggest our family do some simple service each day for the 12 days of service this year. I'm really excited about celebrating Christmas! :D

*For the first couple years Miles and I were married we had all kinds of decorations and hung anything and everything on the tree... including little miniature sleds. Then one year, as I was opening a box of candy canes, I looked at the back side of it and read the symbols of the candy cane. I then began reading the symbols of Christmas in other places and started compiling them into one place. Soon I had my own condensed writeup of symbols which suggest to our minds thoughts regarding the true meaning of Christmas. Thus developed the tradition of telling the kids about the symbols of Christmas while we decorated the tree. But there were still "other" decorations which could not be explained. Miles and I looked at our many decorations which had nothing to do with Christ, and agreed that our decorations needed to be simplified and focused on the true meaning of Christmas.  It is fun to find the true meaning of Christmas in practically every little decor! So, with exception to hanging the ornaments which the kids make, the only decorations and ornaments on the tree became those which symbolize the true meaning of Christmas. Even right down to the colors... Every symbol, every decoration, now directs our thoughts to Jesus Christ. (purpose #1)

*As I look at and contemplate the symbols of Christmas I become emotional. I look at the candy canes on my tree and remember the shepherds crook... I remember that Christ is the Good Shepherd who watches over His sheep, and that I am one of His sheep. I remember the bell, and of how each time I begin to go ever so slightly astray... He calls me back into his safe and watchful fold. As I think about these thing I get a little teary eyed and I know He is counting on me to help Him with His goal - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I get nervous... I'm not sure if others will realize the value of what I have to offer; it takes courage to ask... But I don't want to fail Him, or my neighbors. So I pray for courage to invite them to church... to be a good example and to serve.

Thanks to these precious symbols, Christmas reignites within me the tradition to share the gospel... (Give to others by being a  Faithful Missionary - purpose #2)

*Many years ago our ward (local church group) had a tradition of giving each of the youth of the church $5.00 and inviting them to find a way to multiply their money for a Christmas fund raiser and bring all the earnings back to the church for Christmas shopping for families who didn't have the money for gifts. The youth got to go shopping together with their leaders, wrap the gifts, and present the gifts to families in need as they sang Christmas Carols (purpose #2 - giving to others). When Mindy was old enough to participate in the fundraiser, she began the tradition of purchasing ribbon and tying it onto candy canes to hang on trees, which she sold to neighbors and friends. Of course, I purchased some canes and bows and placed them on our tree. On Christmas morning the kids were allowed to eat the candy canes. Placing new candy canes on the bows each year to place on the tree for Christmas morning became another tradition in our home (an incidental tradition for fun and building family memories - something that just our family does...)

*One year, while Miles and I were both in school and we had NO money...  we had some wonderful friends from church offer to help out with Christmas. We were thankful and really did need some help, but didn't want to take advantage of anyone; so we told them the kids needed clothes but would be getting toys from grandparents. Unfortunately, it turned out that the grandparents all called to let us know that this year they either couldn't send gifts... or they would be arriving late. I couldn't bring myself to tell my friends about the mix up. I wished I had let my friends get toys as well as necessities for the kids. I knew we would not be able to purchase even one toy... This meant they would have their first Christmas with absolutely NO TOYS (I think the kids were about 8, 5, 5, and 2). I prayed and paced all night.

But when Christmas morning came, the kids were filled with gratitude and joy. The clothes had cute little pictures of the things they loved on them, and the kids seemed as happy to get clothes as they had ever been to get toys. Their dad took a sweat suit and painted it to turn it into a costume "from Santa" for one of the boys; it was a treasured hit! I don't recall what the other kids got "from Santa," but I do remember being amazed and relieved that they were all so happy; Christmas was not ruined with no toys!!! There was a feeling of absolute joy that filled the room. The spirit of CHRISTmas was there in full abundance.

I cried that morning, just as I had the night before... but this time, these were not tears of worry... this time I cried tears of relief and joy!

For the past few years, we have had the traditions of the number of gifts from Miles and I being three (the same number of gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus). Actually, there was a time when two gifts were from us and one was from Santa. :o We' may have outgrown that one... but still aim for three gifts for each kid. It is a good number. Not too much, but enough. :) We have had many Christmases with very little, but I have learned that even when I have no money, I can still find gifts to give... (purpose #1 - Christmas is about Christ... and gifts aren't always material)

*Sometime during the Christmas break, we go as a family to a small lake nearby (Avondale) which is completely frozen over and walk across the lake. When the kids were small they made snow angels on the ice. Regardless of age we all slide across the pond on boots. They also enjoyed sitting on a sled while holding onto the dogs leash as the dog drug them over the ice like he was pulling a dog sled! Now that the kids are much bigger we are starting new activities at the frozen pond, like ice fishing. :) Last year, I got to try ice-skating on skates for the first time! :D I'm really looking forward to doing it again! :) (another incidental... purpose #3)

*When the kids were little, we also painted ornaments and took them to the nursing homes and hung them on the tree while caroling. This started while I was a cub scout leader for my twins and the other boys their age. I thought it would be a good cub scout activity, and it was! :) After that, we continued to do it as a family for a couple of years. (purpose #2)

*Here is a tradition that everyone enjoyed years ago, but now my teen boys - (and sometimes my husband) - do it just to be troopers for me. Aren't they great! :D ~ Early in the day (when we're really organized, we do this a day or two in advance of Christmas Eve, to keep the workload down at Christmas time) anyone who desires to (usually everyone) will bake a different kind of cookie or Christmas candy. With these, we make up "goodie plates," which will also usually have a candy cane on them or some cute little Christmas candy figure and a Christmas card or print up of the symbols of Christmas typed on Christmas paper to go with it. Then we decide which families we will visit, (in addition to a nursing home), and deliver them along with some Christmas Caroling. Some years we deliver in the same night, and other years we deliver on Christmas Eve, just to make it more special to the elderly in nursing homes. We have also saved visiting the nursing home for Christmas day on some occasions (we're very flexible to keep the schedule relaxed and the atmosphere enjoyable).

When singing outside neighbors and friends homes; we always sing three songs (unless we bake that day and get tired or cold... in which case we once dwindle down to one or two songs per home  :o). The first song is always a fun and loud song to get the attention of the receivers (like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, for example). The second song is always a spiritual song about the true meaning of Christmas (usually Away in a Manger, or Silent Night). The third song is always "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!" After-which we deliver the plate of cookies and go our way, (unless we are at the nursing home; we usually stay there a while). This has always been an incredibly spiritual, memorable, and cherished tradition for me. (purpose #2)

*I usually wear my "I believe in Santa" shirt (I have had it since I was about 17) while decorating the tree, and sometimes again on Christmas day as well as a few other days in-between... :) (incidental... no purpose here except for me to have fun! :))

*Driving around to see the Christmas lights: We also walk the docks down by the Coeur d'Alene Resort and look at the thousands of amazing light figures there. One year we went on a cruise to the "North Pole." :) (purpose #3 -time with family).

*Watch Christmas movies and eat goodies. A few of my absolute favorites are Miracle on 34th street, It's a Wonderful Life, The Polar Express, Eloise at Christmas Time, White Christmas and some other great Christmas oldies..., and here is one I hesitate to tell you about and hope you'll not think ill of me for watching... Trapped in Paradise. The language isn't the best... and I seriously CANT STAND BAD LANGUAGE and am incredibly picky about watching only good clean movies... and yet, I still love this movie; it is THE BEST comedy Christmas movie EVER and more important, it has a really great message of repentance, redemption and forgiveness!!! It is seriously very sweet and funny. I'm going to have to find a company that can edit the language out of this movie so I can keep it... :o)

*We have a new tradition of having a teen Christmas movie party (at which the last movie mentioned is not allowed to be viewed for parties :o). The kids invite friends over to watch a favorite Christmas movie and enjoy a white elephant gift exchange for the gift exchange game. BTW - Levi just had his first Christmas party of his own with his friends. They watched The Grinch and had a ton of fun with gift exchange, playing Clue, Apples to Apples, and eating popcorn and Christmas cookies. I'm so happy that he got to have a party! :D (The purpose of this tradition is to have fun and reach out to friends... 3 and 2)

*One of the best traditions we have is to give a gift to Christ. When the kids were little we wrapped the gifts in tiny little boxes with bows and left them out on a mantle or in some visible place throughout the year. The next Christmas we would open the gifts to see if we remembered to follow through. We later decided that 3X5 cards worked better - to help us to see our goals and make sure we remember to follow through. I punched a hole in one corner of the cards and tied a ribbon through the hole to give it that "gift" look. Then I stamped a cute little picture on it of a tree, bells, or some other symbol of Christmas, along with the words... "My gift to Christ is..." Of course, each person fills out the card with a goal of something special we will do during the coming year to either serve Christ or better follow in His footsteps and become more like Him. (purposes 1 and 2)

OK, this post is plenty long.. and this list is plenty long too... I hope it gives you ideas and gets you excited to enjoy creating your own family traditions!

May you have a very Merry Christmas filled with purpose, fun, and lasting memories!

Corine :D


  1. My sledding hill was called Cherry Hill also...weird :) Love this post!

  2. How did I forget to include in my list of traditions, "Read Christmas stories"? This is one of my favorites... both with the family and on my own. :) Merry Christmas dear readers and friends! :D


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