Holiday Traditions: Making it *magical*

I’m really bad at planning ahead for birthdays, holidays, baby showers, etc…  I usually end up grabbing something at the last minute, or getting a generic gift and putting little thought into it.  I wish I had the time and energy and willpower to be creative in these situations and make unique, special things to “spice up” the occasion.  Every once in awhile I pull out something great.  Every once in awhile.  A long, long, long while.  🙂

Porter’s 2nd Christmas is coming up.  As a parent, I really want to make Christmas really special and “magical” for him (and the new baby).  This holiday has, in recent years, become such a pain in my rear with shifting from family to family and trying to balance everyone we need to see.

When I was little, Christmas always seemed really magical to me.  Some of the things I remember are:

  • Listening to Christmas music all the time (especially Alvin and the Chipmunks!).
  • Going to a tree farm and cutting down our Christmas tree
  • Getting a new ornament every year (usually for Christmas), and when decorating the tree, looking at all our ornaments from years past.
  • Going on special drives just to look for houses all decked out with Christmas lights
  • Baking cookies with my mom and leaving them out for Santa with a glass of milk and carrots for the reindeer.
  • Spending Christmas Eve at my dad’s parents.  I remember getting stockings and my sister and I would color and draw pictures.
  • We used to always get a chocolate advent calendar, which I seriously always looked forward to.
  • Going to church on Christmas Eve for the candlelight service
  • I remember anxiously waiting up Christmas Eve to “hear” the reindeer.  We always left our Christmas Tree lights on that night, and it just added to the magic.
  • Waking up way too early and finding our stockings and a gift beside it (usually a holiday bear or stuffed animal of some sort).  My sister and I would wake up and dig through our stockings while my parents slept.
  • Always getting an orange in the bottom of my stocking, which I never had any idea why but recently I found out there is a tradition about a Christmas Orange.
  • My stocking was made by my grandma… the design on it was embroidered by hand (as was my sister and brother’s).  Last year I found a stocking for Porter and my mom made his stocking, so we continued that tradition.  I guess I should find a stocking for the new baby so she can start on that!

Anyhow, I really want to start up some neat traditions of our own.  Ryan and I have continued the stocking and one gift from Santa (opened and sitting beside the stocking) tradition.  Last year we attended Westwinds *awesome* Christmas Eve candlelight service.  I look forward to that again this year.

We’ve also added a few traditions of our own:

  • Our gifts to Porter are kept to a minimum.  We follow the “4 gift rule” to this rhyme:  “Something you want, something you need, something to play with and something to read.”
  • This year I will help Porter set out cookies and milk for Santa
  • This year I am going to do a 25 days til Christmas socks (scroll down when you get to the link) in place of the advent calendar. In each sock there will be a tiny gift/treat.  Something relating to Jesus, Christmas, winter etc…
  • When Ryan was little he got new pajamas every Christmas Eve.  We’re going to continue that as well.
  • For most holidays/seasons I have books relating to that holiday/season and we have a book basket in the living room that we put the current books in to read.  I love buying books, especially from Scholastic!

Another thing I want to begin this year is having Porter pick out some of his toys to donate.  I want my kids to realize they are very, very lucky to receive new toys every year, and not take that for granted.  I want them to learn the gift of giving as well (and, it’ll cut down on toy overflow!). I also think, when Porter is a little older maybe we’ll take the kids to pick out new toys for Toys for Tots.

So… the reason for this post.  While I feel like I have a good base for setting up holiday traditions for Christmas, I wish I had “littler” things to do to make the holiday special.  Something that doesn’t revolve around getting gifts.  I keep thinking about something with a note from Santa but I can’t think of anything unique or “different.”

Here are a few neat “magical touches” I found online:

Anyhow… I’d LOVE to know what your traditions were/are.  Have you found/heard of any traditions that sound like fun to include?  What about other holidays?  Do you do anything special to make Thanksgiving special?  What about Easter?  I’d love to make Easter a little more about religion, but honestly we’re poor examples of including religion in our everyday lives.  I read Porter his kids bible every night and we pray every night (nights that I put him to bed.  Ryan isn’t “into” that), but other than that we just aren’t all that religious and I’d love to include that more.  Like with Christmas… I’d love to include something religious into our Christmas traditions (other than just reading our Christmas books about Jesus’ birth etc).

So… fire away!

  1. Oooh, I love posts like these where you gather a bunch of tradition ideas…
    I love the socks idea. I remember seeing that last year and I think maybe I’ll start that this year. I really wanted to make a
    fun advent calendar this year like this one
    http://heatherabbott.blogspot.com/2007/10/christmas-giveaway.html
    or this one
    http://aliedwards.typepad.com/_a_/2007/11/and-they-are-up.html
    but in between all my other projects I haven’t had time. So the socks may be just the ticket!

    And the chocolate advent calendars… that’s a must! I’m picking those up today.

    We also bake cookies/fudge/treats and walk around little packages to the neighbors.

    We put Christmas lights up in the kids’ rooms too. Just a strand around their window or a bookshelf or something, just to be fun and sparkly. Savannah has snowflake lights and we’re going to pick out some fun ones for Sawyer this year. Also, they each have their own nativity set in their room. Well, I’m looking for a wooden block type one for Sawyer, but Savannah has had a Precious Moments one for the past four years. I love it, because it makes the Christmas story so familiar… Savannah spent a lot of time “playing” with hers last year, reinacting the story over and over and being so loving and tender with the baby Jesus and having everyone celebrating all the time! Love that!

    One “magical” tradition I like is that I don’t put tinsel on our tree until “Santa” comes. That’s the last thing I do on Christmas eve before I go to bed… scatter a bit of those tinsel icicle stringy things on the tree so when the kids get up the presents are out, the lights are twinkling, and the tree is just shimmering with “magic”.

    We also started a tradition of making homemade donuts on Christmas morning. (Super easy, just cut out donut holes in pillsbury refrigerated biscuits, fry them, and then powder, frost, dip in chocolate and decorate) Savannah LOVED that last year and making them actually goes really quick, so it’s perfect for a little break after the morning presents and then you have donuts to snack on the whole rest of the day!

    I’ll cut myself off now before I write my own post. Hmmm… maybe I will write my own post! Can’t wait to hear other’s fun stuff!

  2. We try to do some fun things that the kids remember each year.
    -Do a Christmas walk in a nearby town
    -St Nick-(loved this as a kid) This year we are changing it a bit and will be giving the kids each a new ornament and probably a Christmas book
    -go look at Christmas lights- We do this a couple times a week over the holidays.The kids love it!
    -watch- It’s a wonderful life- We have done this every year for the past 14 yrs. Also watch Scrooged- mom/dad
    -This year we are thinking of a way for us to do more volunteering. It’s difficult w/ the 2 younger girls. We are thinking of having my husband and 6 yr old seek out volunteering at a local International refugee agency. My son was adopted from another country and since there is noone from his country in this area we will seek out the next best thing.
    -Christmas eve at my mom’s w/ lots of cousins
    *This year we plan to put more emphasis on religion.
    -I think we will also do a live nativity scene
    These are just a few things. We love Christmas holidays and love to celebrate w/ friends.

  3. I enjoyed this post. It makes me get excited about starting so many Christmas traditions with my two girls. I would love to chat with you some day…after my life calms down a bit. I hope you are doing well. Sounds like it!

  4. As kids we:

    -Drove around and looked at lights.
    -Attended midnight mass Christmas eve. That was always so magical for me.
    -We always opened our stockings first. THey were always so much fun.
    -Listened to Christmas music.
    -Has multiple holiday gatherings with both sides of the family.

    I cannot wait to start our own traditions. I want to do the Advent calendar, but I think Reyna is too young now. I want to think of something special to make for breakfast for Christmas morning. Haven’t thought that far yet. I would like to go visit Domino’s Farms once she gets a little older. We always did that, too. I think that by talking about what the season is really about with Porter is great. It sounds like you are doing a ton of fun things to get into the CHristmas spirit. I like that you are going to donate toys. Okay, I am rambling. LIke Heather said, I will stop before I create my own post on your blog. 🙂

  5. Christmas Traditions:
    -Decorate a gingerbread house together – the kids love this!
    -Ride around and look at lights
    -Visit the Lights at the Zoo and the River
    -Ride the Polar Express train with Santa
    -Have a birthday party for Jesus (we do this on Christmas Eve – we bake cupcakes, wear party hats and sing Happy Birthday. This is also a big hit with the kids!)
    -The kids each get a new ornament each year that in some way symbolizes that year for them
    -Participate in our church live Navity padget
    -Bake cookies for Santa and read the Night Before Christmas just before going to bed on Christmas Eve
    -Read the Christmas story on Christmas Morning

    Thanksgiving Traditions:
    -I have an white sheet that we put on the table each year and everyone in attendance signs it, including what they are thankful for that year. It’s so much fun to look on too!

    Halloween Traditions:
    -On the night we carve our pumpkin we always bake english muffin pizzas, roast pumpkin seeds and bake halloween cookies
    -Visit Boo at the Zoo and our church’s Trunk or Treat
    -Host a party for friends – the kids decorate mini pumpkinsand wear their costumes

    Easter Tradtions:
    -Leave carrots for the bunny
    -Read a book on the Easter Story to the kids
    -Attend our church’s egg hunt
    -Take live flowers to church on Easter morning for the living cross

    Mother’s Day/Father’s Day and Birthdays – the recipent gets breakfast in bed

    Also, on your birthday you get to choose where to eat dinner – or what you want mom to cook.

    On Valentine’s Day I sometimes leave a trail of hersey kisses from their room to a small gift from us.

  6. when i was a kid we would listen to christmas music – even records of bing crosby and perry como at my grandparents house, we left cookies and a note for santa, we got decorations yearly from the grandparents, made decorations for the tree together, always had christmas eve at my gram’s, looked at christmas lights around town…oh and watching ‘the christmas story’ is a must! hahaha!

    now with tucker able to understand christmas i am excited to start our traditions. i want to do many of the same things we did when we were younger, but also add some things (your post gave me GREAT ideas). i really do like how you and ryan do the four gift thing for porter and the ‘meaning’ behind it.

    great post!

  7. Great post! We are going to read Acadia (and our other children) The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

    A couple of years ago, Matt and I started a tradition where we went out and bought really nice cheese and crackers, a bottle of wine, and at the end of Christmas day, we would curl up on the couch together, open the wine and our presents to each other. We look forward to that ever year! I know this isn’t for kids, but I think an “adult” tradition is always nice!

  8. I loved this post… I like the idea of the 4 gifts.. need, play, want and read. I am for sure going to use that one. I already talked to Kenedey about it and also donating some of her “gently used toys”. Some great traditions we have in our family.

    -Kids get an ornament from that year… Kenedey has Precious Moments ones dating all the way back to 1997!
    -My grandpa (kids great grandpa) reads the biblical Christmas story right out of the bible every Christmas Eve with the whole family gathered around.
    -We use my husbands boot to make a “footprint” in the ashes in the fireplace and then leave a footprint on the ledge. Then we act SO mad at Santa for making such a mess in the morning! We sprinkle “reindeer dust” in the front yard so that the reindeer know where to land. Just a little oatmeal and glitter in a baggie and spread all through the yard!
    -Kenedey writes a note to Santa (she doesn’t believe anymore this year) and then dad writes back. One year my husband and I went out in the woods and found actual deer poop and put it in a baggie and left a note from Santa that said…”im so sorry, but Rudolph left these droppings on your roof”. That was probably the best. We still have the note that “Santa” left! It made an awesome scrapbook page.
    -Christmas morning we make Texas Eggs. (basically egg/sausage/cheese/casserole.
    -We dont go ANYWHERE on Christmas day so the kids can stay home and play with their toys all day and we stay in our jammies and drink cocoa and coffee most of the and just “be together”.

  9. Nothing was better than Christmas as a kid. My family is huge on tradition. Makes me sad that my partner doesn’t celebrate Christmas, takes all of the excitement out of it for me

  10. lets see. for christmas we:
    *of course have the chocolate calendars. this year i am also making a little board with envelopes that will have treats either candy or special activities and liitle prayers/thoughts in them.
    *we do new jammas for xmas eve
    *they also get an ornament and a new xmas book.
    *we do the reindeer dust with glitter an oatmeal
    *cookies for santa and carrots for the reindeer
    *we also put out the santa key since we don’t have a chimney
    *i am also trying to incorporate a bit more religion. mark isn’t into it either. this sunday is the first sunday for advent…maybe candles? maybe stories…maybe volunteering. not sure yet.

  11. Everyone has such great traditions!
    We do a lot of the same tradions a lot of you do, but there is one that we do that no one else has listed.
    Every year when we get our tree, we cut part of the trunk off like maybe a 1/2″ piece. Then we let it dry out. Once dried, we take our family pic ( that we have taken every year at Christmas) and put it on the piece of wood. Then we cover it with a clear gloss to seal the wood. Then we have a special ornament to hang on our tree next year!

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