How Important are Family Traditions?
The other day I mentioned to a friend that we aren’t going to have a Christmas tree this year because we’re in between homes. This shouldn’t be a big deal – except it kind of is …
Not putting up a tree (or not decorating for Christmas) will break a family tradition of 40 years. For at least 24 of those 40 years, I put up at least 2 trees — one at home and one at school – students always helped with the one at school. During 3 or 4 of those 40 years, I put up 3 trees because we had one in our little Arlington townhouse. The grands were always involved in decorating the townhouse. (Grands is my nickname for my grandsons because they said that I can’t call them my grandbabies anymore.) So you can understand, not putting up a tree – even for the understandable and good reasons we have – just isn’t going to work for me.
Christmas has always been an important time of the year for me. When I was young girl, Christmas was time for our big extended family to get together. There was lots of cooking, eating, games and noise.
As I think about Christmas time, I realize that we have many favorite traditions that help make our holiday memories extra special. There are, also, a few traditions that have changed or disappeared through the years that left great memories of special times.
Here’s my list of our family’s favorite holiday traditions:
15 + Favorite Holiday Traditions
The title is 15+ Favorite Holiday Traditions because I keep adding to the list and 15 sounds better than 17. I’ll probably add a few more before New Year’s Eve.
- Decorating our Christmas tree while listening to Christmas carols, drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies. (Sometimes we add peppermint schnapps to the adult hot chocolate.)
- Adding a Christmas tree ornament every year that has special meaning for that year.
- Buying an ornament every year for each child. When they leave home, they have a good start on decorating their own tree. We’ve continued this tradition with our grandsons.
- Every year, the first ornament we put on our tree is a little blue rocking horse because it was our first ornament. It was given to us at our wedding shower.
- Always putting a bird ornament on our tree because my mother-in-law’s family did and she said that it brings good luck.
- Decorating every room in the house. This includes a Christmas village, a collection of Santas and many gifts from former students. (This is my tradition and I think maybe my family simply tolerates it.)
- Buying Christmas or cute pjs for everyone. We wrap them and add a tag that says Christmas Eve. And of course, we open them on Christmas Eve; so everyone looks cute in pictures on Christmas morning.
- Making fudge, and other Christmas candy to give to friends and family (and don’t forget the cookies for Santa.)
- Making Grandmother’s cornbread dressing for Christmas Dinner. It seems that we have leftovers for days and the dressing is the only thing that gets better each time.
- Buying a book for each child. For several years, we also bought a movie for each child and adult.
- Buying a toy or something frivolous for the adults.
- Wrapping each person’s presents in the same paper and not adding name tags. Everyone tries to guess which paper is theirs. It’s fun to switch it up and use a paper they’d never think was theirs.
- As long as you still believe, Santa will always fill your stocking.
- Leaving out cookies and milk for Santa on a Christmas tray that we’ve had since we were first married.
- Finding the coldest night possible to drive through town looking at Christmas decorations and singing Christmas carols.
- Doing something for someone in need. Sometimes it’s donating to the Empty Stocking Fund, sometimes it’s buying holiday dinner supplies for a neighbor, or choosing a name off the Angel Tree.
- Reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Traditions I miss
- Taking kids to see Santa and (getting their pictures taken with him).
- Getting together for a holiday celebration with as many of the extended family as possible. We always had songs, snacks and lots of noise.
- Christmas caroling with the youth group.
- Staying up on Christmas Eve playing cards with my dad and brothers. Then, when we were sure the kiddos were asleep we’d help out Santa by putting together the toys he left.
- Going to more than one house to celebrate – in laws, grandmother’s, etc sometime during the holiday season.
- Going out-of-town to see my stepmom’s family for the holidays.
- Parties with my students.
- Secret Santa exchange.
- Faculty/work holiday parties.
Now I think it’s time for me to go find a small tree to decorate. Even though we’re transitioning this year; I can still keep some of these traditions.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Are there traditions that your family has lost through the years that still bring a smile to your face?
Special note: — Yes – 40 years is a long time. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary a few weeks ago. (I really did get married young; but now you know I’m getting old.) Getting married as a teenager and staying married for 40 years — now that’s another blog post idea. 🙂
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas Everyone!
This is an updated version of a post from 2 years ago. Yes, I did find a small tree that I sat on the dash of our motorhome. We spent that Christmas at our son’s house.
Last year, we were just moving into our new home. We had the tree up and a few decorations; but most of our holiday things were still packed in boxes.
This year, I’ve put out most of our Christmas decorations. Holiday decorating makes me happy. I’ll share this year’s holiday decorations in a post later this week.
This post was written several years ago and it actually represents the beginning of changes for our family. We’ve had to make changes and additions to our holiday celebrations. I’m learning to adapt my need for traditional holidays and to enjoy the time we do get to spend together as a family. This year we decorated our tree before Thanksgiving; so that our grandsons could help. (They will spend this Christmas with their mom.) They loved looking at all the ornaments and playing with the train and we get to enjoy the tree for a little longer this year.