Traditions Made Easy

by kat and friends

Traditions are what make this time of year so special; particularly the ones that have been passed down through generations. It’s all too easy, however, to get carried away. If we’re not careful, the implementation of festivities that we cherish and look forward to can take on a life of their own. For that reason, this holiday season we wanted to construct a collection of simple traditions; ones that don’t necessarily involve leaving the house, have to be marked on the calendar, and even a few that don’t require special supplies or ingredients. See if these simple ideas, generated by our Simply Family family, inspire a few new traditions for you and yours:

A Tablecloth. When I was little, my extended family would always get together for Christmas dinner. There was a table cloth they put on the table for us to write on with sharpie markers; a note, memory of the year, or sometimes if we were little we could eek out our name. The tablecloth was always present no matter who hosted and just kept getting added to each year. It was fun to look back and see the old comments from everyone, and add new. Jenny Barriger, Design/Creative

A Puzzle. My whole family works on a puzzle over the Christmas break; grandparents, aunts, uncles, kids, everyone. You only have to place one puzzle piece to get your name on the back. Then we frame them. We’ve done this so many times over the years that each of us has a framed puzzle now! Deanna Grubbs, Contributor

The kid tree. Like many moms, I’ve given each of my kids an ornament every year so when they leave the house their first Christmas tree will be filled with, well ornaments, and childhood memories. As my kids got older, their ornament collections, combined with festive masterpieces made at school over the years, grew rather large. A few years ago, I decided to get my kids their own tree. Each year, they set up a smaller version of the family tree covered in Sponge Bob, Barbie and classic car ornaments. There are also a few barely-glued together picture frame ornaments and snowflake creations from elementary school. We put extended family gifts under this tree, and gather round it when those family members come over Christmas Eve. This tree, which has become a true reflection of my kids’ personalities, has become quite a conversation piece at the holidays. Kat Hobza, Guest Editor

Sleeping under the tree. We sleep under the tree (heads-pillows under tree) and try and catch Santa. The adults can sneak off, when the kids are asleep, to their own comfortable beds after polishing off whatever cookies and milk Santa didn’t finish. This works through high school as you are required to believe in Santa if you want his gifts. The kids wake up and can enjoy the unwrapped gifts until everyone gets up. Kim Nelson, Marketing

Appetizers on Christmas Eve. Now that our kids are out of highchairs, and the “run away from the table” stages (I call it the hide-n-eat), we have fondue dinner after church on Christmas Eve. It is simple- cut up meat (including little smokies) like beef and duck, sauces/dips, raw veggies and Brett’s mother’s fondue bread. For dessert there is peppermint ice cream, Christmas cookies and Kahlua and cream in coffee for the adults. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! Brenda Maas, Contributor

Plays and talent shows. A favorite family tradition involves putting on a simple family play of the Nativity. We have really simple props - a towel over the shepherd’s heads, a tinfoil crown on the angel, robes for all and a baby doll for Jesus if we don’t have an appropriately aged child. We have a simple script taken from the Bible and sometimes we’ll act it out again several times, with changes in role assignment so everyone gets to do the fun speaking parts: “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy!” or “NO ROOM IN THE INN!” T.J. Wierenga, Contributor

Treks down memory lane. While dinner is settling and loved ones are lingering around the fireplace, we gather our little ones and open old photo albums. It’s a way for us to introduce or re-introduce those family members who are no longer with us to our children, and it’s a way for us to include those who have passed in our festivities today, if even just in spirit. It’s a very uplifting tradition - we always come away laughing at the pictures we’ve collected over the years. Jennifer Molk, Contributor

Here’s a few more:

Drive around and rate Christmas lights. one of the best ways to spend an evening during the holidays is to drive around and rate the neighbor’s Christmas lights! Crank the Christmas tunes, bring a thermos of something warm, and let the ooos and ahs fly! This is especially memorable if it is snowing.

Night Before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, have a male family member read Twas the Night Before Christmas to the kids. Little ones will look forward to snuggling up with Dad or Gramps each year to hear the retelling of a time-honored classic. And Dad or Gramps will feel special to be the center of a treasured tradition.

Go shopping together. This one is for moms and dads. Things can get so hectic this time of year, we sometimes feel our best bet is to divide and conquer. This Christmas, establish a time for you and your spouse to shop together. Shop ‘til you drop and then eat at a nice restaurant for dinner. If you want the bonding to continue, wrap the presents together when you get home. Remember that the couple that marathon shops, eats and stays up until two in the morning wrapping presents together, stays together!

PJs on Christmas Eve. If your kids hound you to open a present on Christmas Eve, wrap up a new pair of PJs for them each year. They’ll catch onto it after the first couple times, but there is nothing like taking a bath Christmas Eve night and curling up in new cozy pajamas while you wait for the sound of reindeer on the roof! SFM