Magical Christmas Traditions

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s December 2017 issue.

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Change is hard. Which could explain why some traditions stick around year after year, for reasons unknown; yet others are no-brainers, they are a beloved part of a family’s fabric. When you leave your parents’ nest and start a family of your own, it falls to you and yours to determine which of your families’ traditions you’ll carry into the future. How you'll combine your family's traditions with your partner's, which ones you’ll adapt to fit a changing/growing family’s needs, and which ones will begin with you.

When two become one

It can be a challenge, this joining of two lives and different traditions. For our first Christmas as a married couple, I adamantly insisted upon getting a real tree. I had all of these great memories of going with my dad and picking out our family’s Christmas tree. Apparently blocking out any of the minor tree-related catastrophes we’d encountered over the years. (Made oh so evident when at one point – we’re talking after bringing in and hauling out the tree three times AND it falling over at least twice – I actually wailed to my husband of five months, “I wish my Dad were here!” As if he would have brought any more calm to the crooked trunk, tree-falling party). We did make a few more attempts on the real tree in those early years before deciding to end that particular tradition – there are only so many times a person can deal with a teetering tree before throwing in the towel. With 15 years between then and now, we’ve settled into a holiday routine that is itself a perfectly imperfect marriage of his family and mine, and…ours.

In the end, real tree or artificial, what matters most to me is pulling out the ornaments with all of the memories attached and sharing them with our daughter as each is placed on the tree. Her excitement as she searches for the ornaments that tell her story, with Home Alone or Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas playing in the background.

Not just another ‘To Do.'

It’s important, though, that these traditions don’t just become another thing on the Holiday Season To Do List. You know, the thing that threatens to drive us to the verge of madness this time of year. This is supposed to be a season filled with joy, so if something is sucking the joy out of the season, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate?

To help us get lost in the warm and fuzziness of the season, to see how other families find their joy in the holiday season and to maybe spark a light in each other, we turned to our readers who kindly shared some of their favorite traditions with us on Facebook.

Talking ‘bout traditions

Coordinated cuties - Every year at Christmas time, Wyatt and I pick out fancy (coordinating) outfits to wear to church. While we're at the Christmas Eve service, the elves come and leave a special present on his bed. He gets new Christmas jammies, a new book, toothbrush, popcorn, and hot cocoa packets. He gets in his new jammies; we make the popcorn and cocoa, snuggle up, and read his new book before bed. Then he brushes his teeth and goes to sleep so Santa can come! –Katryna Erb

Thinking outside the box - One family I know has made a choice, in recent years, to forgo traditional gifts for Christmas in exchange for a family trip instead. After they tried it the first time, they asked the kids which way they wanted to go and they chose more trips! 

Giving back - Instead of buying sibling gifts the kids each pick a little about their age off the mitten tree and shop for them. –Angie Wheeler

Finding sparkle and light -You can’t beat driving around to look at Christmas lights with the “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” song blaring in your car while drinking hot cocoa.  -Anna Meadows 

Every Eve - On Christmas Eve we go to church. When we get home our kids each get to open one gift, which is a new pair of jammies and hot chocolate. Then we snuggle up and watch a Christmas movie together; adding a new movie into rotation every year, but watching many of the oldies but goodies throughout December. –Jolene Sarsfield 

Trimming the tree to tunes – Listening to Bing Crosby (a childhood carryover) while decorating the tree! Although Pentatonix has worked its way into the Christmas music playlist! –Mischele Miller

Together we – Spend time laughing, sharing stories of past Christmas'. Have a "Cookie Bake Day" with family and friends (kids of all ages welcome-they usually help for about 20 minutes then they are ALL off playing until the aroma of freshly baked cookies draws them back! Make Homemade Christmas Cards (people still LOVE getting mail the old fashioned way!) Go Christmas Caroling! So many things to do TOGETHER!! Celebrate the birth of Jesus, sing Happy Birthday to him! –Moms 2B & Precious Seconds 

English Traditions – Growing up in an English home, Ruth’s family has upheld those proper English traditions through today. 1. The Christmas Cracker (a rolled paper that pops open when you pull either end. Inside is a toy, joke, and paper crown): Each place setting has a Cracker on it, and you must wear the crown through the entire meal and tell the joke. 2. Dessert: A Christmas pudding (actually a solid fruit cake), at Christmas dinner it’s doused in brandy, set on fire, and served with brandy butter. 3. We leave a mince pie (a sweet little bite-size pie about the size of the palm of your hand-the filling is a combination of sugar, apples, sultanas, raisins, currants, and various candied peels and spices) and sherry out for Father Christmas (not Santa). –Ruth and Rosie Pollard 

Christmas morning eats - Waffles for breakfast Christmas morning. Originally, the tradition was to have them with peaches and ice cream. We've expanded our topping choices (adding strawberries and other berries, a whipped topping, and peanut butter with maple syrup is good too!), but we always have the original two toppings. –Grace Sharp 

Going green - One of our favorite family traditions is Green Friday…Instead of heading to the mall or shopping for Black Friday, we head to the mountains for some ice fishing, and to cut down our Christmas tree! We have turkey sandwiches for lunch and hot chocolate over a propane burner. It's a wonderful tradition, and we're much more relaxed! –TJ Wierenga 

Not just a cozy Christmas - One word: Hygge! It's the Danish word for "cozy" as is practiced during the long winter months. It's saying "no" to the go-go-go hustle and bustle, and "yes" to all things warm, relaxing, relational and slow. –Lindsay Blackburn