I grew up with 3 sisters and 1 brother who were all many years older than I. My closest sibling was 7 years my senior and 2 of my sisters were married and had children of their own by the time my parents had me. We had a tree at Christmas time and my mom put out decorations but beyond that I don't really remember any special traditions. I think this may have reflected the way they were raised. My mom grew up during the depression and my Dad was one of many children with a Mom that was left alone without a husband. Also my parents both worked full time which was unusual at that time, and this did not leave my Mom a lot of time for extras. My Dad has told me many times that his big treat on Christmas morning was finding an Orange and some other fruit and nuts in his stocking. He loved that, it was a big treat, and he was happy.
Please don't misunderstand me. My parents are great and I love them very much, however, as a child I found myself a little envious of those children who got to go home and bake cookies with their mom, or those who had siblings to lay in bed with at night and discuss in secret what they thought Santa might bring them. When I had a family of my own I really hoped that I would be able to create traditions and get to do some of the things with them that I had longed to do as a child. I have done my best and have had a blast enjoying this time with my children. My parents also enjoy watching our family traditions and I am hopeful that our children will carry them over to their own families. Here are a few of our favorites.
The first year we were married my hubby bought me a beautiful Lennox crystal ornament for the tree with the year engraved on it. I thought at the time how nice it would be to have one for each year we were married and hopefully someday we could have a tree with over fifty beautiful ornaments on it. Well, the next year he forgot. I was really disappointed. We happened to go to a day after Christmas sale and they had some ornaments similar to the one he had gotten me the year before. I asked if we could buy it and I think a light bulb went on in his head (The YIKES I FORGOT IT one) and he has never forgotten again. Some years we have not had the money to buy the expensive crystal ornament but he has always bought me a pretty one with the year on it. We now have 21 on the tree.
We always get a real tree for our living room and then we have an artificial tree in the family room. The family room tree is called our "Family Tree". We put all of the kids homemade ornaments, and special ones that we have bought for the kids throughout the years. We usually try and buy each child a new ornament every year that reflects his/her personality at that time. I love to pull out those ornaments, it is like a ride down memory lane. My 15 year old was very into the movie Pochahantas when he was 5 and 6. His siblings had a great time this year teasing him about all of the John Smith ornaments we have for the tree.
Each year we have a "Family Baking Day". We make goodies for the neighbors, friends, and family. My hubby and the children all help and it is a great way for them to learn about giving to others. Last year I bought Christmas aprons for everyone. We all looked very festive but the teenagers weren't at all happy about wearing aprons that looked like reindeer or Santa Claus. After we are done baking we box everything up and the kids get to deliver the goodies in their wagon. I think this is their favorite part.
The children put their names in a hat every year around Thanksgiving and pick names for their gift exchange. They do extra special chores around the house to earn money to buy a gift for one of their siblings. I try and take each child out individually to shop for their special someone. We pay the younger children in all one dollar bills and you should see their eyes light up with excitement (20 bucks looks like an awful lot when it is all in ones). On Christmas Eve we go to church, then we have some special neighborhoods we go to visit and look at the pretty lights and decorations. When we come home the kids have their gift exchange. This is one of my favorite times. While I love the big family gathering on Christmas day their is something so special about the children sharing this moment just with each other.
We also have an advent calendar that the children enjoy, we read Christmas books, we hang a stocking for Jesus (their are bible verses and inspirational sayings inside and you are suppose to pick one out each day to read...we have been bad about doing this one. Always seem to forget until one of the kids reminds me), we have a large assortment of Christmas movies we enjoying watching every year, and this year the younger kids entered the local market holiday coloring contest (see picture above).
In the future I would like to do some more activities based around Advent to emphasize to us all the real meaning of the season. Chris over at In the trenches of motherhood
had some great ideas on her blog and I am looking forward to using some of them next year.
Wishing you all happy memories with your families and a very Merry Christmas!