Last night we had a fantastic meal at our friend’s home to kick off the holiday season. He is an incredible chef, so of course he served only the best. There was a slew of appetizers accompanied by a fantastic main course of surf and turf. One appetizer that stood out to me in particular was a blue cheese honey dip, mostly because I despise blue-cheese, but LOVED this dip! But, I digress.
Aside from the food being the highlight of the evening, one moment of the night in particular stood out to me, and I wanted to share it with you all. As we were finishing our entrees, the host asked each person at the table about their holiday traditions. It was such a thoughtful conversation starter that allowed each of us to highlight some of the happy times with our family and friends, and also to remember the traditions inspired by people that we’ve lost over the years. For example, our host shared that his family started a tradition of making pizzas on Christmas Eve decades ago. His sister, who was 25 years older than him, married into an Italian family, that introduced his family to pizza before it was popular in the U.S. They loved it so much that they made it on Christmas Eve the first year that they learned the recipe. To this day, they still use the same pizza pan that his mother used to cook pizzas with that very first Christmas Eve.
It was so nice to hear everyone open up and talk about their traditions. Something lights up in the room when you know that people are being genuine and heartfelt. It sparked memories within me of all of the great years I had with my family growing up. It made me grateful that we were fortunate enough to have such great Christmases. We were able to cook big meals, travel to different places, accommodate family & friends, and give & receive gifts. These are all things that not everyone is able to experience for one reason or another, and also things that so many people take for granted. Not just for Christmas, but all year around.
This is my very long introduction to what I was going to call my Christmas Tradition Roundup.
Make an Advent Calendar:
On thanksgiving, have the kids (adults, too!) write down 25 things they are grateful for. Turn these thanksgivings into a paper-chain advent calendar like this one from makeandtakes.com:
Go Pick out a Tree:
Cut it down, buy it from a stand, put together your fake tree. Whatever it is, enjoy it!
Decorate the house and Christmas tree together:
This was always a great time to throw on a movie (preferably a holiday movie), or some Christmas music and sip hot cocoa.
(Don’t forget to decorate…your dog). Just kidding, this is the extent to her dress-up. I promise!
I definitely want my (someday) children to be exposed to volunteering. Whether it’s at a shelter, the food bank, or elsewhere. I want them to know what it’s like to help people. Not only because it is a kind thing to do, but also because it can teach them to be grateful for what they have.
Make the Family Christmas card:
Get dressed up, or dressed down (say, PJs) for a good family photo. Lots of people are so happy to receive an updated picture of you and yours during the holiday season.
Have a Cookie Baking Day:
Find your favorite or use a family recipe. Decorating them can be lots of fun.
Make a Ginger Bread House:
My friend and I made one last year. It was quite comical because we did it backwards. Apparently that is possible. Who knew? This photo is brought to you by two fully grown adults who just can’t read directions. Can we please blame the 2 year old?
Explore the Town’s Christmas Lights:
My grandmother always took my sister and I on rides around town to “ooh” and “ahh” at the Christmas lights. I think it was so that my parents could wrap gifts, or go shopping, but either way it’s a very fond memory.
Have a Wrapping Party:
For me, this consists of any cheesy Christmas movies, hot cocoa (per usual), wrapping paper and the floor. I like wrapping on the floor. It’s always been what works best. I find wrapping therapeutic!
Make Neighbor Treats:
This year I’m going to make a slew of Muddy Buddies to give out to my neighbors & friends. I think it’s a fun and neighborly thing to do! (Check out my last post for a simple recipe.)
Watch a Christmas Movie as a Family:
I love the classic Christmas movies like; A Christmas Story, Home Alone, The Grinch, The Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, and more. But I also LOVE Elf. It is up there with my favorite movies. Maybe because it’s so quote-able. “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
Donate a toy (or two, or three) to a charity:
Out with the old, in with the new. There’s no sense in cluttering your home with tons of toys. Why not allow someone else to have fun with the toys going unused?
Go to Candle-light Service on Christmas Eve:
This is something my sister, mom and I did when I was growing up. It was a ton of fun because the service is always cut super short so you can sing a bunch of Christmas songs! This was a tradition for a long time.
Watch family videos from Christmas’ past:
Get ready to see your reaction, whether underwhelming, over done, or just perfect, on TAPE! I don’t like being videoed….especially when it comes to opening gifts! But it happens on Christmas and birthdays, it’s practically unavoidable.
Start a Grateful Jar to open next Christmas:
Whenever you experience good things, write them on small pieces of paper and put them in the jar all year long. Open next year and share your memories from throughout the year! I found this idea from bernettastyle.com!
Secretly sneek gifts to a neighbor:
Kind of like a ding-dong-ditch…except it’s a good thing. It’s so fun!
Buy or DIY new PJs for Christmas morning:
Don’t forget a photo shoot! Or this video…they are awesome:
Read a Christmas book before bed:
The night before Christmas is a good, classic book to read before Santa comes! It can help everyone to wind down.
Sleep in the Same Room (siblings) on the Night before Christmas:
I know for the longest time my sister and I did that. Things changed as we got a bit older, but we still woke up early each year thereafter to open our stocking before our parents were awake!
Set out cookies & milk for Santa:
Good cookies, that is! Also, Santa doesn’t have to be this big, mysterious man who magically goes from house to house in one nights time. Why can’t he be thought of as a man that is thoughtful and giving who gifts children with great things which arrive in a normal way, say, postal services or something? Or maybe even have “local” Santa’s who deliver from house-to-house. One for each county would be believable. But the north pole, the elves, the sleigh…why does Santa have to be so full of this magic? It is not an unheard of thing to be kind and giving! I think it’s a great thing to teach kids that there are people who are selfless, like Santa. But I think the magic is overdone a bit. However, I’m not the Grinch…and I love Christmas! And, so does the Grinch in the end. Spoiler alert!