Favorite Family Holiday Traditions
You’d think with a family of seven we’d have LOTS of Christmas traditions. And I guess we kind of do, but honestly none of them are extraordinary because… 5 kids. BUT… hang in there with me… the ones we have are practical and fun and things the kids ask about every year! (Warning: iPhone and pre-blog photos coming up… )
1. We always cut down our own tree. THIS is the tree that gets the kid treatment. They hang the ornaments so the lower 1/3 is well decked. And… every time we travel (which is rarely) we buy an ornament so our collection is a fun reminder of trips and vacations and fun family memories! (Except for our trip to NH this last summer. I accidentally threw that one away. Oops.)
2. Christmas jammies. I know I know. This isn’t anything that unique, but our elf, Blue Eyes, brings pajamas for everyone when he returns each December 1 and it’s become kind of a thing. I have seen the same pajamas the elf brings at Carter’s for $5 a piece… so sadly, Mark and I are not in on the action.
3. Good deed/ Christmas activity Advent Calendar. There are only a million different versions of this, but ours is this old Ikea Christmas tree fabric that I sewed rings onto to hold numbered bags. Each day had a strip of paper with a good deed or easy Christmas activity (for example, make Rice Krispie Treats).
4. Online Advent calendar. This will seem wildly techy and millennial to you, but… it’s from my mother so rest assured it’s not #extra. But it is SO sweet and something we can open each night. The graphics and music are very traditional and sweet and each year there’s a theme like and Old English Village or the Alps. Each day there’s another short little animated scene of birds decorating a Christmas tree or fairies making cookies or something.
5. A letter from Santa. This came from Mark’s family but before we tear into the stocking presents from Santa, we have to sit down and listen to a letter he’s left for the family. The letter usually has a paragraph dedicated to each member of the family and lets them know all the things Santa is so proud of as well as a few kindly suggestions for the new year (i.e. exercise more or be nice to your sister.)
6. Home made gifts. In my glory days, I made gifts every year for people. Reminder that I was a teacher, so a $10 hand made gift went a lot farther than $10 at the mall. It’s not always easy (ahem, it’s NEVER easy) to wrangle the kids and find something they can easily make that people might appreciate. In other words, no macaroni necklaces… I’ve actually never taken pictures of these gifts, but some of the ones we’ve tackled are:
– Sharpie drawn ‘stained’ glass. I bought sheets of acrylic at the hardware store and let the kids draw a picture on them with Sharpie pens. Then, I drilled two holes in the top of the sheet, and screwed two hooks into a 1×2 that I cut to the same length as the acrylic and tied a ribbon to on either end. The acrylic stained glass can then hang in front of a window and actually looks really sweet.
– Yarn nail art. I credit Pinterest for this one, but it was fun to make! I bought some simple round logs at the hardware store and sliced them on my miter saw (you can also buy them pre-made). The kids lightly sketched a drawing with a pencil and I turned it into dots. I hammered brad nails for the little kids, but the older three were able to hammer their own nails into their piece of wood.(Simple shapes are best… heart, star, present, triangle tree…) Then they wrapped yarn around the nails to fill in the picture. An eye hook with a loop of ribbon screwed into the top of the wood slice and instant ornament.
– This year (spoiler alert!), they’ve all painted one of these super simple wood frames from the dollar spot at Michaels. They used acrylic paint and then I went over with a high gloss top coat.
7. I know this is going to throw you a bit, but… on Christmas Eve we read the Night Before Christmas. I have a few different copies so we typically read whichever one I can find first in the bookcase!
8. Cookies. Yeah. We do ’em. Note that Santa doesn’t care if they’re cut from a Pillsbury dough log… we also leave carrots for the reindeer because we’re super nutrish and all.
9. Tracking Santa. Again… this is another technology thing (hey, millennials…I GET you!), but if you go online on Christmas Eve, you can “track” Santa. I think this is the one Mark uses, but google “Santa tracker” and I bet you’ll find others.
10. When I was little, we opened stockings in my parents bed. Our bed isn’t quite big enough to handle all five kids, but… they are NOT allowed to go downstairs to see if Santa came until everyone is awake and ready. We go down, open stockings together in the living room and then catch our breath and enjoy some coffee and breakfast. Again… I know this probably doesn’t count as “tradition” but… it helps keep the frantic opening at bay and stretches the day out a little further!
11. I give all credit to this last one to our sweet preschool, but ever since we’ve been living in Connecticut, we’ve had the chance to buy Christmas presents for child in need up the road in Bridgeport, CT. It’s a lovely chance for my kids to ‘help’ as they come with me and choose the gift. This year, I feel a little more hurried with this process and I shared as much on my Instagram stories. SO many of you responded and many of you suggested we take up a similar cause in the summer when these organizations are sometimes forgotten about… everyone thinks to help around the holidays, but there is a need all year round. I’m going to try and put this last holiday tradition into play at a different time of year now!
Let me know some of YOUR family Christmas traditions! I’d love to add some more that are a little less… basic. Christmas is always so hectic with the blog and the kids and the school stuff, that we’ve never been able to juggle more than these simple traditions, but I LOVE the idea of adding a few more that can be more unique!