Now that it is officially after Thanksgiving, our family is in the full holly jolly spirit! Christmas is our favorite time of year, and we love the memories, warmth, and joy that the season brings. Over our seven years of marriage, my husband and I have come to treasure and look forward to the traditions our family has developed throughout the years.
I love Christmas traditions because they allow us to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth together and give us memories to enjoy for years to come. Traditions are such a sweet way for us to grow relationships and enjoy the blessings God has given us! There are some who have a beautifully cultivated calendar of traditions, and others who want to incorporate more traditions into the season but aren’t quite sure where to start. So, here are a few of our favorite traditions as well as some tips and tricks for making traditions a reality this Christmas season.
Our Favorite Traditions
Last year we decided to take the plunge into cutting down a live Christmas tree for our home. I know the live tree vs. fake tree debate can be a very opinionated subject, so let me assure you we have nothing against those who love fake trees. We actually have a fake tree that we put up as well…it can feel like a tiny forest in our house! Christmas-palooza is our designated day to go to a local Christmas tree farm, pick out our tree, and spend the afternoon decorating our tree and home for the season. Hot chocolate, Christmas music, and Christmas-themed pajamas are involved as well.
Sleep Around the Tree
This one is not a Long Family original, but an idea we adopted from a family at our church. On Sleep Around the Tree night, we pull mattresses out into the living room, heat up hot chocolate, and light a fire in the fireplace as we watch Christmas movies until we all fall asleep to the glow of the Christmas tree. As the kids get older, I look forward to having a variety of Christmas movies, but until then we will continue to familiarize ourselves with every song and line of Rudolph and the Grinch.
While most of our traditions include friends and family, our Christmas date is a special night where my husband and I get a baby sitter and enjoy a nice evening together. We always go to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan and enjoy strolling through the historic village they decorate for Christmas each year. It is often snowy, typically very cold, and is something we look forward to each year! There was a year we didn’t make it up to the village, and instead went to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a snowy stroll afterwards. Regardless of where we go, spending one-on-one time together reflecting on the year and God’s goodness is such a sweet time.
Of all our Christmas traditions, this one has likely become my favorite. On candlelit dinner day, I prepare a Christmas feast of homemade bread, delicious sides, fragrant desserts, and hearty meat. By the time dinner is ready, the house smells like a Christmas card! We dress up the table and our dining room with every candle we own and eat our meal by candle light. We take time to read from the Word and then enjoy warm drinks in the living room by a fire. This tradition began early in our marriage well before babies, and has evolved and grown since. We love seeing the kids’ faces light up when they see all of the candles and food, and in recent years have invited newly married or engaged couples in our church to join us for the feast as well!
Having Christmas traditions has been a way for our family to connect, make memories, and look forward to Christ’s birth together. Some years, things don’t go according to plan (like the year I had to make our Christmas feast in the toaster oven because our oven died), and each tradition changes and evolves as our family and life change as well (sometimes our Christmas date involves a newborn tagging along). But I treasure these moments together and look forward to spending this joyous season with friends and family each year!
Maybe you have a list of traditions you treasure and stick to every year, or maybe you want to start traditions but don’t know how to make it happen. Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me bring our traditions to life each year:
Pull Out The Calendar
It is easy to dream up all kinds of special things to do, but much harder to actually make them happen. I find it easiest to pull out my December calendar and spend time picking days and times for all of our traditions, as well as new activities and events we want to try. I write out names of people we want to invite into our traditions and reach out to them right when we decide on our dates. If I leave dreams and hopes for our Christmas season as ideas in my head, the likelihood of them actually happening significantly decreases!
Take it Slow
Each of our traditions started very simply and have grown and evolved over time. There is no rush to add a plethora of new traditions to the calendar, and I have come to realize that not every activity we do will become a yearly tradition (which is okay!). One year we did homemade pretzels, one year we did gingerbread houses, and one year we did Christmas Lights at the Zoo. We don’t do those things every year, and I don’t want to miss the quality time and relationship building of the season by trying to cram as many traditions as possible into the calendar. I want our family to enjoy and savor the season, and not feel overwhelmed by a long to-do list of things I insist we do every year.
Don’t Hold Too Tightly
Just like the seasons of the year, our lives and families change and go through seasons as well. Acknowledging this reality has helped me to value the relationship building aspect of our traditions over the specifics, logistics, and details. I want our traditions to focus on people and glorifying Christ. So if tickets to our Christmas date sell out before we can buy them, I don’t fret. If the oven dies as I’m making the Christmas feast, I can laugh about cooking it in the toaster oven instead (it is very hard to make homemade bread in a small toaster oven…it didn’t go well!). If a newborn makes finding our Christmas tree on the cold, snowy farm feel more like a chore than something enjoyable, I praise God for blessing us with a growing family. Seasons will change and so will our traditions, but praise God for the friends, family, church, and hope He has given us.