Traditions seem to be activities that we will hold onto whether we like them or not. Sometimes deep-rooted traditions can make or break a holiday. Oftentimes, it just doesn’t feel like the holidays if it isn’t done. These days, it seems like we are re-evaluating certain traditions, deciding if we want to continue to do them. The thing is, it is okay to try new things.
7 Family Christmas Traditions
When my husband and I came together as a couple, we practiced the traditions of whichever side of the family we were visiting during the holiday. Not until we had children did we start creating our own. We then incorporated some of the traditions we had growing up. I think our own unique family traditions are still evolving.
Sometimes I find us switching off between new and old traditions depending on where we are celebrating Christmas. It often has to do with what is convenient or easiest at the time. I enjoy traditions, but I also like giving something new a try. It’s nice to allow the kids to come up with an idea that they would prefer.
If you read my last blog post, you would have read how we did holiday stations. We’ve done them in the past at church and other gatherings. This time it was fun to do them as a family. This is something I could see us doing every year. I guess a new tradition has been born!
You can read about some of the traditions that we currently do every year. We started some of them as our extended families grew. Some of them are newer versions of what we did as children. Or we started them to make life a little easier and enjoyable for all.
#1 Secret Santa
When I was young, my parents would send presents to my relatives living all around the country. It wasn’t cheap. And that didn’t include Santa’s gifts if you know what I mean? I now understand how Christmas gifts can add up so quickly. My family is the biggest. So, I know family could feel the pinch when they have to buy for us.
My husband comes from a large family. The tradition of Secret Santa gift buying started on his side of the family. As we adult children married and began to have children of our own, it became helpful. This way we could buy nicer gifts for one another instead of spreading our dollars/euros thin. We have family living in 3 different countries. We had to think of a way to help with the increasing costs of expanding families on both sides and the cost of shipping gifts. Shipping is enough to ruin all the fun!
The adults get a gift to open from their Secret Santa, and the kids receive a Secret Santa gift from one of their aunts or uncles. The kids enjoy guessing who their gift will come from. The adults have only one child to spoil rather than buying for all of the nieces and nephew (a boy finally arrived this year!). Online shopping gives endless ideas, and it doesn’t always have to be a physical gift in their hand. We have bought gift certificates for fun activities in the area they live in, or stores they like to shop in. This has worked out well for our families.
#2 Kid’s Tree
I love this idea. It allows everyone to be happy about what goes on the tree. I love all of the crafts and Christmas tree ornaments the kids bring home to us, but I also love a well put together tree. I can’t claim my tree to be department store worthy with color-coordinated ornaments and bows, but I try to keep it from looking cluttered and coordinate what I do have.
Some years back, my sister-in-law had the great idea to buy the kids a small artificial tree to decorate. The youngest kids could then participate in decorating. You didn’t have to cringe with worry every time your little ones would grab a bulb. Yet, it’s kind of like a right of passage to break a bulb the first time you decorate the big tree.
My original idea was to buy little ornaments that could go on the little tree. With so many handmade ornaments made in school, there’s enough to fill the whole tree. Store-bought or school made, they are welcome to fill that little tree to their heart’s content.
A kid tree is a good idea if you need to declutter your tree, or you want a place where your kids are free to decorate however they choose. It doesn’t mean that the kids aren’t allowed to decorate the big tree, but the small tree is something they can be in charge of.
#3 Christmas Day Brunch
The past few years, we’ve had a lot of the big holiday dinners in my home. It’s nice to have everyone gather in our home, but it also means all the mess and clean up is happening there as well. I think about my family traditions as a kid, and I always remember my mom spending most of Christmas day in the kitchen. It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without the feast, but I felt bad for her. I don’t think she minded it then (maybe she did, but didn’t say anything), but these days she doesn’t mind passing on the cooking to her kids (me, my brother, and our spouses).
I’m not the best cook, so the idea of spending all day in the kitchen does sound fun. And the clean-up afterward is the pits, even though there are usually a few sets of hands helping out. A few years ago, we have had a larger crowd at our house for dinner. We decided to have a Christmas brunch instead of a Christmas dinner. It was a great suggestion. We had the kitchen cleaned up by mid-afternoon. That left the rest of the day to relax, enjoy the family, and let the food settle.
#4 Opening Gifts
When do you open gifts? Every family seems to have a different idea as to when this should be done. Growing up, my family would NEVER open anything unless it was Christmas day. So when I became an adult, in my head, you NEVER open gifts before Christmas day. It’ll ruin Christmas if you do. All that build-up about what will be under the tree for you on Christmas day loses it’s meaning if the gifts are open the night before, right? What happened to “The night before Christmas…” Can you tell that my childhood Christmas traditions still burn deep in my soul?
I never knew how many people opened gifts on Christmas Eve. My husband’s family is one of them. Again, I think we resort to the traditions of the family member’s house we are celebrating Christmas with to decide when we open.
Now that Santa visits our home again, I think that helped us fall into a tradition of our own. If we are spending time with extended family, then we will usually open the gifts that are part of the exchange in their presence. We usually let the kids open one of the gifts on Christmas Eve and save the rest for Christmas morning if it’s only our household. It’s not to let the kids open anything on Christmas Eve when we’ve done it in the past. Usually, the kids get to open a gift on Christmas Eve regardless because we have family a day ahead of us, and they like to open gifts together on a video call.
#5 A Christmas Sing-Song and Zoom!
A sing-song is something that could happen any time we get together with family on the Irish side. If you’re in Ireland, it can happen anytime and anywhere, but it’s usually in someone’s home or a pub. I’m not even sure if sing-song is what you call it. That’s what my husband calls it. For my friends who don’t know what this is, well, basically, people take turns singing a song of their choosing. Sometimes people join in, sometimes people sing on their own, anything can happen.
You don’t have to be great at singing or know all of the words. You just need a little courage to start. It’s so cute to watch the kids gain their confidence to sing in front of the family. And singing is one thing my girls love to do. So much so, that it actually causes fights. Just imagine a house full of girls singing all of the time.
We do a lot of video calling with family living all over the place. So, this year is no different than others. However, we have Zoom on our side. I’m sure, at this point, you’re very familiar with Zoom! And while we usually open gifts alongside each other via a video phone call, this year I can assume we will add in a new tradition of singing and opening gifts over Zoom. If time-zones permit, we can all be on at the same time. I can see it now, everyone opening their gifts together, followed by a sing-song. And I’m pretty sure we’ll get a few surprise performances from the kids to show off their latest talents.
#6 Progressive Dinner
My side of the family has been involved in an annual Christmas progressive dinner for over 20 years. If you’ve never heard of a progressive dinner before, it’s where you travel to different homes for different courses of the meal. We begin at one house for hors d’ oeuvres, go to another house for the main course, and the last house is for dessert. When I was a lot younger, all of the kids used to complain about going. Now we look forward to it. I’ve even dragged my college friends along.
There were about 6 families that began this tradition several years ago. None of us are actual family, but close family friends. Most of the families are California transplants, so the kids grew up calling the other adults auntie and uncle because they were the closest people around that were like family. I still call them aunt and uncle to this day.
Twenty plus years later, it is still going strong. The adults in charge of the event have had to pivot some with close to 40 people attending these days. They’re also getting older and feel that is too much to cater so many people in their homes. The last few years, we’ve had it catered at the nearby golf club, and then we went to a house for dessert. We can still call it a progressive dinner because we moved to another location for at least one course. And since it’s the year 2020, we will be pivoting again. A worldwide pandemic can’t stop this progressive dinner. We have Zoom!
#7 New Year’s Family Vision Board
When the holiday season starts to come to an end, and we begin to focus on the new year, creating a vision board is perfect. I started doing this with my family two years ago. I think the kids really enjoy this because they feel like they can have some say in what we do as a family. It might turn the hopes and dreams you have for the family into reality.
Everyone can get involved in the activity. Last year, my youngest was two, and although she didn’t understand the activity, she was happy enough to slap some stickers onto the poster board. Ripping magazines kept her amused as well. So grab your magazines, glue, scissors, poster board, and whatever else you can find and get to work! We hang it on the door out to the garage. That way we pass by it and see it every day.
Whatever your traditions are, enjoy them in whatever capacity you’re able. Christmas is sure to look very different for many this year, but maybe it will inspire you to begin a new tradition you hadn’t thought about in the past. Regardless, be sure to take some time for yourself, and relish in the joys you find in each day.