Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas traditions! It's nice to have a plan of what's going on when, and it helps me to get in the holiday spirit.

Yesterday I was working on a tradition we have with the kids and was thinking about all the traditions I had as a kid, which ones I transferred over for my kids, and which ones Pete and I have started with our family, and thought I'd share some with you guys:

The kids get new pajamas every Christmas Eve
This one is kind of carried over from when I was younger. Every Christmas Eve my mom and dad would give me and my brother a book on Christmas Eve. We did this for Paige's first and second Christmases.

We changed it for Nate's first Christmas when we realized that neither of the kids had picture worthy pajamas for Christmas morning; they were all holey, mismatched, or severely stained. We found good pajamas either at garage sales or thrift stores, and in 2007 this tradition was born.

Christmas 2010 - Gray fleece pj pants

The tradition changed yet again in 2010 when I stumbled upon a tutorial online for making pajama pants. I bought the fabric and coordinating shirts for the kids, and got to work. It was a pain to make the pants, but the kids LOVED them! I used a different tutorial in 2011, and the pants not only were easier to make, but they fit better on the kids as well.

Christmas 2011 - Green and white stripe pj pants

I wasn't planning on making pajama pants this year due to time constraints, but when I overheard Paige and Nate discussing what color they thought I would make this year, I knew that this tradition had stuck and could not be broken! I'm pleased to say I finished the pants yesterday, and I can't wait to see the kids in them! I'll post a picture after Christmas; silly me wrapped the pants without taking a blog picture first!

Cinnamon raisin swirl bread for Christmas breakfast

It always gets served on this platter, too!

Another tradition carried over from my childhood, but adapted for my family. Every Christmas morning, my parents would make Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for while we opened our stockings, then another batch for while we opened our bigger gifts. I loved this tradition, as we only got these special rolls on Christmas and then again on New Year's day, but when we first got married, our budget didn't allow for us to purchase them. After digging through my cookbooks for a suitable replacement, I found a recipe for cinnamon raisin swirl bread, and we loved it so much we have it every Christmas morning while we open our gifts.

Pete reads the Christmas story before we unwrap any gifts

Getting ready to hear about Jesus' birth

I know Pete's family would read the story (found in the Bible in the book of Luke) during Christmas time. I didn't grow up a Christian, so we never read the story. I think this one started in 2008; it was the first year we had the house, and we wanted to really establish some great Biblical foundations with our kids. We thought this was a great way to keep us all focused on the real reason for the season! Last year Paige found the Bible before we did and was all ready for Daddy to read it!

We give three gifts to the kids for Christmas

Still a nice sized pile of gifts under the tree
For Pete, Paige's first Christmas was stressful. I went overboard and bought her tons of gifts. Growing up, we always had piles of presents to unwrap, and I did the same thing. He was overwhelmed, and to be honest, she didn't need everything she received. At some point, Pete's mom mentioned she was only going to be giving three gifts to everyone, as the wise men brought Jesus three gifts. We loved that idea, and started establishing it as a rule for Christmas morning for our family as well.

The exceptions to the rule: Stockings and the gifts the kids give to each other don't count, and small things wrapped up in a box count as one gift. For example, we got Paige some headbands and a new hat. Because they're similar items, they're all in a box together and that counts as one gift. Ryan is getting an apron and a cape, and they're wrapped up together as one gift.

Some things show up every year in our stockings

This is from both Pete's and my childhood. I always got candy in my stocking; it was usually a chocolate orange (you know, the ones you get to whack really hard first? Yum!), but because not all of us like them (and I think I'm now allergic to artificial orange flavoring, boo), we do the Reese's peanut butter cup Christmas trees every year. Pete always got a tooth brush in his stocking, so the kids get fancy ones (we usually buy cheap ones for during the year), and now they get flossers and the fun kind of toothpaste they like.

There are still some traditions I had growing up that haven't quite established themselves as traditions for our family, and it makes me sad:

We always had Christmas eve dinner by candle light; with young kids you can probably figure out why that's not a tradition yet! But we're getting there, and I think it'll stick soon.

We always had the same dinner year after year as well. When I was younger it was always my mom's beef stew. As we grew up, my brother didn't like it any more (I swear he's adopted!), so we switched to manicotti.

There was always a Table Santa Present on our plates for Christmas breakfast. It was always wrapped in white tissue paper, and it came from Santa. I think the story behind this one was that when my brother and I were younger, my mom and dad didn't have much money to spend on each other, so they'd buy something small for each other and leave it on each other's breakfast plates (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this one, Mom!). This one continued even after Jeremy and I stopped believing in Santa, and was always just that little something extra that made the mornings more fun.

What are your Christmas traditions? Have you carried over any from your childhood?


  1. Table Santa presents... :)

    Either you or Jeremy had asked when you were little why Dad and I didn't receive any presents from Santa (and, as you wrote, we didn't have much money to buy for each other--we (*I*) always went overboard on you guys). The next year we came up with the TS idea. We would continue with tradition: I would come downstairs first, plug the tree lights in, start the cinnamon rolls, and take pics of the tree with the presents beneath it. Then we would eat rolls while unwrapping stocking stuffers and then regular gifts. After unwrapping gifts, Dad would scramble eggs for some "real" food (AKA protein and good nourishment!). As we sat at the table (which had been set the night before), we would discover that Santa had left each of us a gift on our plate. The gifts were always wrapped in white tissue paper and had identical "Santa" gift tags and almost-identical handwriting. A little something special to end the morning of gift-giving! (Then my parents would call...)

    (Crock pot beef stew...the last time I tried making it, it just didn't taste the same... Too many years away from making it...)

    Thanks for posting about traditions! It's always nice to start new ones for your family, but it's nice to try to incorporate old ones, too. (I don't think we really had any when I was growing up--the only thing I carry over from when I was younger is the village under the tree and I haven't done that since 2008.)

  2. My family has always done new pajamas on Christmas Eve, even when I was just a baby, and we continue the tradition to this day. Some day, when I have a family of my own, I know I will continue this tradition, as it's one of my favorites. Like you, we also had a special breakfast on Christmas morning. Cinnamon rolls and pigs in a blanket! Yummm... it's not Christmas morning without them. Once we ate breakfast, we'd open presents. My mom and I would usually wait until the afternoon/evening to open our stockings, and sometimes my dad and brother would hold out, but I don't remember my sister ever waiting. Christmas day we would just lay around and play with our new toys, watch whatever movies we received, or play games. We usually snacked all day, so I don't remember ever having a real Christmas dinner, except my mom claims she used to make one. When I was younger, we'd spend every Christmas Eve with my mom's side of the family at my grandparent's house. Everyone would bring a dish to share, and my grandma would bake lasagna and my grandpa always made the little party hot dogs in BBQ sauce. Because so many people in my family hunt, there was venison too (yuck). After we ate, we'd exchange gifts... usually the kids went first and once we were off playing with our new toys, the adults would open their gifts. At the end of the night, we'd exchange names for next year so we knew who everyone had to buy a gift for.

    Other traditions we had were picking out our Christmas tree after my brother's birthday... and after we had cleaned the house! When Sodus used to do train rides with Santa, we did that too! And we'd go to the parade (in Williamson I think), get cookies and see Santa. My mom, sister and I would do all of our Christmas baking in one day... we'd make cookies, frost and decorate them. We'd make special mint brownies, among many other goodies. :-) We'd often make up plates of our baked goods to deliver to family and friends. And on Christmas Eve, my grandparents (on my dad's side of the family) would come down to spend the night and open presents with us in the morning. Usually between Christmas and the New Year, we'd go up to my grandparent's house to open gifts with the rest of my dad's family, and my grandma would make dinner and put a little chocolate Santa candy on everyone's plate. My grandpa would make crème de menthe sundaes... still my favorite! :-) Once we were older, we'd go to Christmas Eve mass.

    I can't wait to have my own family some day and carry over some family traditions/start some of our own.