Starting Our Own Holiday Traditions

Wrapping Christmas gifts

Like most people, I love the holiday season and look forward to it all year long. The decorations, the lights, the music, the movies, the cookies, the spirit…did I already mention the cookies? It’s hugely important to me to create family holiday traditions. Now, James is only three months old, so this year is really a tradition test run for Daniel and me. So far we’ve celebrated Hanukkah with Daniel’s family, strung up an unsightly amount of decorations, got our holiday cards in the mail by the skin of our teeth, baked and decorated cookies, and most meaningfully, I introduced James to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (breathe easy, he loves it).

James with a box of ornaments

can you tell he already needs therapy to cope with me?

Last Christmas, we began buying a special ornament to commemorate the year in the hopes that someday we’ll have one of those amazing family Christmas trees with a hundred or so special/funny/homemade ornaments. Our first ornament was one we got in Maui on our honeymoon that appropriately says “Just Maui’d.” This year, Daniel’s nana sent us the cutest 2018 ornament with a picture of James inside and my friend Melissa sent us this beautiful handmade ornament engraved with James’ name, birthdate, weight, and length. So special. Daniel also suggested getting duplicate ornaments every year and storing them so that we can give them to James when he’s an adult and has a tree of his own, which makes me tear up to even think about.

Just Maui'd ornament

Traditions we’d like to start as a family

  • Drive around town to see all the Christmas lights
  • Bake and decorate cookies (a tradition we started last year with my sister-in-law and best friend)
  • Visit Santa (I think this is more for me than for James)
  • Watch Christmas movies (Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas Vacation, and about a million others)
  • Volunteer to help people in need (at a soup kitchen, food bank, or by sponsoring a family)
  • Bake a special treat to have for breakfast on Christmas morning (my best friend Kate and her family do this)
  • Wear matching pajamas on Christmas Eve (does this border on too much? I love the idea of it)
  • Read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas together (we read a book to James every night so this should be easy)

I’d love to hear some of the family traditions you loved as a kid or ones you’ve created with your own children!

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25 thoughts on “Starting Our Own Holiday Traditions

  1. Pam Fraim

    You never said what your making for Christmas breakfast? I am over 60 and my Dad used to drive us all around as well to see the lights. I still do it! I love the idea of the second ornaments for James, he may not “get it” for a bit but when he does, yes! I so wish I had something like that for my kids. GREAT IDEA Daniel!
    Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all of you! Love you Andie and thanks so much for sharing with us your life story.

    Reply
  2. Diana Wing

    I have five children ranging in ages from 38 to 25. A tradition they began on their own was having “the Wing club “ (them) slumber party on Christmas Eve in the basement. They did actually fall asleep and now have happy memories. A second tradition we fell into is having British crackers at Christmas Eve dinner. The combination of tissue paper hats, terrible punny jokes and little prizes gets us all laughing. We now include the grandkids too. I guess the thing I’ve learned is that some traditions you try to establish but others just organically develop. They both have value.

    Reply
  3. Lindsay

    It’s my son’s first Christmas too. We’re doing family pjs (even the My mom always gets my sister and I am ornament, and so we are doing the same for our little boy. Holiday cards are a must and of course cookies/other treats. I’ve watched my must see Christmas movies and we’ve been reading Christmasy books. I think we’ll just see what else comes up as the years go by.

    Reply
  4. Kimberley

    My kids and I make gingerbread houses each year with my best friend and her two girls. My husband’s step-dad brought his family tradition of making homemade ice cream (with the hand crank) every year at Christmas. I think that’s the tradition the kids love the most! And, since we only do it once a year, it tastes that much better!
    Enjoy making memories with your baby boy! It seems like mine were just that little and now are 8 and 11…and want all the expensive things!
    Happy Hoidays!

    Reply
  5. Sara

    In my family we always were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, which we loved. When I got married my husband and I started the tradition of giving each other an ornament (generally something that reflected our personalities, hobbies or something that had happened that year) so when we had my daughter we started a tradition of each of us giving her an ornament, too (two!). When she became a teenager she became a part of the tradition and
    started to buy us ornaments. So I have a marvelous tree much like the one you describe — every ornament tells a story. That tree, complete with a crayoned angel my daughter made in the second grade with the words “I wish everyone could have a home of their own” is the centerpiece of our home. Rockerfeller Plaza or the White House has nothing on us! LOL

    Reply
  6. Jane Elliott

    He’s so adorable-enjoy his first Christmas! We did the ornaments for our sons. They picked out one every year as they got older-they are 25 and 30 now. When 30 got married and took his box of ornaments his wife was surprised that their tree was now covered with Star Wars, batman and the like!

    Reply
    1. Carolyn

      This is what my family did, my sister and I each got to pick out ornaments each year, then when we left home we got to take them with us. I like the idea of buying a duplicate set for the parents to keep once the kids leave home though, so that they get to keep those memories on their own tree as well!

      Reply
  7. Alma

    My Mama used to read what I call the nativity story to me every year on Christmas Eve, while combing my hair. I also was allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. We would bake cookies and leave out coffee, cookies, and milk before bed. We also had to watch the weather report—updating is on Santa’s location. Santa also always wrote me a Christmas card—though this was VERY dangerous because I knew too much about handwriting.

    Reply
  8. Anita Humphries

    We do all of the normal traditions….baking, wrapping, lights, etc….and by Christmas Day we (me) are wiped.out. Somewhere along the line, we decided that on Christmas Day, we were done. So…..we stay in our pjs ALL DAY….and for lunch we have hotdogs and milkshakes. Not sure how that evolved…..but it’s stuck. This year I have a vegetarian son-in-law to add to the mix….so veggie dog for him! Enjoy your first Christmas as a new family!

    P.S. I adore the ornaments….I feel strongly that a Christmas tree should tell your story…..only ornaments that represent a memory!!!

    Reply
  9. Deena

    I did the matching pj’s (mostly… when they got older they didn’t necessarily match) for my kids, now 19 and almost 22. My daughter, the 19 year old, still expects her new pj’s on Christmas Eve. Well, I assume she does, I tried getting out of it last year and she wouldn’t have it. So I’m afraid to NOT get her some this year… which I haven’t done yet. Better get on that! So no, I don’t think it’s too much! :)

    We also did Hallmark ornaments every year for them, started with the 1st Christmas, etc. which went through 5. Then they got to start selecting their own ornament. It worked perfectly. I didn’t duplicate though, my goal was always to pass them along to them when they were on their own. My son has all of his, I still have my daughter’s as she still lives with me.

    You have a great list of some wonderful traditions to continue with your family! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  10. Pat

    My dad died in June 1992 and I was
    Feeling bad missing him
    That Christmas and when I looked in the closets to get decorations I found a VHS that he had taped for me of Home
    Alone I felt like he was with us as we watched the movie together and now even though It’s been 26 years since I found the movie my kids and I watch both Home
    Alone movies (but on dvd) each Christmas season.
    It reminds me of my dad and now reminds me of my oldest son who looked a lot like Macaulay Culkin. I always cry when he wishes In Home Alone 2 when he is by the tree and says if he can only have one wish he wants to see his mom again…and that is when she finds him!Merry Christmas and lots of love

    Reply
  11. Chris

    We decorate a gingerbread house every year! This is the most consistent. My oldest is 5 now, so we are going to try making snowmen out of marshmallows.

    Reply
  12. Tori

    Both my mom and grandma bought me a new ornament every year so that when I moved out on my own, I had a tree’s worth of ornaments. It’s a tradition I’m carrying on with my kids. We also drive around to see Christmas lights and I want to start the tradition this year of making something yummy for Christmas morning.

    Reply
  13. Judy

    Back in North Dakota my dad use to pull the sled behind the car with us on it. Rural areas and small towns. A person would never get away with that today would they but it is a dear memory of mine.
    A friend of mine has had a basket out since November and each day she puts a food item in it. A few days before Christmas she is going to give it to a family in need or donate it to Salvation Army or a local group that helps the hungry.
    Another idea I like that I want to do winter 2019 is knit neck scarves and tie them to utility poles with a note saying if you are cold this is for you. Made with God’s love. I saw that idea last year online.
    Yes what Christmas morning treat are you making? I’d like to know too.

    Reply
  14. Judy

    Oh I also have my mom’s turkey platter, bowl she used for the cool whip, pineapple, banana salad, her olive bowl. I use those each year as she did. I have added a few things to this holiday collection. A large platter with a partridge on it and this year I bought a bowl for serving vegetables with holly all around the outer edges for $7 at Home Goods. This is all things that will be meaningful to our 3 kids and that I will pass on to them along with my dad’s US Navy spoon that he used when he served and that I use now when I have soup which always makes me think of him. He was a good cook.

    Reply
  15. Juliana @ Urban Simplicity

    We do the ornament thing–my mom started it when we were kids. She bought an ornament each year (often trying to find something that represented us each year) wrote whose it was and dated it, and also bought one for her and my dad, so that when we left the house, each of us girls had a starter tree’s worth of ornaments for our own homes. I’ve continued that with my kids, and my mom still does it for us girls and now the grandkids too! It’s a LOT of ornaments! Ha! But I love it, and my favorite part of decorating is opening up all the ornaments and remembering why they were important or whatever.

    Reply
  16. Wendy Altman

    Joy to the world! Another lovely post and what a delight to not only be celebrating your son’s first Christmas, but in sharing, causing others to dust off their happy memories too. Our first grandchild is very nearly six months old and his mum, our daughter is a real traditionalist. Many of the things you mention are happening now at her place, as they have at ours for her whole life. My heart is so full of love! We’ve bought for them a special box, engraved on the top with ‘The Wakefield’s Christmas Eve Box’. It went under the Christmas tree last night and has in it the new PJ’s for the three of them, the book, The Night before Christmas and another board book of The Twelve Days of Christmas, plus some homemade Christmas cookies, which we Aussies call biscuits. Independent of each other, my daughter and I both bought engraved wooden tree ornaments, ours for them commemorating Benjamin’s first Christmas, and theirs for us celebrating our first as grandparents. Like mother, like daughter!
    Next year there will be two grandchildren to love, as our son and his wife are expecting in August. Not so big on traditions, our boy, but we’ll see what happens once he’s a dad!

    Reply
  17. Vivian Johnson

    After 35 years, our traditions are the most important part of Christmas; ours were adopted in a haphazardly fashion so it is great that you are consciously creating your family traditions!

    Our traditions have been listed already, except for one. For over 20 years we’ve taken a plate of homemade candies and cookies to our first responders on Christmas eve (we do this before we go and look at all the Christmas lights in town). They are always so appreciative and we get to spend a little time letting them know how much we appreciate everything they do for us throughout the year. When we started, we didn’t know that our daughter would become a police officer; now it has even more meaning as we reach out and hope that others will do the same for her department (Fairbanks PD).

    Happiest of Holidays to all

    Reply
  18. Teresa S.

    Every Christmas since I had my babies (30, 33 now) they got one present to open Christmas Eve, pajamas, a Christmas book when they were young, when they were older a novel and a Christmas ornament to hang on the tree. They dressed in jammies, we hung the ornament and read the story before bed. I bought beautiful Christmas boxes and sorted the ornaments as they came off the tree. Now that they have houses and trees of their own they have a beautiful box of memories to hang.

    Reply
  19. Amanda

    We always do cinnamon/caramel rolls for Christmas morning. Just last year I started making them completely homemade! My girls (9 and 6) love to help.
    They get pajamas Christmas Eve, and they open presents from people that live far from us that mailed them.
    I pick out an ornament for each of my girls and box them up along with a letter to share with them why I picked out the ornament. They will get to take them once they move out of the house like a lot of others have said. This year I did a Shutterfly ornament for each of them with our family picture. It’s special because our dog (who is getting older) is in it and we are in our beautiful backyard.

    Reply
  20. Elzbieta Todd

    My husband’s family does ornaments each and every year. His parents, make a hand made ornament everywhere and then they buy from this amazing sterling silver company their yearly Christmas edition ornament – depending on which collection they have started. They started doing this for my husband and his sister since they were little kids so of course, we have 2 ornaments from them since he was little. On my family’s side, we are Polish so Christmas Eve is a big deal with special soups, special sides, no red meat other than fish, an extra place sitting for anyone that may come by, the breaking of the holy bread between each other with Christmas wishes and blessings for each other.

    Reply
  21. Teresa

    We too have started family traditions with our little, she just turned 2. We did Santa both years but this year was much better. I don’t know if you have a Cabelas near where you live but I recommend them for the Santa photo (which IS totally for you and not them, Haha) The people at Cabelas did a wonderful job and she is smiling and happy in the picture as opposed to last year’s scream fest! If you don’t have a Cabelas, then find someplace that really will work with you cause I have yet to hear from a parent whose child under 3 or 4 willing sits in Santa’s lap! We also did salt dough ornaments, paper christmas tree finger painting, and pom pom snowflakes as activities. I hope to add a few from your list as she gets older. Car drives in the dark make her fall asleep yet so we will hold off on that one for a year or so. Happy Holidays!

    Reply
  22. Jillian

    We do an advent calendar, special Christmas pjs (for my son, not the whole family), read The Spirit of Christmas on Christmas Eve, and my son gets to choose his wrapping paper to leave out for Santa. The wrapping paper one seems so silly, but he loves it and it does make Christmas morning kind of magical when he sees his gifts in that special paper.

    Reply
    1. Jillian

      I’ve bought a photo ornament of our son each Christmas too. It’s fun to see them all over the tree at 4, but might be overkill by 18

      Reply
  23. Leslie

    I bought 12 Christmas story books when my oldest was just a baby (now 11) and I wrapped each and put under the tree. Each night leading up to Christmas the kids pick one to unwrap and we read together. I pack them away with all of the Christmas stuff and so each year the kids are excited to read them again. One of these years they won’t be into it but we haven’t hit that crossroad yet.
    Also angel chimes (Swedish) are special and the kids love: Angel Chimes – Original Swedish Christmas Decoration – With 4 Candles https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002U17C30/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_hnclCbEVCV1Z1

    Reply

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