“Mommy, it’s not Christmas time yet because it isn’t snowing!” How is it that my three-year-old, who lives in the South where it hardly ever snows, is already thinking that Christmas equals snow? Just because we had eight inches last year on Christmas Day doesn’t mean it will be that way this year! In fact, if Thanksgiving was any indication of our winter, we should expect sunny and warm for the entire week of Christmas!
My children are still little, so we are just beginning to make holiday traditions with them. You wouldn’t think that a three-year-old would remember last year’s Christmas events, but somehow she is gearing up to do all the same things over again! She doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but she still enjoys going and sitting on his lap “just to pretend,” she tells me. Making traditions a part of your holiday season is important for building special family memories!
I look back over my own childhood and remember attending the Christmas Eve service at our church every year, then enjoying a Christmas Eve party at our house with friends and family, and finishing up the night by driving through neighborhoods looking at houses that were lit up in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. We still continue those traditions to this day! My parents were never wealthy, but somehow they always managed to pull together an amazing Christmas for us kids! (In fact, they still manage to do that!)
So to kick off the holiday season, I thought I might throw out some suggestions for you to help you create your own family traditions with your kids. These are just a few, so feel free to add any of your own to my list! I’d love to hear your ideas!
1. Decorate your home together. As parents, it sometimes seems easier to just do all the decorating ourselves in order to get the job done faster. While this may be true, our little ones desperately want to be included in making their house festive. Even if it’s just letting Hannah hand me the ornaments out of the box, she feels like she has played a vital part in making her home look special.
2. Bake together. It is never too early for us to start teaching our children how to get around in the kitchen! Let them pour in the flour and crack the eggs while you teach them about numbers and measuring cups. Include them in the clean-up (trust me, there will be a mess!). This is a great time of year to spend in the kitchen, and there are so many great recipes to try for the holidays! Let them make snowballs or decorate cookies. We often buy a gingerbread house to put together ourselves. Share stories behind old family recipes as you pass on the recipe to them.
3. Take them shopping. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is that Christmas is a time for giving. Let them earn their own money by helping with chores around the house, and then take them shopping to buy a present for a child in a need, their neighbor, or even their own sibling.
4. Find Christmas activities in your area. Each year, we have made a point of going to one of the downtown hotels that displays Christmas trees decorated by different schools, businesses, or churches. It’s free, and our children enjoy trying to figure out the theme of each Christmas tree. We usually include a stop for some hot chocolate as well. Our local mall is also a great place to go during this time of year as several children’s activities are held, including Breakfast with Santa and a Christmas Extravaganza! Sometimes we will also take a drive through an area zoo, which is known for its Holiday Lights display. If you don’t know where to look for activities, check with your local chamber of commerce for ideas.
5. Take a road trip. One of our favorite things to do every year is to head to the Grove Park Inn, which is about an hour away from us, where they hold the Annual Gingerbread House Competition. People of all ages and regions spend weeks crafting their original gingerbread houses and then bring them to the Grove Park Inn to be put on display and judged. The houses are kept on display through Christmas, and it is so much fun to take a trip up there to shop at the Grove Park Inn. We also like to search for small towns, which host lighting shows or decorate the town in Victorian style.
6. Lend a helping hand. One of my family’s absolute favorite things to do at Christmas is to make Christmas treats for the neighbors. We wrap them carefully, load them in the kids’ Radio Flyer wagon, and walk the neighborhood a couple of days before Christmas in order to hand them out personally. We also use this as an opportunity to invite them to the annual Christmas Eve service we attend at my parents’ church. We have been able to get to know our neighbors better by doing this, and I wouldn’t trade this tradition for anything!
7. Attend a Christmas Eve service. I don’t know a single Christmas Eve when we weren’t in church, and I can’t imagine what Christmas would be like without it. This is my absolute favorite service of the year as it turns my heart to Christ and the true meaning for the season! Many churches publish their upcoming Christmas Eve service in the newspaper, so check the church calendar in your community’s paper.
8. Visit some area churches. As a freelance religion reporter, I am often “in the know” about what is going on in our local churches during the holidays. Many churches hold live nativities, present Christmas pageants, host Christmas bazaars, or carol in the community. Check out your local churches to find some free activities for the whole family to enjoy!
9. Take a drive for Christmas lights. One thing we love to do is get the kids in their pajamas and head out into the night looking for houses on display. It can get pretty interesting with some neighborhoods having decorating contests! We don’t usually even know where we’re going. We just bundle up, take some hot chocolate with us, and drive into the night.
10. Watch Christmas movies together. If you want to spend some downtime during this crazy holiday season to just enjoy your family, then watching some Christmas movies may be just the tradition you need! My husband and daughter would love to watch Christmas movies all year long, but I stand firm in my resolve that the Christmas movies must be packed away until after Thanksgiving. That way, they never tire of them, and they look forward to watching them with us each year.
These are just some of my own crazy ideas! I love this time of year, and I want to make every moment count with my children. Before long, my kids will be grown and will have families of their own, and they may not want to participate in our “old family traditions.” But I want them to always be able to look back and cherish the times they had with us.