Did you ever wish you could peek inside other homes around Christmas to see how they celebrate? Or is that just me?
Each family celebrates this joyous holiday in their own way, and I would like to share with you some of our family Christmas traditions.
Christmas Crafts: Oh how I love all of the Christmas craft projects the kids and I do over the holiday’s. Here are a few of our favorites over the years:
Decorating:Each year we begin decorating for Christmas after Thanksgiving. I don’t like to overlap holidays, I prefer to slow things down, and celebrate each separately. We don’t decorate our entire house inside and out, instead we have key spots that we concentrate on such as the dining room, the mantel, our front yard, and I change over the kids artwork wall to holiday art; these are the high traffic and most used rooms especially when we have guests over. I like to mix things up each year with our decorating by using a lot of DIY, and everyday household items.
The photo above gives you a sneak peek of our mantel this year. As you can see there is a DIY Christmas tree (styrofoam cone wrapped in yarn), glass vases and candle sticks, and hanging from the ceiling are assorted pom poms, felt snowflakes and hanging paper ornaments from previous parties. I also used a $5 tray that I found at a thrift shop to display some of our ornaments.
Holiday Celebrations Outside the Home: We like to celebrate the entire month of December. I spend time each week going through local papers and websites looking for fun holiday activities to take the kids to, whether they be free concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, or putting our memberships to local theme parks to good use. I like to bring as many new experiences into our children’s lives as I can such as ice-skating, building snowmen, and picking out a Christmas tree. Thankfully whether we travel to visit family over Christmas or are at home we are always in large towns where there are plenty of new activities to participate in.
Santa and Santa Gifts: When I was growing up we would leave a pillow case on the end of our bed for Santa to fill with toys on Christmas Eve. I wanted to bring a similar tradition into our home with our own children but decided to add to this a little.
Each year the kids write a letter to Santa with items that they would like. We limit the number of items they can write by giving them a letter to Santa template, this way they have to put a lot of thought into what they want because they are limited to a certain number of lines.
The kids each have their own small table-top Christmas tree in their bedroom decorated with ornaments that they love. We hang a special key on our front door on Christmas Eve so Santa can come in, and we leave milk and cookies out for him to enjoy (the milk always contains a splash of Bailey’s). Santa leaves a toy in a ‘Santa’ bag (it’s a bag with a picture of Santa on it) underneath the tree in their bedroom so it’s the first thing they see when they wake up on Christmas morning. Having a toy right there also gives us a few extra minutes to sleep in.
Kris Kringle and Christmas Gifts: We don’t like to go overboard with gifts, we prefer our kids to have experiences rather than things. Each year we ask the grandparents to pitch in to purchase year-round memberships to a theme park or zoo for the kids instead of giving them more toys. Doesn’t this look so much more fun than a toy that they will play with for an hour? This was taken at Legoland last year, the kids have thoroughly enjoyed their membership and we plan on having the grandparents renew it again this Christmas.
On my side of the family we only buy gifts for children, which is pretty hand when you only have 2 nephews. For the adults we hold a Kris Kringle. Names are drawn from a hat and dollar amounts for gifts are set. That way nobody is left out and everyone receives a little something special to open on Christmas morning.
Holiday Donations: Christmas is not just a time for receiving, it’s also a time for giving. Each year I take the kids to donate toys and food at various drop-off locations around our area and explain to them why we are doing this. We also clean out their wardrobes and play room and pack up bags of toys and clothes to be donated either to local play centers or thrift shops.
Holiday Lights: We absolutely love holiday lights. We drive around our neighborhood so the kids can see all of the decorated houses lit up at night; they like to count how many decorated houses they see, it’s become quite the annual competition because you are only allowed to look out your side of the car. Then we always take a drive or walk through a local holiday lights display. I have to admit to this being one of my favorite activities. There’s something about sipping hot chocolate in the car and looking at all of the twinkling lights that makes me smile.
Gingerbread Houses: Have you decorated a gingerbread house, gingerbread men, or a train with your kids? Each year we choose something new to decorate. The kids love this fun, messy activity.
Christmas Eve Traditions: I was born and raised in Australia and so with the time difference it is already Christmas Day back ‘home’. On the years we don’t fly to Australia to celebrate a summer Christmas (which really isn’t that different to a San Diego Christmas), we set up a Skype call with all of our family and my kids open their gifts from nephews and small gifts of clothes from their grandparents while they are on the call. We then have a special Christmas Eve dinner and bake cookies for Santa.
Christmas Day Traditions: Whether we are at home on Christmas Day or traveling to spend the day with family we have a fairly set routine on Christmas Day (although when we are with family we don’t spend all day in our pajamas).
The kids wake us up on Christmas morning after they have opened their Santa gift and we head downstairs. I make croissants for breakfast with ham and cheese and fresh orange juice (mimosa’s for my husband and I) and we enjoy breakfast while we watch the kids open up the gifts under the tree. The remainder of our day is spent watching movies, playing board games and eating. We do a big cheese and fruit platter for lunch, and then indulge in our traditional turkey dinner in the evening.
What are some of your Christmas traditions?