“Tradition does not mean to look after the ash, but to keep the flame alive.” – Jean Jaures
The Christmas season is all about tradition. Doing the same special things year after year is what makes the holidays unique to us. Christmas traditions are some of my favorite memories of all time. What are your favorite holiday memories? What traditions have you kept up with over the years? Here are some of my childhood traditions.
The day after Thanksgiving
After stuffing our stomachs with turkey and celebrating our thankfulness for one another, it was tradition for my family and me to always put up our Christmas tree and decorate it the following day. The beads would be hung and the Christmas tree lights turned on. My favorite Hilary Duff Christmas CD (what 90’s girl didn’t love Lizzie McGuire?) played in the background. My parents, my sister, and I each had boxes containing our own special ornaments that people had given us since birth. Our tree would be filled with soccer balls from childhood sports days, baby’s first Christmas ornaments, school project ornaments, Disney characters, and anything that we were interested in that point in time. Looking through all of my old ornaments, reminiscing about who gave them to me, and what each one meant to me is one of my favorite moments out of the entire holiday season. While many people love matching ornaments or making their trees all one color, I have always loved how our tree was sentimental and held memories.
As soon as the first day of December came, the countdown would begin for the number of days until Santa would come. Our family had a small wooden tree with pegs and little wooden Christmas ornaments that my grandparents had made. Each day, my sister and I would take turns putting an ornament on the tree to signify one day closer to Christmas. On Christmas day, after Santa had arrived and delivered the presents, the star would be placed on the top of the tree (we always fought over who got to put the star on the tree every year). Then it would be packed away until next December to begin counting down all over again.
One weekend in December, we would go over to my maternal grandma’s house and bake Christmas cookies together. She would make the sugar cookie dough from scratch and my sister and I would take turn cutting out Christmas cookies. There were Santa Claus, reindeer, presents, stars, angels, and several other festive cookie cutter shapes to choose from. We would decorate them with colorful sprinkles and watch them rise and crisp up in the oven. In later years and after her passing, my sister has taken over the majority of the role of baking the Christmas cookies.
The Day Before Christmas Eve
The day before Christmas Eve, or as I like to call it, Christmas Eve Eve, my cousins and I would get together for a sleepover with my paternal grandma and aunt. This tradition was started by my grandma as a way to help out our parents by giving them time to get presents wrapped and ready for the next few days without the kids snooping through everything. Every year, we would go out to dinner together at Applebee’s. Some years, we went out to the movie theater if there was a movie playing that we could all agree on. Other years, we stayed in and watched a movie on the TV. Every year, we would play card games and board games together while eating M&M’s. Then as the night came to a close, we would all lay out our sleeping bags on the living floor beneath the Christmas tree and fall asleep.
The morning after the sleepover was Christmas Eve. My grandma and aunt would take my cousins and me to meet back up with our parents as the Coney Island restaurant for breakfast. We were given little gift bags, from our grandma, filled with candy and small toys while munching on tiny, silver dollar pancakes.
Later in the day, my family and I would go to church for the children’s Christmas mass. After church, we would have dinner and open gifts with my mom’s side of the family. As kids, it was always so difficult to sit through church knowing that there were gifts waiting at home to be opened afterwards.
On the night of Christmas Eve, my sister and I would set out homemade Christmas cookies and milk for Santa. Then we would get snuggled in our beds and fall asleep dreaming of all the toys that Santa would bring us the next morning.
On Christmas morning, we would wake up bright and early (or be woken up early in my teen years) and rush downstairs to see all of the presents under the tree. We would take turns opening gifts and take our time to savor the moment. Some gifts were from Santa (yes, Santa still comes to our house even as adults!) and some were from our parents. Once the gifts were opened, my sister and I would start cutting open the packages and tags to begin playing with our new toys.
Early in the afternoon on Christmas day, we would all get together with my dad’s side of the family, who lived close by, and open gifts together. After we were finished with gifts, we would have dinner and play games. As the day turned to night, it always felt bittersweet for the holiday to come to an end, knowing that we would have to wait another whole year before we could celebrate it again.
Though times have changed as I have grown up and traditions are not the same as they once were, this Christmas will be particularly different. This will be the first Christmas celebrated as husband and wife. The time has come for us to make our own holiday traditions in our own town that we will continue for many years with our future children. While the holidays were very different last year, with our engagement and move from Michigan to Tennessee, this year will bring many more changes with splitting time between two families and finding ways for the two of us to spend our holiday together as a couple.
This past weekend, my husband and I decorated our Christmas tree together. We hung ornaments together and listened to Christmas music. We also put out many other holiday decorations and our home is beginning to look festive! In the coming weeks, we have a few things already planned out for our Christmas celebrations and a few things I hope we’re able to make time for. We will be making Christmas cookies next weekend on the 9th or 10th. We plan to celebrate Christmas together as a couple on the Sunday the 17th since we will be traveling home to Michigan on the 23rd. We will be opening gifts and enjoying time with one another. On the 22nd we will be having a Christmas gathering with one of our closest couple friends to celebrate the holiday together. As mentioned above, we will be leaving for Michigan the morning of the 23rd through the 27th. Both of our families live in Michigan and we will be splitting time between them to celebrate with both.
A few local ideas I hope we’re able to make a tradition, or at least in future years, include; Christmas at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, Dollywood’s Smokey Mountain Christmas in Pigeon Forge, TN, and Holidays on Ice in downtown Knoxville, TN.
I’m hopeful that this year will feel more festive and like Christmas than last year did. I am looking forward to finding new ways to celebrate and making the holiday feel special again. While traditions change over time, new traditions might be even better than the previous ones! (Who knows?)
How to Make New Traditions
Compromise: When you’re set in your ways and he/she is set in their ways, it can be difficult to change anything. Making new traditions can be hard for many people because they’re leaving behind certain aspects that made the holidays feel special for them. Be willing to let go of some things, as you can’t have it all, and make time for the things your spouse/partner wants to do.
Mix old traditions together: Try making a separate list of the top 5 things that each of you believe make the holidays special. See how you can fuse them together and incorporate everything you both want to do this season.
Make completely new traditions: If the two of you can’t agree, make completely new traditions all together. Do something that neither of you have ever done before and make it “your” thing as a couple.
10 New Christmas Tradition Ideas
- Go ice skating together
- Bake Christmas cookies together
- Decorate the tree and your home together
- Make a playlist with each of your favorite Christmas song
- Pick our your favorite Christmas movies to watch together
- Make a special Christmas morning breakfast
- Find Christmas events and festivals to attend that are happening in your area
- Pick out a real Christmas tree together
- Find a local Christmas musical or performance to attend
- Take a drive and look at all of the Christmas lights
Leave me a comment below about your favorite holiday traditions that are unique and special to you!
Until next time.