Growing up we had some family traditions and I always appreciated them but at times they seemed boring and I just didn't care (typical teenager, right? ;)). Some we didn't even do every year, others were changed or tweeked over time. I always loved them, but after having a family of my own, traditions became more important than ever. Norah is still pretty young to understand but we can still have fun preparing and getting ready.
Here are some of the Christmas traditions we've started:
-We, plus my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew, went to Historic Smithville (NJ) to see the lights show. We've all decided that instead of getting presents for all the cousins we would take them all out together to do something fun. This year they are still very small so we chose to do something easy. In the coming years we hope to try Storybook Land, Sesame Place, Rockefeller Center and even Hershey Park!
-Norah's Elf on the Shelf was "delivered" on December 1st. I don't like the whole "Elf-is-watching-you-and-reporting-back-to-Santa-so-you'd-better-be-good" bit AT ALL so our Elf is just a funny and playful little dude who gets himself into silly situations. It's mostly just fun for Norah to find him in a different place each morning. As she gets older I have a few ideas on how I will use the elf to teach her about giving and grace.
-On December 1st we also started our "advent" calendar, which is just an idea I stole off Pinterest. It's just 25 books wrapped up and labeled with a number. Every day (or we do at night before bed) we open up a book and read it together as a family.
-We bought Norah a dinky $5 (literally) Christmas tree from Home Depot for her to keep in her room. I wrapped a small strand of lights and we gave her some felt and plastic ornaments to hang. She LOVES this one! All day long she'll play with the "orn-mens" and ask me to turn on the lights :)
-I hand-make an ornament for each sub-family in our big giant family on my husband's side. I plan on including Norah with me this year, and each family will now be receiving two ornaments: one from me and one from her.
-We are sticking to this rule when gift giving to our kid(s): 3 gifts were given to Jesus so 3 gifts will be given to them. I don't include stocking-stuffers in the 3 since they are so little anyway - coloring books, crayons, a piece of candy, etc. $10 max. Christmas has turned into a giant shopping event and a battle to see who could spend the most money. We would like to keep the focus on the 'reason for the season' so to say and not on who gets the most stuff. We are going to keep Santa in the picture for now but that is for another post on another day.
-DORKY CHRISTMAS CARD PICTURE. enough said.
-Cinnamon buns on Christmas morning. This is a tradition that Mark grew up with so when we got married I promised that I'd continue it for him.
-Baking lots of goodies and giving them all away to neighbors, co-workers, mailmen, librarians, etc.
And some that I hope to start in the future:
-I would love love love to have a "handmade" Christmas. Pretty self-explanatory, but instead of buying gifts, you make everything for everyone! Of course buying supplies would be ok. Handmade presents are just so special and make me happier than anything store-bought.
-Hosting Christmas Eve/Christmas Day dinner has always been something I've looked forward to. ONE DAY! We just need our own house ;)
-Cutting down our own tree. Again, something we need our own place for.
-Awhile back I read somewhere that a family had a "Christmas Quilt." Basically a family member (maybe the mother or grandmother, I don't remember) would knit or crochet a granny square each Christmas. After a certain number of years, the squares were all stitched together to form a Christmas quilt. I thought this was very sweet, and could make a wonderful wedding gift, or a Christmas gift for newlyweds. I like to think that Norah would love to receive a quilt like that in 20 years or so (OR MORE! maybe 30 years! 40!). Since I completely forget how to knit AND crochet I would have to re-learn, but this seems pretty do-able even for me! If we ever have more kids I would just make that many squares per Christmas for multiple quilts.
-Volunteering on Christmas Day. I would love to wake up in the morning, have our own little Christmas celebration, and then go out and do something for someone else. It seems so much more beautiful to give ourselves on that day than to sit back and receive gifts and stuff our faces. There really isn't a reason why this one has to wait, it's just not one we've ever done before. More so, I would love to invite someone or even a whole family who is in need to our table on Christmas Day.
-Another idea on giving back/volunteering: I read that a family had a paper chain hung in their house with 25 links. Each link had a "deed of the day" written on it. The deeds were "easy" towards the beginning of the month (i.e. be nice to my sister today) and got more self-sacrificial towards Christmas Day (i.e. donate $, volunteer time, etc.). This would be a great way to involve Norah in teaching her about giving to others. After all, we are celebrating the day that God gave us the greatest gift we could ever know, the gift of a Savior.
So, do you have any special family traditions? I would love to hear them!