I still don't even feel old enough to have traditions that are my very own! Nonetheless, after 14 years of marriage and nearly 11 years of parenting, they have snuck in without me even noticing. I'm so very fond of them! Here are a few of my very favorite Christmas traditions:
* 'Twas the Night Before Christmas:
Actually, for us, it usually falls on the eve of Christmas Eve and it began long before we had children. Craig and I began sleeping underneath the Christmas tree, snuggled up beneath warm sleeping bags, truly the coziest place in the house. As children came along, we nestled them down with us. As MORE children came along, they squeezed us out of our original spots and claimed the place underneath the evergreen as their own.....We now fall asleep near them, cherishing the soft glow of the Christmas lights on their cherub-like faces. This remains one of my very favorite of all traditions. Someday when we live in a bigger house, or we have less children in our home, Craig and I will return to our original places underneath the tree. But for now, its one of the most precious sights I see all year long, my children lined up in a row, nestled down in their sleeping bags beneath the Christmas tree. You really ought to try it sometime! That place beneath the tree....its nearly magical.* Our Christmas Books:
I'm not even sure how this tradition began but over the years, we have collected a handful of children's books related to Christmas in some fashion. I keep these books in a basket and they ONLY come out at Christmas time. The children have so much fun looking at and reading these books. Often, they have forgotten about them and so its like opening up a new gift each year. We've got "Hannah and the Manger" (one of Hannah's personal favorites), Eloise Wilkins' "The Christmas Story", Jan Brett's "Gingerbread Friends", Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman's "Mortimer's Christmas Manger" and another by the same authors, "Bear Stays Up for Christmas", Susan Wojciechowski's "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey", and even an I Spy Christmas. Some of them have been given as gifts, some of them were scores at the local Goodwill and some of them just seemed to appear. I have tried hard to weed out 'silly' books and keep my stash limited to books that really pertain to the birth of Jesus (though I must admit that "Spot's First Christmas", a book given to Kaleb when he was 2 years old, has kept its spot in the Christmas book basket if for no other reason than sentimentality). I enjoy this tradition along with the children, their little (and not so little, these days) bodies snuggled up next to me, reading the stories they've heard for years now and cracking open a new one here and there that has earned its place in the beloved basket.
*The Christmas Parade:
Complete with hot chocolate and a yummy snack of some sort, bundled up almost to the point of uncomfortable, I line them up on a curb downtown and we watch the Christmas Parade go by. Always at night, the lights and the music are spectacular and we do our best to stay until either gloved hands are finally frozen or Santa wraps it up with a mighty "Ho, ho, ho" that echos against the dark, winter sky. The children look forward to this every year, and I will readily admit that I DON'T because almost every year Craig has to work that evening and its a lot of hard work to get the gang bundled, loaded, unloaded, shuffled, nourished, safe, loaded, unloaded, and unbundled all by myself but I do it, nonetheless, because who could say no to these beautiful faces?!?! (Sadly, for them anyway, we had to miss it this year because Noah had a whopping headache and you just can't do something like the Christmas Parade when you're down a player.)
* O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree:
One last tradition, and truly one of my very favorites, and then its your turn. Our parents have continued a tradition that they both started with us when we were children. Each year, they give each of us a Christmas ornament often pertaining to something eventful that happened within that particular year. When one of them learned to ride a bike, they received a bike ornament. When one of them took ballet, played soccer, showed a chicken in the county fair, etc, they received a coordinating ornament. One year, Sarah got a goose because one of her nicknames is Goose. The year our first daughter was born, Craig got a cigar with pink details on it. When I was the mother of just two small male children I received an ornament that said, "Mothers of boys work from son up 'til son down!". Opening up the ornament bin and placing them on our tree is truly like reading the pages of a family journal. Memories come flooding in, not only for me, but now also for the children. The little girls wonder where 'this one came from' and the big boys smile with delight, "Oh I remember THIS one!" It is my hope that these historical accounts in the shapes of motorcycles and little rubber boots and turtles and ballerinas will be passed down, along with their stories, to generations to come.
So there are just a few of my favorite Christmas traditions. I'd love to hear some of yours! I really would! Either share a few of them with me in the comments or better yet, use this as fodder for your own blog post and leave me a note telling me that you've blogged about them and I'll go read it! Its always fun to hear other families' traditions and it'll warm your heart to ponder on them for a few minutes!