Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday traditions

This post reminded me that I wanted to write about making some holiday traditions for our new little family. When I was growing up, we spent just about every holiday with my maternal grandparents. My grandma would slave away making the meal while my mom and aunts would make the desserts for Thanksgiving. If my uncles and aunts didn't make it for the 2 p.m. meal, they showed up at 4 p.m. for leftovers. I always would help with the dishes (it seems to take us hours to do) and of course, take a nap while the uncles, cousins and my brothers watched football. This was always a time to see the out of town cousins and play "school" with my in town ones as well.

Christmas Eve our immediate family would go to mass. This day is also my younger brother's birthday (he'll he 31 this year). After mass, our family would open gifts (youngest to oldest, one gift at the time) and then load up and head to my maternal grandparents house. This would be a late night. Sometimes we wouldn't get home until after midnight. Santa always delivered our gifts early because in the morning my dad would pick us up (if you didn't know my parents divorced when I was 5) and we'd spend the day with him.

Since moving to Bend, I'm sorry to say don't really have a tradition. Most of the time, if we are in Bend on Thanksgiving we are lucky enough to be invited somewhere. I still make a small turkey breast on Friday with the fixings (so I guess these is some sort of tradition in place). Christmas has been all over the place. One year we went skiing. Last year, we went to Seventh Mnt Resort with friends. Brian and I started a tradition that we'd buy each other an ornament each year to symbolize the year and I also buy a bottle of wine to open in 10 years.

Sometimes I really miss being around my family. I told Brian that sometimes, I think that maybe it would be great for Ben to grow up near a larger group of family members. They still gather at my grandma's house on Thanksgiving though she doesn't make the meal anymore -- my aunts decided to go to a buffet last year. My grandma made a small dinner for those who wanted to gather later. They still have Christmas at her house.

Today I bought stocking to put names on and hang over the fireplace. I plan on putting little things in them this year. We usually go and cut our tree but I'm thinking of scraping that until Ben gets old and mainly because I want a smaller, more lush tree this year. We plan on buying each other and Ben an ornament. But what else? Make cookies? Go snowshoeing on Christmas? I need ideas. What do you do with your family?


Jen F said...

We always enjoy that trek out to the snow to get a tree. It's a fun day and the kids have a blast.

Decorating cookies is fun too. Even if you just get the pillsbury sugar cookie dough and roll it out, you can still let Lil B finger paint some cookies in his high chair or something.

And of course we try to make sure to get some kind of family photo every year. I try to get the kids to pose with their stockings so that we can see how much they have grown and changed over the years.

He's a little young but an advent calendar is a fun way to count down how many days till the holiday. I have one that we can reuse every year, instead of the paper type. The kids look forward to getting it out every year.

Nothing has to be extravagant. Little things can make Christmas feel magical for kids... and grownups too!

Alissa Maxwell said...

We're still figuring out our traditions, too. It's funny" during advent at church, we have one family stand up each week and tell about their traditions and then light the candle. Everyone always says, "but we don't really have any." Then you start thinking and realize that the day to day things you take for granted (like how you decorate the tree, or sipping hot cocoa while opening presents) have become traditions.

mizinformation said...

I <3 holiday traditions!

We don't have anything too unusual--most are similar to yours and/or Jen's. My mom usually got us each a new ornament and many years we got our own little trees in our bedrooms to hang them on. We generally did advent calendars too, and one I remember from when I was probably 4 didn't even involve candy--we just added a loop of ribbon (the kind that sticks with water, do they still make that?) to a paper chain each day and then put them on the tree on Christmas eve.

We also made calzones for Xmas eve dinner. That has mostly been replaced by the tradition in Jeff's family of getting Chinese takeout though. Jeff and his brother also had their photo taken with Santa every year from his (older) brother's first Xmas until his 18th and they put them on the mantle every year. Super fun to look back over them the first year we were dating! Also, his brother & wife are expecting their first baby any day now, and he's already planning to get his/her photo taken with Santa.

In my family we always had (still have usually) fun stockings that were fair game whenever you woke up on Xmas morning, always with an orange in the toe and those chocolate coins and generally thank you notes too along with the legos, nail polish, etc.. Presents come when everyone is awake and has coffee (though a few times we went skiing so we opened them on Xmas eve.)

When I was much younger (maybe 5-10) and we still went to church we used to go caroling and I totally loved it.

There are the movies we always have to watch too...National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story are required, and sometimes Charlie Brown Christmas, The Simpsons Christmas Specials, etc..

It's true, it really doesn't have to be extravagant, and I also think it's important to remember you can skip something some year or even stop doing it all together if it starts to be stressful or not fun.

Keeneye said...

The stocking was my favorite part of Christmas...

It always had the homemade gifts, the small things, the candies that I wanted as a child.

Your first Christmas with Ben -- how awesome to finally have this holiday with your son. That is the biggest gift you and big B can have.


Debbie Gallis said...

The kids and I bake cookies on Christmas Eve for Santa then before they go to bed, they get to sprinkle oats with glitter in it to help Santa's raindeer find the house.

On Christmas morning we dig into the stockings before we do anything else.

Jason and I talked about it, we want to make sure we are at our house on Christmas so we can make it special for the kids. Also they each get three gifts from us b/c Jesus received three gifts. They still get gifts from each other and Santa and Grandma and Grandpa and friends, etc.

I've been thinking we need to do more charity around this time so they understand giving more. I had a friend in Texas who went through her girls toys with her girls and they helped pick out several to give to the women's shelter.

Alissa Maxwell said...

I love the idea of giving thank you notes in the stockings!

Little Things said...

We have a few Christmas traditions - we read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, then each of us opens a present before putting milk & cookies (and carrots for the reindeer) out. Christmas morning we always have cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and we take turns going through our Christmas stockings. SMART IDEA: Santa doesn't wrap gifts. Ever. This makes life so much easier. :)

Thanksgiving for us is all about the food. We have to have turkey, hominy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (casserole, candied, mashed, whatever), dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and pumpkin pie.

I do miss having family nearby - when we lived in Maryland, there were rarely fewer than 20 people around for holiday dinners. Now it's the 4 of us. But it's kind of nice to not be tied to other people's plans for a change.

Wendy said...

We always get new Christmas pajamas. We leave cookies and a Coke for Santa (that started one year when we ran out of milk). Santa does not come to a messy house, so we all spend a few minutes straightening up before bed. Santa presents are wrapped, but the kids can get into their stockings long before they wake me up.

One thing the kids loved when they were younger was sprinkling magic reindeer feed in the yard - dried oats mixed with a bit of glitter.

I like to add in a bit of torture too. Every year I force the kids to sit through "White Christmas" and listen to me sing along to all the songs.