3 Holiday Traditions We’re Creating For Our Family

Like many people, I find myself drunk on nostalgia this time of year. With the dipping temperatures, the crunchy leaves on the ground, and twinkling lights adorning buildings around, I can’t help but time travel back to the days when I was a little girl getting ready for the holidays.

My mother was a single mom so, to be honest, she didn’t exactly have the required energy to decorate our whole house or bake cookies for the entire neighborhood or, except for one year when she strung a single strand across our front door, hang Christmas lights around our house. It was all she could do to get all the presents my brother and I asked for and get the tree up. But we did have a few traditions that I find myself pining for these days. And ones that I will forever cherish.

As a little girl during the holiday season we always spent the weeks leading up to Christmas stalking all the Christmas light displays in our town, we would bake a couple batches of cookies for ourselves (even though we mostly just ate the dough), my mom would put out a few loyal decorative pieces in our home (most notably a clear glass Christmas tree that would spin around on a metal platform and change colors and a Christmas merry-go-round horse that was so old that it didn’t stand straight up anymore), and we would go to church as a family where I would fall asleep in the pews (which would be the only shut-eye I’d get the entire night).

Oh – and my mom would buy eggnog and insist I try it every year and every year it was still totally gross.

Now that I’m married with two kids, my husband Dan and I get to create our own family’s traditions, and it feels like such a privilege. I know that each and every Christmas of my children’s lives once they’ve grown and left us, they’ll remember the life we created for them and I hope it feels as magical to them as it does to us.

Granted, we’ve only been parents for four and a half years, so we’re still working things out, but as it stands, here are our current traditions.

  1. We go to, and usually participate in, church on Christmas Eve as a family.

    Whether I’m playing in the band while my family looks on, or we’re lighting the Advent wreath together, or just sitting (squirming, more accurately) in church together, this tradition is so special to me. I love that we get to worship alongside each other in this way, and I love looking at my sleepy little ones with a fresh perspective; was it so long ago that I was the one squirming and snoozing in the pews? Good grief, time flies.

  2. We have waffles on Christmas morning.

    When Dan and I got married, we felt the need to register for a waffle iron. Why? We NEVER made waffles. Ever. Nor did we ever say to ourselves, “You know what our kitchen needs? A waffle iron!” But, alas, we registered for it. And by golly someone bought it for us. After we opened our presents our very first Christmas together, we pondered what we’d have for breakfast. One of us gestured to the unopened waffle iron and shrugged. We made waffles. They weren’t spectacular, but they were waffles. The waffle iron went unused another 364 days until the following Christmas when essentially the same scenario played out. Thus, our tradition was born. (Real talk: the first Christmas that our oldest son was big enough to eat Christmas waffles I legitimately cried. I had no idea this tradition was so special to me until that very moment.)

  3. Christmas is a competition.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking – “That’s not what Christmas is all about! How could you?” But before you go and drag me through the mud in the comments section, let me explain. In order to “win Christmas” in our house, you have to GIVE the best gift, not RECEIVE the best gift. This means that whomever gives the gift that is the most thoughtful, the most sincere, the most creative, etc. is the winner of Christmas. Please note that this does not mean the winner will spend the most money. One year I was sure I’d win Christmas by getting Dan a $200 guitar only to be thwarted by him self-publishing a book I’d written and finding our lost wedding DVD. He spent a whopping $11.

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year, and I’m so grateful that I get to craft it in such a way that makes it unique to my husband and my boys. When I think about my children growing up, getting married, and starting their own holiday traditions, I hope and pray that they can find little pieces of their upbringing to sprinkle about their new families, one sleepy kid or mug of gross eggnog at a time.