We took our kids to our local Christmas tree lighting last weekend. The air was crisp and chilly (even for So Cal!), Christmas music was blasting and kids were running around drinking hot cocoa with marshmallows dripping over the sides. We were all bundled up… it felt like the season had officially kicked off. As I watched the glow from the tree light up my babies’ faces, I was transformed back to my childhood.
One of my favorite traditions growing up was going to my grandparent’s house. We would spend the day decorating the tree, blasting Christmas carols and making Christmas cookies with my Mom, Aunt and Grandma. I can still fondly remember decorating the Christmas tree with my Grandpa, with our “thumbprint” cookies baking in the oven and rosettes cookies being dipped and fried on the stove. We would also use the “spritz” to pump out cookies in the shape of trees or bells. And then there’s the homemade ice cream my Grandma made!!! Oh the ice cream… She would put rum in it and crème de menthe, which were called Green Squirrels and Pink Frogs. It was beyond delicious.
The sounds and smells and even tastes of Christmas time from my childhood are so vivid it feels like I am still there. It makes me intentional about the traditions I have started and carry on with my own family. Of course, there’s the Elf on the Shelf, baking and decorating cookies, ice skating and gathering around the tree Christmas morning with a feeling of just being together and reflecting on the past year.. and I have some other favorite traditions.
Around town, I like to take the kids to Candy Cane Lane in the valley to see Christmas lights. We pile in our car with friends and more of that delicious hot cocoa and we cruise up and down these charming old streets, ohh-ing and ahh-ing at the lights.
My friend hosts some nights of caroling and we do that with her and her kids. She plays guitar and we all sing. It’s so fun showing up and spreading Christmas cheer to loved ones and strangers alike!!! She gets bells and other instruments so the kids can contribute while she plays guitar.
I usually host some ornament painting or making at my house where my friends and their kids come over and make ornaments or other crafts for Christmas. We also have so many nights where we pile on the couch and watch some of our FAVORITE Christmas movies like ELF, HOME ALONE, RUDOLF THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, THE POLAR EXPRESS…and so many more… Ann Voskamp wrote the most beautiful devotion which you can find here. It’s a way to keep my family more centered during this crazy time.
And speaking of crazy, because so much is going on Christmas Day (with presents and family and a big meal), we make Christmas Eve mellow. We go to the early service at church, then order take out-one my faves is Thai food- and sit around the fire laughing and telling stories and watching the kids run around with giddiness. The kids each get to open 1 present on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, for dessert, we do a birthday cake for Jesus. It helps re-center ALL of us after a morning of presents and sugar. I have gotten in the habit of hosting a morning brunch (for which I prep the night before). I make my baked over-night sticky buns, a quiche, fruit salad, deviled eggs…and other easy dishes that I can prep Christmas Eve after the kids go down. Did I mention I don’t really sleep Christmas Eve because I usually wait til the last minute to wrap the gifts!
I realize as they get older, that it all really is flying by. They are only this young and precious for so long and I don’t want to miss out on any of it. My goal is to make memories with my family and create traditions that my kids will continue with their families; to tie those heart-strings I am so often talking about.
So what about you?? Any fun traditions you’d like to share? How are you making this season memorable?