Let's talk about holiday traditions...
Posted on November 23 2019
Last week on the blog we talked about my obsession with the Elf on the Shelf tradition. It got me thinking about traditions in general and how instrumental they are in creating lasting memories with the people we love. Plenty of my most cherished memories revolve around things that we do on a recurring basis: trips to the beach for the 4th of July, holiday parties with family, the Elf on the Shelf, summer sleepovers with cousins we don't live close to, I could really go on and on.
While some of my traditions have been passed down from generations, some of them were ideas that I implemented when I became a mother five years ago (wait, FIVE years?!). This week I'm going to go through my top holiday traditions and why they are so near and dear to my heart.
1) Yearly Christmas Ornaments
This tradition was started by the only person on the planet who is more extra than I am: my mother, Joanne. Every year on Christmas eve, my brother and I were given a new ornament to hang on the Christmas tree. Hallmark always seemed to have the perfect ornament to match our personalities or interests that year. As we grew older, opening our box of Christmas ornaments was a trip down memory lane, reminding us of years gone by with the people we love.
When my brother and I eventually married and bought our own homes, we were given our box of ornaments to start our own Christmas trees. We have carried on the tradition with our own children and it is so amazing to see my old ornaments next to the ones that my husband and I have chosen for our children. They also enjoy looking back at all of mom's old ornaments.
Here are some of my ornaments from when I was a little girl.
This is Bryn's first ornament from 2015. It is a full fifteen second experience complete with reindeer on the roof, Santa coming down the chimney to put presents under the tree and children trying to get a peek all while "Up on the Rooftop" plays in the background.
This is Cam's first from 2017. The sounds of clatter from a horse drawn sleigh and Santa's ho ho ho's made this spinning ornament an easy choice.
In a day where Pinterest perfect Christmas trees run rampant, this tree is anything but that. In fact, it is quite an eye sore and somewhat of a sensory overload. But every time I look at this tree, I'm flooded with years of memories and nostalgia and to be honest.... Pinterest ain't got NOTHING on that!
2) Grandkids Calendar
As my first Christmas as a mother approached in 2015, I was searching for a way to make my children's grandparents feel special around the holidays. There is no love like that between a grandparent and their grandchild. Often times, the focus is always on making sure the children have a magical Christmas, forgetting about those who started it all!
I wanted something sentimental, something they would cherish forever, and something that could easily become a tradition. It's so easy (and tempting) to just open our Amazon apps and find a picture frame or a new robe to be delivered to our doorstep in two days but none of that felt right, or memorable!
I had the idea to start a grandkids calendar. Admittedly, this is a bit of a chore as I don't just put my own children in the calendar, but ALL grandchildren from each side of the family. I spend time collecting photographs from my bother and my sisters in law and I run point on this timely tradition.
I use Shutterfly and make a 12x12 wall calendar. I organize the photos by the month they were taken and arrange them that way in the calendar. Essentially, every time they flip the page to a new month, they see what all of their grandchildren looked like exactly a year ago. It is so incredible for a grandparent to see how much their littlest loves have changed in just 12 months.
This tradition is an absolute hit with both my parents and my husband's parents. Both sets of grandparents save these calendars and they are essentially photobooks that they can keep forever. My mother won't even write on hers, she just proudly displays it in her kitchen as does my mother in law. Funny story about my mother in law Kim, for the past five years I've successfully made her cry with this calendar tradition... haven't missed a year of tears yet!
I had my father in law take a video of their current calendar to show you all. In true Pop-Pop fashion, it came through sideways and I couldn't get it to upload anyway but here are some screenshots so you all get the point. (Hi Pop Pop!)
3) Christmas Eve Tablescape
When I was growing up, we always had Christmas Eve dinner at the home of my great Aunt Rita. She was meticulous about the way she did things and often drove everyone around her crazy with her need for absolute and total perfection. The table had to be set in such a way and only the finest china was used. I still remember those Christmas Eve dinners, with tables spanning across her dining room and all the way into her sitting room to accommodate our large family.
When she passed, her china was packed away and stored for when I was old enough to inherit it. When I was engaged to be married I had no desire to register or get newer, more modern china because I knew that once I was married I would be receiving her set. That china is so special to me. I make an event of setting my table on December 23rd every year and her china is always the focal point. It is so beautiful that all these years later we are keeping her legacy and traditions alive by using her china at our important meals. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've read that traditions aren't meant to add to your busy schedule but to fill your time intentionally. That statement could not be truer. Does everything I talked about above take a decent amount of time and effort? Yes. But these traditions result in memories that will last myself and my entire family a lifetime and I'm happy to invest the time necessary to keep them alive for years to come.
What holiday traditions are near and dear to your heart?