With the end of the year and the holiday season creeping up on us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the cheesy songs, over the top decorations and commercialism. Sometimes it feels like this time of year is more hype than holiday.
With the shops putting out the Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year and the sales and commercials all telling us to ’buy, buy, buy’, it seems Christmas is all about rushing around, spending big bucks and getting lots of stuff. This isn’t the message I want to send to my kids. For a while now I have struggled to find a way to make the holidays both magical and meaningful for my family, reflecting what we believe is important.
For us, the holidays are about spending time with family and celebrating the end of the school year. To make this a special time of year we have been working on creating some of our own holiday traditions and when it comes to creating our own traditions we have focused on the follow five areas; family, decorations, food, community and giving.
Christmas is all about spending time with family, but for us, that usually means lots of driving and time spent away from home. Among all the rushing around we felt it was important to have time just for our family, so we started a tradition of a big Christmas breakfast feast, just us and a big pile of pancakes!
Each year we give a ‘family gift’ – something that we can all do together. Perhaps a big jigsaw puzzle, or a lego set that we can all build.
I love Design Mom’s tradition of making sibling gifts. When all our kids are a little older I think this will become one of our traditions too!
This year our decorations will be a little sparse… With a climbing destructo toddler in the house we are limited to bullet-proof items, but we will still put up the Christmas tree on the first weekend in December (even if it has to be outside to keep it in one piece!). Each of our children have a special decoration that they were given on their first Christmas that they hang on the tree, and each year we add more and more child-made decorations too.
We love the countdown tradition of advent calendars. We have had an advent calendar each year since our girls were old enough to count. It’s a lovely tradition that builds the excitement slowly, and hopefully puts and end to the interminable ‘how many more sleeps?’ question.
Food is always an important part of our celebrations and we all enjoy deciding what will be on our holiday menu. When it comes to ‘traditional foods’ that let us know that it is Christmas, for us it is cherries. Cherries come into season just before Christmas here and a big bowl of fresh local cherries always makes my kid’s eyes light up, not to mention the traditional cherry pip sitting competitions!
My kids love to cook, so we always try to spend some time cooking treats to give as gifts. Homemade cookies or fudge is always on our list. And don’t forget to make a treat for Santa and his reindeer if they visit your house!
While Christmas means family time for us, it is also a wonderful time to get involved in the local community. There are so many events happening, it is easy to pick one or two things to attend. We try to take our big kids to see the Nutcracker Ballet each year, and Santa drives around our little town in the fire truck on Christmas Eve so we make sure we are out to wave to him as he goes by!
This time of year is also a good time to learn about differences in celebrations. We have a tradition of borrowing books from the library and my kids love reading about how Christmas is celebrated in other countries, as well as reading about Hanukkah and other celebrations from around the world.
While the holidays often seem all about gifts, we want our children to discover the joy of giving as well as receiving. At this time of year it is easy to find many ways to give to charities or community groups in a way that is meaningful for children. We put gifts under one of the ‘wishing trees’ that are in many shops and make small gifts to thank those people who have helped us during the year.
In an attempt to not find ourselves drowning in gifts on Christmas morning we usually work with the ‘something to read or something to watch, something to wear and something to play with’ rule that I first read about on Design Mom. Simple Mom also has some great tips about planning your gift giving.
For us, the key to making the holidays meaningful has been to decide what is important to our family, and, over the years to create and continue traditions that resonate with us. Traditions that are fun, exciting and relevant for us. Traditions we hope our children will remember for years to come. I hope this will mean our children grow up with fabulous, magical memories of Christmas as a celebration.
Family, decorations, food, community, giving – which are important to your family at Christmas?