Isn’t it fun being the parent?
I mean, not every moment (I would happily hand over the potty-training reins to someone else), but the holidays are a FUN time to be the mom.
I grew up in a home with lots of fun holiday traditions and we’ve carried many of them over to our little family.
Here are five that we’ve kept:
5 Christmas Traditions We’ve Kept
- A Christmas Eve movie. I swear, Christmas Eve is the LONGEST day when you’re a child and so when I was maybe 7 or 8, we started going to a movie in the theater every Christmas Eve. It felt like such a fun excursion and helped break up the day. I remember seeing Miracle on 34th Street the most, but we saw lots of fun Christmas (or not Christmas) films over the years. Bart loves loves loves going to see movies in the theater, so he wasn’t a hard sell on this tradition. This year, we’re going to see Frozen II on Christmas Eve.
- Christmas Eve shepherd’s meal. This is my very favorite Christmas tradition – we eat dinner on the floor on Christmas Eve by candlelight/Christmas tree light and at the end recite the Christmas story from Luke (we each have assigned parts that we have memorized). My family usually did soup and bread bowls, but we’ve gone to more of a snack dinner with the kinds of foods shepherds might have eaten if they’d had access to Trader Joe’s (crackers and cheese, dried fruits and nuts, sparkling cider, butternut squash soup, etc).
- Opening gifts one at a time. There was no tearing the wrapping paper off frenzy on Christmas morning. We started with my dad and went in age order with each person choosing a gift under the tree for someone else and then everyone watching as that person opened the gift.
- Sleeping under the Christmas tree. This will actually be the first year we’ve done this for our girls, but they are beside themselves excited. It was one of my favorite, most magical nights of each year when I was young, and we’ll probably let the three big girls sleep under the tree on the 23rd. After my youngest sister, Landen, got married, she convinced her husband that they should sleep under the tree at my parents’ house. My dad asked the next morning how it was and Adam, eyeing the wood floors, said, “That was one of the worst nights sleep I’ve ever had.” It’s definitely better when you’re a small child.
One tradition we haven’t kept? My family never eats breakfast until everything is opened and because of the afore-mentioned one gift at a time thing, it usually meant we didn’t eat until nearly lunch time and we just ate chocolate out of our stockings and basically felt ill.
Bart’s family eats breakfast BEFORE they open anything (and everyone is usually showered and fully dressed!) but I can’t wait that long, so we’ve compromised by doing stockings and a few rounds of gifts, then breaking for breakfast (this is our traditional Christmas breakfast), and then returning to gifts.
What Christmas traditions have you kept from your family? I love hearing about the different ways families celebrate the holidays!
SWEATER • JEANS
VELVET FLATS (via thredUP; similar here and here)
Photos by Christie Knight Photography
In theory I like the idea of seeing a movie on Christmas Day but I don’t like the idea of making someone else work and be away from their family.
Janssen Bradshaw says
It’s a good point – maybe we’ll wait until the day after Christmas.
We also go on Christmas Eve, which I think is what you said. I agree about going on Christmas day, I always feel bad.
Kate @ Mom's Radius says
We also only open one gift at a time. I thought everyone did that. Haha.
Another thing from my childhood – Santa always brings smaller presents (we actually got one big Santa gift when we were little) but everything else is from us. Santa presents are unwrapped, while presents from us are wrapped.
And my son can look at his stocking without us (although he never has yet), but then we usually eat a quick breakfast before opening our gifts to each other. When I was little we always had to wait for my dad to get his food, and it took forever! It was torture.
I also buy one ornament each Christmas for my son, which is something I wish my parents had done. I also do it for my niece and nephews.
This is a bit of a sore point for me because my family basically has 0 traditions, except for Christmas. It really is the only thing where we had traditions, whereas Eric’s family has lots of traditions year-round. My family always did a big celebration on Christmas Eve and opened most of our presents on Christmas Eve after a big Tex-Mex meal. I would love to re-institute the Tex-Mex meal, but it doesn’t make sense for us to ditch the rest of his family to do our own thing. So, basically I just rely on creating our own Christmas traditions that are unique to our family unit and don’t necessarily involve the larger extended family. (Man, I sound awfully whiny.)
Oh I don’t think you sound whiny!! I have actually realized as I’ve grown up and got married and had kids that as much as I love (love love love) Christmas, I do have little pangs of grief, too, because my Christmases now aren’t *exactly* what I had growing up. It’s hard to give up traditions that you love for the sake of holiday compromise!! ❤️🎄
We were definitely an “open one gift at a time” household too which may have driven my husband a little nuts when he first started coming around. Now with 13 grandkids and all 6 of us girls married, a few rounds of gifts can take most of the day! But I love it! And have definitely instituted the same at our house (although, with one kid, that’s pretty easy to enforce). I love the idea of sleeping under the tree! Maybe we’ll try that when our son is a little older!
The Christmas Eve tradition that from my family that I kept and slightly modified…we opened one gift as children after church. It always took the edge off the craziness and allowed us to sleep! I kept that tradition, but for my kids and my husband and me the gift is always our Xmas pajamas. I don’t do a Xmas theme since we wear the pajamas all year round, but I coordinate us so we look sort of matching in pictures in the morning. 🙂 I even re-use the gift bags every year so when I put them out each Christmas Eve my now teens and pre-teen all say, “Our pajamas!” It’s fun! My husband’s childhood Christmas traditions included hitting every family in the area. He was lucky enough to have all families within minutes of each other so that entailed stopping by a great grandmother and having two separate Christmas Eve parties for each side of the family. Since our families live an hour apart and I grew up having a nice quiet Christmas Eve with just my immediate family I nixed that after one year. Too stressful! We rotate families year by year (the other family gets Christmas afternoon) and then end the night with just our five, cocoa and pjs.
Maggie A. says
I also love the idea of sleeping under the tree! The movie night on Christmas Eve is fun, too.
I have carried on a few traditions that my mom started with me and my 4 siblings. The first is that every year, we each received an ornament. (Mom was extra smart and always wrote the year on it!) This is because when she and my dad first got married ,they were broke and had no ornaments to put on their first Christmas tree together. So she decided she wanted her kids to have lots of ornaments when they got married and were also broke. It worked! I have a bunch, and they all have memories. Now, I get an ornament for my son every year.
Another tradition is that we always received a book for Christmas. My mom would select an age-appropriate book every year for each of us, until we graduated high school. It’s been really fun to share books I loved as a kid with my son. Of course, before bedtime on the 24th, we always read Twas the Night Before Christmas and the story of the nativity from our children’s Bible.
My siblings and I also did our version of Secret Santas (we called them Advent Angels). In addition to a small gift under the tree (maybe a box of candy or a picture we drew), we also would secretly do nice things for each other. I remember being a kid and when I wasn’t looking, my Advent Angel would do something like make my bed for me or pick up my toys. Sometimes they would leave a kind note or work through our parents to send messages. It was really fun to spend all of Advent trying to figure out who our AAs were. We always opened up our AA presents on Christmas Eve. We still do this today, as adults! Unfortunately, we don’t live anywhere close to each other now, so we can’t do the secret acts of kindness part anymore. But we still have AAs — and now our spouses all join in, too.
We also used to have a birthday cake for Baby Jesus every year, and we are going to start that one this year. At 2, my son is just beginning to grasp the idea of Baby Jesus’ birthday.
Oh, one more — every year, my mom makes the same thing for breakfast on Christmas morning, after we’re done opening presents. We always have that sausage-egg-and-cheese casserole, milk, oj, and sometimes pancakes or waffles. Then we lay around in our pajamas all day, enjoying our gifts, food, and each others’ company. Usually it ends up being a board game or movie marathon.
We open one gift at a time and have a lovely brunch afterward in my house as well. My mom to avoid the feeling ill, has us sing “Happy BIrthday” to Jesus after we open stockings. We usually use a coffee cake, loaf of bread w/jam or banana bread for the cake. It’s a nice reminder of what the day is about and keeps us sugar crashes from happening till Brunch at 1 or even 2pm.
Abby Johnson says
When we were kids, my family always went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and opening presents from them/that side of the family. Now us kids are grown and my brother has a daughter, and I think we’re going to keep that tradition of Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’ place, doing our Christmas with my niece (and any future nieces/nephews) on Christmas Eve. Hopefully when she’s a little older we’ll get to come over for some Christmas mornings, too!
Last year, we ended up doing Christmas with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve morning and we were on our own for Christmas Day, which was quite lovely!
Abby Johnson says
Ahhh, the other big tradition in our family is to have a smorgasbord while decorating the Christmas tree. We never put the tree up earlier than a week or two before Christmas, often just days before Christmas. Sometimes we’d save it for family to help with if they were coming in from out of town. And we’d request any foods we wanted and have a feast (in fact, we call it The Feast!) while decorating. Shrimp, quiche, M&Ms, barbeque… whatever anyone requests will be put on the menu. This year we’re surprising my mom with White Castle hamburgers!
Both my husbands family and mine always watched muppets Christmas carol on Christmas Eve, so we do that. We also both grew up opening one present at a time which we kept. My husbands family always wrote nice little notes to each other to put in stockings on Christmas Eve. This is hard with our tiny kids but we try. My family always had a big nice dinner. We’ve switched up the actual food but try to do this as well.
We open presents one at a time too but only after playing the movie quote game. Our family loves Christmas movies so we pick a quote and the person who gets it right gets to open the next present. We laugh a lot and talk about our favorite Christmas movie scenes. Merry Christmas.
Growing up my parents would give each of us kids an ornament every year. We all had our own themes, music, glass, hearts, rocking horses. Now my parents but ornaments for the grandchildren, my kids get transportation, glass, and animals. One ornament every year that matches your theme. It’s been really fun to try and find something that matches.
On Christmas Eve we always go to the candlelight service at our church.
On Christmas morning we open gifts one at a time, a person gets a gift from under the tree for someone else, once they open it, they pick one for another person. This Christmas we discovered the tradition of the pickle ornament. It is hidden in the tree on Christmas Eve by the last person to go to bed. The first person to find it Christmas morning opens the first present. Though we will do, they get to pick the first present…
Also, of course, watching Home Alone and Home Alone 2 as a family.
Gabbi B says
Every year we go to IHOP for breakfast, then we come home and open stockings at the dining room table together. My dad always buys everyone a nice stack of lottery tickets, so at the end of stockings, everyone is scratching those off while we refill our coffee cups and just chat a bit. Then we move into the living room and usually open one or two of the dogs presents for each dog so they can be munching on their treats and leave us be while we open our presents (although this never truly happens, lol). Each year one person is designated “Santa” and passes out presents for everyone to open, and usually it’s me. We don’t open gifts one at a time but we all open one gift at the same time if that makes sense? and show what we got to everyone. As for who gifts are from, sometimes from Santa, from the cats or dogs, from us. Depends on the gift – and sometimes my mom forgets to put a name on at all! 😂 For dinner, we have a meal similar to thanksgiving and afterwards we always watch The Santa Clause, always, because it’s the best Christmas movie!
When I was little, we’d all wake up and pile into my parents bed (and my dad would crawl out and go downstairs to get coffee and bring it back up!) And we’d unwrap the presents from the kids to each other. My siblings who still go to my mom’s for Christmas morning still do this, and by the end my dad was bringing up 5 cups of coffee and we were all grown-ups! I still do this with my kids – cuddles and coffee and giving before getting is a good way to start the day!
My mom always made kugelhof for Christmas morning, in a bundt pan – this yeasty eggy brioche filled with dried fruits and vanilla and butter, and dusted with powdered sugar. I make that for my kids now, and we combine it with my husband’s family’s traditional breakfast mimosas. 🙂
Once the gifts from kids are open upstairs (and I’ve had one coffee…), we go downstairs, do gifts (yes, one at a time…), have bread and mimosas (and possibly another latte) and then everyone settles down with their new toys and books until we get dressed to head off to a dinner with the extended family.
And Christmas lunch is always tourtiere and cretons and salad – made ahead, traditional Quebecois food. In both our families. 🙂
Lisa Y. says
Stockings were a big thing in my family. My oldest sister made extra large, customized stockings for all 8 kids and our parents. We always had Jelly Bellies organized by flavor in tiny plastic bags, Lifesaver Books, and other goodies as well as a few practical things like a toothbrush and deodorant. Our favorite stocking treats were our own mini boxes of sugar cereal – something we never ate for breakfast the rest of the year. We carried that into our family by buying a big box of each kid’s favorite sugar cereal to share after stockings and before presents. By the time we were teenagers, our mom would add a kitchen utensil or tool to our stocking for us to take when we’d leave home for college. My husband carries that tradition on and buys me a kitchen gadget every year. My parents moved out of state my senior year of high school, and our first Christmas after the move was spent in a one bedroom accessory apartment while we were building a new house. All our Christmas things were in storage, so my parents filled a pillowcase for me instead of a stocking. It was easily the most meaningful Christmas I had growing up, and it’s a tradition I carry on with my kids. Instead of a traditional stocking, they each have a red pillowcase with their initial on it that we fill.
My mother-in-law bought each of her kids a themed ornament every year. One sibling would receive snowmen, another angels, and so on. We carry on the tradition of gifting a new ornament to each child when we set up our tree, but the ornaments change to reflect something meaningful from their year.
My favorite tradition growing up was delivering the newspapers for Christmas morning. We each had a paper route, and our local newspaper printed the papers early enough that we could fold and deliver them at 10 or 11 pm on Christmas Eve and then sleep in Christmas morning. Some years it would be snowing softly and others it would be clear and starry. My mom would walk with us, and I loved that time together when it seemed like everyone else was asleep. I’d like to replicate that for my older kids with a late night walk through our neighborhood on Christmas Eve.
We also do a movie on Christmas Eve we live in Tennessee and all our family are in Utah/ or western so we are on our own movie definitely helps break up the day. We have chicken noodle soup and Raspberry jello for dinner.
We open one gift at a time as well. My husband likes to buy the kids their favorite treat cereal so we put a note to a scavenger hunt for the cereal in their stockings. Makes the fun stretch out longer. 🙂 we have steaks for Christmas dinner because it’s delicious and so easy.
We decorate gingerbread men on Christmas Eve. (I bake them ahead of time, or maybe that morning!) We art aside a few for Santa that night. After our Christmas Eve service we come home and get in Christmas pjs and read the Christmas story from Luke and The Night Before Christmas. Then Christmas morning we open stockings, eat breakfast, and then do the presents. There was 7 of us so we always passed out one gift for each person and opened them at the same time. That’s how we do it now too. Something I always did growing up but we haven’t done with our kids in open the stockings in our parents bed. I’d like to start that now that our kids are a little older!
A new tradition we’ve started is having Chick Fil A on Christmas Day. We order ahead and pick up on Christmas Eve. Everyone likes it and then I don’t have to spend the day in the kitchen. It’s just the 5 of us, so it’s not $$$. But it really helps me enjoy the day with the kids.
I also grew up with the tradition of sleeping under the Christmas tree as a family one night during Christmas break— I’ve never met anyone else who shared that tradition! We have continued it in our little family, and my husband’s sister’s family has followed suit and it’s become a tradition in their family now, too. :). All the kids in both families look forward to the family slumber party among the magic of the season, and those twinkling Christmas lights. We usually do ours the night before Christmas Eve. These are some of my favorite pictures from the holidays each year, too— the kids asleep, gathered around the tree, with perfect lighting from the tree. As adults, sometimes we really do sleep all night out there, on an air mattress or on the couch, but sometimes we head back to our bed after the kids are all asleep. We still get all the magic and memories, but also a good night’s sleep. 🙂
Rebecca Brasher says
My family won out over my husband’s family on Christmas traditions to keep (his won on New Year’s and conference weekend traditions though, so it evens out). Christmas Eve is a tamale dinner and pinata. Christmas morning is presents (opened all at once) and the Christmas table. The Christmas table is the best because it’s all the things normally don’t buy at the grocery store (sugary cereal, toaster strudels, different snack foods, chips, juice, soda, a box of chocolates, beef jerky, yummy meats and cheeses and crackers). It started with my grandparents because the had 12 kids and not a lot of money, so it was an easy way to make Christmas magical without many presents. We snack on it all day (and really all Christmas break) and then have pizza for dinner (because when you’ve been snacking all day a big sit down dinner is just a waste of time and food).
We always make crock pot french dips for Christmas dinner. They’re easy (I start them Christmas Eve) and feel decadent.
My husband’s family always gets us each, kids included, an ornament every year, so we get at least 4 from them. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful because our tree is decked out and we have some cool ornaments, but this actually isn’t my favorite tradition. I would like to pick out some ornaments for my own tree sometime, and even gift a few to my kids, but there is no need at this point. I do think this is a nice tradition but not necessarily one that needs to be continued into a child’s thirties…