Most of my favorite childhood memories have to do with the Christmas season. I love the smell of Evergreen, the twinkle of Christmas lights, and the aroma of peppernuts baking in the kitchen. Now that I have a family of my own, I realize how hard my mother worked to make Christmas a special time of year for our family, and how much we appreciated it. These are just a few simple ideas about how you, too, can make this Christmas one your family will not forget.
First of all, having a scheduled start to the holiday season makes the celebration of December more official. I recommend it as a way to draw attention to the season and turn your family’s hearts toward the yearly traditions that someday will mean so much. Thanksgiving weekend was always the beginning of the Christmas season in our home. Thursday was all turkey and stuffing, but come Friday, the first sounds of Christmas music could be heard playing in our tape player. Friday was the day my mom and I baked Christmas cookies. Saturday our family picked out a tree, and Sunday night we decorated it, sipping egg nog and listening to carols as a family.
If you get a Christmas tree each year, make it an event to remember! I am so happy that my family cut down our Christmas trees year by year instead of merely going to a grocery store to pick one out all bundled in net and buried under other trees. I know this costs a little bit more money, but I think every penny is worth it. Our family would go to a Christmas tree farm and get so much more than a tree; we got to sip hot apple cider and hot chocolate in the lodge, ride a hayrack ride to the tree farm, pick out a tree for ourselves that we thought was perfect (no net binding the branches and hiding the bald spots), and then ride back to the lodge and sit on Santa’s lap. It was a special time that I would not trade for anything in the world.
Not only that, but my mom never decorated the tree by herself – instead, the night we decorated the tree was always a family affair. My mom would sit and unload each ornament from its box, and my brothers, dad and I would take turns hanging each ornament on the tree. After we were done, we turned off all the lights except for the light of the fire in the fireplace, and we listened to Christmas music and cuddled on the couch while admiring the Christmas tree lights. This might sound cheezy, but it was truly a priceless time. These things still feel magical to me today, and I’m a grown wife and mother! Admiring the simple beauty of your Christmas tree in your own living room is a way to bring your family together without spending a cent.
Repetition is a simple way to bring tradition into the Christmas season. Every year, my mother baked the same Christmas cookies. She made cookies none of my other friends’ parents did, and so to this day I affiliate peppernuts and lekvar with my childhood. She would let me help roll out long ropes of peppernut dough and sprinkle powdered sugar on the lekvar cookies. We listened to Christmas music while we baked and I can truly say the times we spent slaving over a hot stove each Christmas were precious to me! Children can be such a hindrance in the kitchen and it’s often faster and easier to just do it yourself, but including your children means so much to them. Later you will have made unforgettable memories that will last for the rest of your life.
Always look for ways to enjoy all of the beauty of the season for free. Every single year while growing up I looked forward to the night my parents piled my two brothers and I into the car to look at Christmas lights. They brought along our favorite Christmas tunes and off we would go for a few hours, marveling at the way Christmas lights can light up a cold, dark December night. Afterward, we would gather around the tree for Christmas cookies, and each of us were allowed to open one present. These nights made my little girl’s heart flutter with butterflies of excitement, and last year, for our first Christmas, my husband and I started our own Christmas light tradition. I hope my children will treasure these nights as much as I did!
Another idea for a holiday tradition is to sleep under the Christmas tree as a family. My family usually did this the night before Christmas Eve. We would stay up late eating popcorn, playing board games and watching a Christmas movie, and then we would pull out our sleeping bags and literally sleep under the twinkling branches of the tree. As we got older, this became a little less appealing and throughout the night we would all sneak up to our comfortable beds, but this still is worth attemtping as my brothers and I treasured this night even in our teenage years. Now we actually come back home with our spouses and children to spend the night under the tree…though we still sneak up to our beds, leaving the grandparents with the grandchildren, something grandma and grandpa actually anticipate!
The Christmas season is a crazy time of year and often it pulls families apart rather than bringing them together. Making Christmas a special time for the whole family is not only appealing, it’s attainable! My mother gave us a great gift when she started Christmas traditions for our family. I now look forward to giving that gift to my family, and I hope my children will carry on the traditions as well. Let this year be the year your family learns to enjoy each other and take advantage of this opportunity to truly practice “good will toward men.” Your children will thank you, and you will reap the benefits of your efforts for years to come!