Ok - the final chapter to the Christmas Traditions post is finally here. These are traditions I have initiated since becoming an adult and having my own kidlets. Once again - in no particular order...
The Tree. Maybe it was because we always had a little tree growing up and the same decorations year after year, but it's been MY tradition to have a "different" tree each year. The first year our tree was a definite Charlie Brown Tree; it was sparse and held a few decorations I had from my own childhood and a few more a lady in church had made over the years. She gave them to me because her family was moving and she was trying to minimize everything they were packing and moving across country. Although I didn't really "love" my tree that year, it was what it was and FunnyMan was just a wee little tyke anyway. That year I waited until the day after Christmas and bought tree trimmings for 80% off to be used for the following year. I mostly bought red and gold, because that is what there seemed to be a surplus of. So, that next year my tree was Red and Gold. I continued shopping the day after Christmas each year after that, and depending on what I'd find would determine my color scheme for the following year. Of course, as money has been a bit tighter these past few years, I've mixed and matched some of the colors I have. I have ornament "collections" in red, gold, silver, white, cream, chocolate brown, pink, blue, purple, and "jewel tones". I am slowly working on green.
A New Ornament. Each year in their stocking my kids receive a new ornament. I started this when my oldest was a baby, so that by the time they are adults and on their own, they will already have a collection of ornaments. Sometimes, we've put up 2 Christmas Trees. My tree in the front room and the Kids' tree, with all of their ornaments, in the family room. It's been fun to pick out new ornaments for them each year and hopefully, one day when they are older they will have fond memories as they unpack their ornaments.
PJ's & Socks. Each Christmas eve, my kids get to open up new PJ's & socks. They look forward to getting to open a gift the night before Christmas and I love that they look "clean and crisp" as I am taking their pictures opening their gifts the next morning.
The Christmas Story. After the kidlets have opened their new PJs and taken their baths, just like my mom used to do, I have them gather round as I read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Stockings. Instead of filling their stockings with a bunch of holiday candy, each year I make a stop at Harry & David's in Park City and pick up the famous "Moose Crunch Bars" in my kids' favorite flavors. I will also add some of their favorite candy bars. Once in a while, I throw in a mini box of cereal too. I try to add a little gift in their stocking as well. Sometimes this has been a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins and other times it's been a little toy or trinket. When money was a bit more "plentiful", I'd give them gift cards for xBox points or the movies. But, they always get something in addition to their ornament and favorite candy.
Wake-Up time. I mentioned earlier this week that growing up my dad did not let us get up before 5:30 on Christmas morning, and that we'd always have a contest to see if the kids could wake up before the parents. Well, this is NOT one of those traditions I've passed on to my kids. Mostly because, I love sleep and I rarely have the opportunity. So MY "tradition" is that no one goes into the living room or near the gifts until Mama wakes up. And they've always been pretty good about it too. I love to be able to sleep in and not get up early. I usually begin to stir when I hear them outside my bedroom door whispering things like, "Think she'll wake up soon?" and "What time do you think it'll be this year before we get to open presents?" And, then I insist they all wash their faces before we start... cuz, yeah, I'm mean like that. Haha. As soon as we are all gathered in the living room, I let them open their stockings first.
Youngest-to-Oldest. We do what my family did as a child, and that is to let the youngest open her gifts first, working our way up to the oldest, which would be, ahem - me.
Charity. I have always felt strong about teaching my children the TRUE meaning of Christmas. No matter how hard we have it, there is always someone who has it a little harder, and giving of ourselves is being Christlike and THAT is the true meaning meaning of Christmas. When times were good (financially speaking), we did a lot of "sub for Santas" and the kids loved going shopping to buy gifts for families less fortunate than us. Then, after my divorce, it just wasn't anything I could afford to do. However, I still made what little effort I could. Anytime we go to the store and there is a Salvation Army Bell Ringer outside, I scrape up any change and let the kids deposit them into the bucket. Many places are also "Toys for Tots" sponsors. So, even if we can't adopt an entire family for the holidays, I try to buy at least one toy to place in a collection box. Something we started doing about 4 years ago is the "Hayride in the Park" up in Layton (about 14 miles north of us). The Layton City Park sets up a huge light display every year and you can either walk through the park or drive through to see the lights. The local Burger Stop and a local car club join forces to provide Hayrides through the park and Santa is at the Burger Stop too. The tickets for the Hayride are $1 for kids 5-12 and $2 for 12+. 100% of the money goes to a local charity, one of which is the local women's shelter. So, for a couple of bucks we get to build Christmas Memories and donate to a good cause. Sure, we could save our $4-5 and drive through the park for free. But, the kids have come to love the hayride, in spite of freezing our butts off in line. :)
Christmas Movies. We have 2 favorite movies we watch as a family EVERY year before Christmas. One is A Christmas Story and the other is Mixed Nuts. Just about everyone I know has heard of A Christmas Story, but not many have heard of Mixed Nuts. Seriously, I think this is one of the funniest holiday movies around. It's quirky, and has an all-star cast (Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Anthony LaPaglia, Juliet Lewis, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Rita Wilson, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart and Joely Fisher). It's basically the antics of a suicide hotline non-profit organization in Venice Beach, about to go belly-up right before Christmas. Totally hilarious.
Letters & Pictures. Right after my oldest was born, I began to do family pictures each year for Christmas. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd year I started incorporating the annual Christmas Letter as well. I know that many people don't care to read the "Christmas Letter", especially if they're filled with self-promoting accolades and extensive travelogues. But I actually love reading the letters, and therefore I send them out each year too (although I try not to make it too long or boring). I've lived in Indiana, Hawaii and now Utah and I have family and friends spread out all over the country, and former in-laws outside of the country. So, I love to hear about what's going on with everyone. It's my way of catching up with everyone, and writing my letters is my way of letting them know what we've been up to. I know, I could probably blog, email or FaceBook it. But aside of the 1 or 2 16 year-olds in their Rumspringa, my Amish relatives don't have internet, email or Facebook. Also, I always put a copy of the annual letter and family photo in each of my child's scrapbook. It's a nice way to journal what we've been up to. I realize that many will read and then toss the letter and/or picture; but it's still a tradition I've come to enjoy nonetheless.
I used to take the kids sledding -- however, we don't always get snow here on Christmas. We used to go to the Movies, but these days it is so crowded that it isn't "relaxing" and I'm all about relaxing on Christmas Day. So -- we usually just hang out all day in our PJ's and watch the DVDs we got for Christmas. That's been the most fun.
This year the kids will be with their Dad for Christmas, so we are having our Christmas on Christmas Eve... and our Christmas Eve on Christmas Eve-Eve, hehe.
What about you? I'd love to know about some of your Christmas traditions too!