Holidays

My Favorite Holiday Traditions

favorite holiday traditions

You know those family traditions that stress you out, like that Elf who has to be moved every night?  Yeah, I don’t do those kind of traditions!  Here are 15 (yes, FIFTEEN) of my favorite Holiday Traditions we do EVERY YEAR that are way less stressful and way more fun!

Some of these traditions started a long time ago and were handed down in my family, but a lot of these traditions are things I started when I began having kids.  Maybe some of these will be traditions you adopt too!

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Holiday Tradition #1: Advent Calendars

I LOVE ADVENT CALENDARS!  I think there’s so much fun and excitement and expectation that builds as you count down the days to Christmas.  There are all sorts of cute calendars available like the ones with chocolate behind the doors or scriptures telling the Christmas story, but we use the Advent Calendar Houses with the tiny doors and cubbies that you put a trinket or a piece of candy in.  I started this tradition when my oldest child was born.  I saw one of these gorgeous houses at Hobby Lobby and boom!  Advent Calendar tradition!  Some of these little houses have cubbies big enough for tiny presents like chapstick or Lego men, but our calendar houses have the tiniest little doors so we just put a piece of candy in each little door. My kids have been too little to fill the houses with candy all at once, but this year I’m putting all the candy in at one time so I don’t have to think about it again.  Easy peasy and so much fun!

Holiday Tradition #2: Singing Christmas Carols

My mother loves to sing.  Every year, starting November 1, we would start singing Christmas Carols on the way to school every morning.  Part of the fun was that we couldn’t sing the same song twice so we had to get really good at remembering and learning lots of Christmas songs.  It was so much fun, and we continue the tradition of driving and singing Christmas songs during the holidays.

Holiday Tradition #3: Looking at Christmas Lights

Some people love Christmas lights, and some people hate them.  Me, I LOVE THEM!  I love driving around all bundled up looking for that amazing house with lights set to music, or finding the Victorian two-story that looks like a lit up gingerbread house.  My favorite outdoor decorated tree has lights that look like falling snow, and there’s an enormous mansion in a nearby neighborhood that has a life-sized glowing nativity complete with manger and crèche and animals that covers the entire giant yard.  It’s an amazing sight to see! And how can you not be amazed at those techy souls who connect their lights to music?!? It’s awesome.

Holiday Tradition #4: Drink Hot Chocolate

We usually mix this tradition with our Christmas Light search tradition.  We wait until it gets dark (which isn’t late in December!) and then we put on our cozy Christmas jammies from last year.  We make Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate in to-go cups with lids and straws and then everyone piles into the van to drive around town looking for the best light display.  The coziness of the hot chocolate combined with cold winter nights makes it magical!

Holiday Tradition #5: Make S’Mores

My family doesn’t really like to eat s’mores, but they sure like making them! Ha!  S’mores for us is a total waste of money, but the kids LOVE the tradition of roasting their own marshmallows and squishing them between crunchy graham crackers and melting chocolate.  We all usually try to eat at least one, but everyone really prefers eating the pieces separately.  This tradition is more about family quality time and laughter than it really is about the s’mores.  We like the fire, and the bundling up for the cold, and cooking our own marshmallows, all way more than the actual eating of the dessert because it’s something we get to do together.  And I’m ok with that.

Holiday Tradition #6: Light the Menorah

Wait, what? Yep, this is a holiday tradition we LOVE!  We are Christians, but I’ve got a little bit of Messianic Christianity in me and I believe that celebrating the biblical feasts is an important way to know Jesus better.  Hanukkah is a minor celebration story told in 1 Maccabees of the Catholic bible (you can read more about the Jewish celebration here and the Messianic celebration of Hanukkah here), but the celebration of Hanukkah reminds us that Jesus is the light of the World, and we love that reminder every year when it’s so dark and dreary outside.  We light the candles in our Menorah and sing the Hanukkah song, and “while the candles are burning low,” we play the next tradition.

menorah

Holiday Tradition #7: Play the Dreidel Game

We LOVE the dreidel game!  It’s a traditional Hanukkah game played with dreidels and coins, and we usually play with the same bag of pennies very year, although sometimes we use chocolate Hanukkah coins (and we make sure everyone gets to eat one at the beginning; if you play the game you’ll know why!). We usually play the dreidel game until the candles burn out, and it’s a fun and simple game that even the little kids can play to enjoy family time around the table together. 

Holiday Tradition #8: Collect & Display Holiday Memorabilia

Christmas holiday decorating is my MOST favorite decorating season of the year, and I go ALL OUT.  Like over the top, multiple Christmas trees, every room is decorated kind of decorating!  My two favorite holiday decorations to collect and display every year are my 1) Christmas village, and 2) Nativity scenes.

I have a HUGE Christmas village that I’ve collected over the last 10 years since I got married.  The kids love to help me set it up every year, and every year we set it up in different ways.  I don’t have a specific brand of village pieces that I use – some are big and some are little – so we just arrange them according to what we think looks pretty, and that works fine for us.  It’s some fun quality time with the kiddos and we like that.

I also collect Nativity scenes and set them up all over the house.  My goal is to have a nativity for every room in the house so that wherever we are we always have the reminder that Jesus came to earth just for me and for you.  Some of my Nativities are fancy – porcelain or glass – but I’ve also got a couple that are plastic or wood blocks that I let the kids play with.  They like to rearrange where baby Jesus is in the manger, or put the donkey beside him instead of the sheep today, and we use the Little People Nativity for them.  It’s a fun way to tell the Christmas story to little kids too.

Holiday Tradition #9: Decorate the Christmas Tree Together (Gasp!)

I saved this one for later down the list because I know there are some OCD mamas out there who CANNOT BELIEVE I let the kids help me decorate the tree! LOL!  But answer me this question mamas – How are the kids going to get better at decorating the tree if they don’t practice?!? 

The tree in the living room is a group effort. I decorate the top of the tree and the kids decorate the bottom, and we use plastic ornaments so nothing can break.  Believe me, there are branches that have so many ornaments they touch the ground, but I just look at the top of the tree and everything’s nice and even up there so at least we have half a gorgeous tree!  There are also two trees I decorate by myself, and we also have a tree upstairs in the play room that I let the kids decorate all by themselves. It ends of being kind of crazy looking, LOL!, but the kids ARE getting better and better at decorating every year so there’s some encouragement mamas!

Holiday Tradition #10: Make Gingerbread Cookies

I know the holiday cookie tradition is usually making iced sugar cookies, but no one in my family actually likes sugar cookies. When we make those, they usually just get thrown out after two weeks of hardening on the counter.

However, my family DOES love gingerbread cookies. We have gingerbread men cookie cutters, and with just a few little dots of icing from icing tubes (and way less mess!), we have adorable, yummy cookies to enjoy.

Holiday Tradition #11: Decorate Gingerbread Houses

Along with decorating gingerbread men, we also decorate gingerbread houses! We pick one afternoon where we all make a mess and have a ton of fun with a ton of candy and icing and spend hours making our gingerbread masterpieces.

We have four kids, so we usually get the gingerbread village kit from Walmart that comes with four miniature gingerbread houses. That’s been the easiest thing for our family, although we HAVE made gingerbread houses from scratch before, and that was a ton of fun too. We used this gingerbread house cookie cutter kit which made it really easy to make the pieces, and then we used Wilton Meringue Powder to make really firm royal icing to hold all the pieces together and to adhere the candies. That was a fun project, but it was a LOT of work. That’s why we went back to the gingerbread village kit.

Holiday Tradition #12: Drink Eggnog

My grandmother has the most adorable vintage Christmas eggnog bowl and mugs. The egg nog bowl is white milk glass with Santa in a sleigh riding through a winter wonderland, and the mugs are Santa heads. When I was little and we would visit her house at Christmas time we would drink eggnog out of those Santa mugs. Now, every time I drink eggnog during the holidays I think of her eggnog set. When fall rolls around and the eggnog starts being stocked, I drink a wine glass full of eggnog before bed (don’t judge! ha!) and dream of snowy evenings by the fire.

Holiday Tradition #13: Go to the Nutcracker Ballet

I LOVE the Nutcracket ballet! It’s one of those magical ballets where everything is beautiful and glowing and gorgeous, and I love every single thing about going to the ballet. When I was a kid, I didn’t get to go every year, but I went a couple of times and that was enough to make me fall in love. Now, our family budgets for the women in our family to go see the ballet every year, and it’s become a fun girls only night out for us.

Holiday Tradition #14: Matching family Christmas pajamas

We open our presents on Christmas morning, but every year after dinner on Christmas eve, the family gets to open one present. And every year, that one present is the matching family pajama set!

We’ve had lots of different kinds of pajamas, but I tend to love the flannel pajamas with the various matching pieces, like a button up top, pajama pants, a sleep dress, and of course, the little girl’s sleep dress that comes with a matching baby doll dress. It tends to make the pajama buying process a little easier when we can get exactly what kind of clothing each member wants, and it’s fun to have matching jammers through the rest of the winter months.

fave traditions

Holiday Tradition #15: Teach Advent with The Wandering Wise Men

This last tradition is one we’ve only added in over the last few years.  I wanted a way to teach Advent, but I kept forgetting to do the traditional Advent celebrations on the Sundays leading up to Advent. I either missed the first Sunday or we’d forget to do the candle lighting on Sunday and do it on Monday, or something would happen and I’d forget.  It just wasn’t working.

But I found an awesome way to celebrate Advent when I found the Wandering Wise Men!  There’s a great account on Instagram (@thewanderingwisemen) and the lady makes up a new story every year about where the Wise Men travel to find Jesus.  She comes up with some amazing ideas and I love following her every year.

However, I need something I can stick with and teach every year, so I wrote my own Wandering Wise Men story complete with cut out cards and scripture for every night in December leading up to Christmas Day when the Wise Men finally find the baby Jesus.  It’s only $4.95 and you can download it here if you’d like to join us on the journey this year.  We use the PlayMobil Three Kings set and I’m considering adding the nativity this year as well (since I can never have enough nativities, ha!). If you’ve got some Wise Men already, you can just use them if you’d rather.  Just make sure you have a camel *wink*!

So, there we have it!  If you stuck with me this long – kudos to you!!  I hope you found some holiday traditions along the way that you can embrace as you look forward to celebrating the holidays this year.  Traditions make families unique and special, and I hope you have a special holiday season as you incorporate your own traditions this year.

All the best,

Erin   

P.S. Does your family have other traditions I didn’t mention here? I’d love to hear about them! Drop me a comment and let me know how your family traditions are made.

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