What I think I love the most about the holidays are how predictable they are. December 1st comes and the Christmas tree comes out. We listen to Garth Brooks holiday album, “Beyond the Season” as we decorate the tree with multi-colored lights and an array of ornaments collected over Christmas’ past (thanks grandma!).
When you’re younger, you literally have no control over your life, nada. Nothing. So the holidays, for me at least, were a time of the year when I knew what to expect and that was joy-filled moments and traditions with my family. Now that’s not to say that wrenches weren’t thrown into the holidays that made us have to be flexible with our traditions -- we moved a lot growing up, so that always brought new backdrops for our Christmas setting. Our dad moved to Texas in 2001, which brought a whole new dynamic to splitting Christmas. But still, somehow, our traditions remained. And even in the uncertainty of constant moves and the splitting of a home, our traditions are still something we look back on with nothing but happy memories.
So in the spirit of Christmas and tradition, and a renewed sense of duty to both since we both have young kiddos in our houses now. We thought we’d share some of our family’s traditions, both old and new.
CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FROM OUR CHILDHOOD
Hershey Kiss Advent Calendar
In our house it always goes to show that the best traditions and favorite memories actually stemmed from our mom just trying to save money. One year she started to use Hershey’s Kisses for an advent calendar rather than the ones you buy from the store. This was a lot cheaper to do with three kids- and in turn, it tasted a lot better than cardboard too! To use this idea, take Hershey’s Kisses and with permanent marker, write the numbers 1-25 on the bottoms. Then find a container and each day have your child (or you) find the number that correlates with the day. It takes a little longer to search through and find the right Hershey Kiss number, it tastes better than cheap cardboard chocolate, and it’s a cheap fun tradition for years to come.
The True Smell of Pine
Buying a Christmas tree was always somewhat of an adventure growing up. I look back on those memories and laugh most of the time because they always brought a little frustration and then the obligatory teamwork to the house. Now-a-days, most people use the same artificial christmas tree every year, which really just entails pulling the thing out of storage and putting it together. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but, if you’re a good-old real tree buyer, here’s a few fun memories that might inspire you to continue. We had various experiences picking out a tree. From picking it from a true Christmas tree farm and getting to sit in Santa’s sleigh while drinking hot chocolate, picking one from a tree parking lot “farm” with our cousins, with Dani and our cousin making Capri Sun cell phones (holla at my 90’s kids) and the rest of us just annoying the hell out of our mom. Choosing the tree was never without laughs, a few choice words, and then memories for years to come.
The Advent Wreath
The Advent Wreath is definitely a time-honored tradition with more religious implications. For those who don’t know, the advent wreath contains 4 candles; three purple and one pink, and the Christ candle in the middle. Each Sunday of December, you gather around your advent wreath a candle is lit, and a portion of the story of Jesus’ birth is read over the flame. You end the story with a Christmas hymn and blow out the candle. On Christmas day, all four candles and the Christ candle will be lit and the complete story of Jesus’ birth is told. I loved this tradition growing up and when I was old enough to read the passages myself, I would practice them before Sunday night so that my diction was perfect as I shared his story. This tradition was important for me (Dani) to carry on to my children as I believe it puts Jesus back as the reason for the season. If you are interested in trying out this tradition, I started with this wreath, it’s inexpensive and while fake, I think still looks nice. I also started with this advent book. This book I had to modify as it has you read every night through the month of December, so I will be trying to find one closer to the book I had when I was younger for future years.
The Spirit of Giving
As kids, we never had everything but we didn’t have to go without either. One of the best things about our childhood is that our mom raised us to have caring, giving hearts. I can always remember my mom explaining to me, “It’s between you and God as to whether you give or not and it’s between them and God with what they do with what you give.” Her heart has always been called to give and so we did. This is such an important part of Christmas for me. Whether it be the giving tree where we sponsored a child, or coordinating an entire church’s food and toy basket giving for the community, this was always prominent in our childhood. This is one tradition that I feel is so important to carry on. If you can find it in your heart to give back time, money, items, or food, it will not be for not during the holiday season.
NEW CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FOR THE FAMILY
Santa’s North Pole Adventure - a Christmas Train Ride
We (Best family) have lived in the Denver metro area for over 5 years now, 3 of which were in the thick of it about 15 miles northwest of the city and now for the last year, in the mountains west of it. No matter where we have lived we have always heard great things about the Georgetown Loop Railroad and more specifically their Santa’s North Pole Adventure and Santa’s Lighted Forest. Last year I quickly discovered that these are not activities you book a few days before. Both events were booked solid through Thanksgiving clear to New Years. So this year I booked it at the end of SEPTEMBER! And it was well worth the planning in advance. We chose the North Pole Adventure because not only does Santa walk through each car during the 75 minute train, but it is also a day activity. The Lighted Forest is a nighttime train ride, which sounds amazing, but… bedtime is king in this house, so we went to the very first (11am) train ride on December 1st. I will spare the long explanation because I feel this would be a good post by itself, but it was absolutely magical. We received old fashioned tickets that were stamped by train conductors and were ushered into an old fashioned dining car where fruits, cheese and crackers awaited us at our seats. The train ride was gorgeous in and of itself, trekking through the mountainous beauty between Georgetown and Silver Plume. On top of that, Santa came through the car several times, stopping to talk to every girl and boy, singing carols and even giving Charlie the gift of a silver bell. I felt like I a giddy adult who somehow tricked everyone into letting me in on the Polar Express. If you live in the area, this is a definite must for your kiddos and something we will be taking the time to do every single Christmas from now on.
Christmas Eve PJs
When my (Morris family) husband and I started dating, we decided to start the tradition of christmas pajamas. On Christmas Eve each year, we exchange a new pair of pajamas to snuggle up and watch movies or play games in! This tradition has evolved over the years and we each have certain things that we always do. Like for Brock, who loves penguins, I’ve made it a point to always include penguins somehow into his PJs. One year it was a penguin onesie, and last year it was a shirt that read, “It’s penguining to look a lot like Christmas.” I love that this tradition started with us as a couple and now we can change it and adapt it to fit the needs of our growing family with baby PJs and books or in the future with a new family board game or movie.
Celebrate With Your Community
Moscow Winter Carnival
There’s something about a small town during the holidays. This year was the first of many that we will attend our local Winter Carnival which included a tree lighting and a light parade. This event brings our little community together and really just shows us, yet again, how nice people are here. One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is that everyone is involved. The whole town lights up, everyone is in a good mood, and the whole atmosphere just feels cozy. Find what events your community does and get out there and join it! It’s hard to frown when a giant Charlie Brown float is passing by.
Evergreen Holiday Walk
The truth is, I think Gabi and I are both very lucky to live in small towns; one, because well… traffic, but also because the community events we attend are much smaller and more intimate. Not saying larger towns don’t have their obvious perks, but the Evergreen Holiday Walk is one that will always hold something special for our family this time of year. Every year, on the first Friday of December, our “downtown”, a hodgepodge of historic buildings lined up on a wooden boardwalk, lights up to celebrate the holiday season. Santa and Mrs. Clause come in on a sleigh, Dicken’s carolers roam the streets, and shops open up with hot drinks and sweet treats. We own a business in this downtown area and this will be the third year in a row that we will open our doors, get to know our community a little better and get to officially kick off the holiday cheer.
Well there you have it, these are our blend of new and old Christmas traditions. We’ve heard of other amazing ones like purchasing a holiday blanket for each one of your children’s first christmases and leaving it out with a new book each December 1st to kickstart the month of cheer. We’d love to hear what special traditions you grew up with or are planning to introduce into this new phase of holidays in your life.
Happy Holidays, we hope yours is filled with memories new and old!