Growing up, Christmas time was always full of family tradition. As a military family who was never home for the holidays, our family traditions were extra meaningful to us. As we traveled the world, they connected us with home and to family sometimes countries away. I think that's what I love the most about being a Mama during the holidays, creating memories and building our own family traditions. No matter where life takes them, I hope they can bake that family recipe or make that craft with their kids just like Mama used do and always feel connected with home. Here is a glimpse into our family traditions, some we have done for years and a few I'm introducing this year.
1. Cornstarch Dough Ornaments
This an improvement on the salt dough I used to make as a kid. These are a tiny bit more work but they have a porcelain look when they are dry and provide a smoother surface for painting. In past years we have made a bunch for my oldest to paint and used them as gift tags for family's presents. (Big hit with the grandparents! ;)
Here is my 3 year old's interpretation of a gingerbread man.
2. Traveling Wise Men
I don't remember where I first heard this idea to give it credit but I love it! A spin off the Elf on the Shelf trend, the idea is to introduce the Wise Men at the beginning of the Christmas season and have them journey (through the house) and have a few adventures along the way with the purpose of finally arriving to find Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. Here we have our three kings taking a break for some fishing and also preparing a couple cups of cocoa for the boys breakfast in the morning. Such thoughtful guys.
3. Christmas Book Advent
This is a fan favorite. I wrap up all of our Christmas books and we open one every night until Christmas. I have added two or three books to our collection each year. I've gotten most from Amazon or thrift stores. I start our routine based on how many books I have accumulated. Not gonna lie, part of the awesomeness of this tradition is the sudden eagerness for bedtime. "Gotta brush your teeth if you want a present story." "Jammies before story!" Mama loves a little leverage.
In high school my parents gave me a record player one year for Christmas. Growing up we always listened to the same Christmas cassette while decorating the tree. A cassette that we copied from a record that was my Mom's growing up. Later we actually found a copy of the original record and I've collected a few more classic Christmas records over the years. So now every year as we decorate the tree the record player comes out. Having those same familiar songs playing each year instantly makes me nostalgic. Not gonna lie, I totally got a little misty watching my boys really get into the tree decorating this year with Bing singing in the background.
5. Felt Handprint Ornament
This is one I started and am really sad that I forgot to do it last year but plan on picking up again this year. Simply trace their hand print every year on felt and add it to the previous years ornament. It's so sweet to see how much their little hands have grown.
Obviously, I am a little behind adding the last few years! But for example sake here's a couple of my little dude's handprints.
6. Dollar store shopping.
This tradition is so fun and is a great way to teach your littles about giving. Last year we let our oldest shop for us and his brother at the dollar store. It was the cutest thing ever. I received a lovely silk violet in a plastic pot, Daddy got a Batman washcloth and little brother got a stuffed caterpillar toy. Word to the wise, do this right before Christmas because those littles aren't known for their patience and having to wait to give out their presents might be more then they can handle.
7. Yearly Ornament
My in-laws gave my husband and his siblings an ornament every year so that when they left home they'd have a bit of their family Christmas tree to take with them. We are continuing this tradition with our boys and it's fun to let them pick out their own ornament. Currently there are a lot of animals on my tree.
This is my oldest last year picking out his ornament. It was a hard choice between an ice skating bunny and a felt cup of cocoa but in the end he spotted a giraffe and his decision was made.
8. Christmas lights.
This one is pretty self explanatory but I'm really looking forward to it this year. My two year old is now old enough to get excited about it. We'll probably make it extra fun with Christmas PJ's, popcorn and cocoa this year.
I love this idea. (source unknown)
9. Family Movie Night
Mondays are movie nights at our house. So in December we will feature our favorite Christmas classics. This has become a great way for us to have some quality snuggles and time as a family with minimal effort after Daddy has had a long day.
10. Happy Birthday Jesus Cake
My job as a Mom and a lover of Jesus is to always point my kids back to Him as much as possible. I love the things, like the traveling wise men, that are so fun yet intentional in their purpose of growing my kid's knowledge of Jesus. The last thing we really need is more sugar during Christmas, but a birthday cake is such a great way to stop and bring your kids into a moment of remembering the reason for the season.