Starting Family Christmas Traditions

Starting Xmas Traditions

All this beautiful (and freezing cold) snow is really getting us in the Christmas spirit here at our home. Shopping for gifts has begun (early for my husband this year, and late for myself), and holiday movies have been streaming away on our TV while we stoke our wood stove fire and get excited about the coming festivities.

As this will be our little one’s first REAL Christmas (last year she was so fresh, her experience was little more than puke on red-and-green-coloured materials and get stuffed into a Santa dress), it’s important to me to start some holiday traditions our family can enjoy together for years to come. “Isn’t she too little to understand traditions?” you might ask. Perhaps, but that’s exactly why now is the perfect time to get started on establishing some expectations to get excited about each year. In my opinion, if you include the pieces you’d like children to understand when they’re older in everyday life from the get-go, the learning and understanding is something that just happens out of simple exposure (stay tuned for an upcoming post on our potty-training adventures for more on this!).

To decide what kind of traditions are important to our family, what experiences we would like to get in the habit of recreating each December, my husband and I have been discussing what our childhood experiences of “Christmas” include. Some of the traditions we settle on will draw from our own traditions passed down to us in our families, and I’d also like to consider some traditions that are new to us but could be a lovely way to enhance our holidays.

What our family Christmas morning looked like in 1990. Check out my brother's sweet styles.
What our family Christmas morning looked like in 1990. Check out my brother’s sweet styles.

This is the list we have come up with so far, of traditions we enjoyed as children.


“Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Reading this story on Christmas Eve is a childhood favourite that my hubby looks forward to continuing with our family. Getting cozied up together to listen to this holiday classic over a cup of hot cocoa is definitely something I can get behind, too.


One Pre-Christmas Gift

Opening ONE SMALL gift on Christmas Eve is a fun way to keep Christmas morning exciting, but still satisfy some of the curiosity about what is under that tree. G and I both enjoyed the chance to get a bit of a “sneak peak” of what we were in for in the morning, and look forward to little Z’s excitement. Generally, I was allowed to choose my own gift to unwrap early, but my parents always had suggestions for what to choose, and limits of what we had to wait to open until the morning.


Advent calendars

As a child, I really enjoyed having an advent calendar to keep track of the countdown to Christmas, while getting to enjoy a small surprise each day. I remember opening the little doors to chocolate treats on the classic store-bought calendars, and also pulling small surprises out of a material wall hanger with pockets for the first 25 days of December. The surprised weren’t always edible, either, which I liked as a child and appreciate as an adult. “Treats” don’t always have to be about sweets.

I plan on making our own Christmas countdown calendar to enjoy, but imagine that we will also be buying some from the stores when Z is older, whether they be a chocolate kind or the super cool Playmobile or otherwise unconventional calendars they make now. I’m still on the fence about whether to start this tradition this year, as little Z might actually be too small to get enjoyment rather than frustration out of opening up only one pocket/door/drawer each year, and the chocolates are definitely out of the question for her at this point. Perhaps I’ll just have to “practice” this year, and get one for Mommy to try out.


Little Hannah excited for Christmas, donning my big "Jesus is the reason for the season" button proudly.
Little Hannah excited for Christmas, donning my big “Jesus is the reason for the season” button proudly.

Spreading Cheer

Every year, without fail, my family would participate in Operation Christmas Child, a program for donating toys and gifts to children around the world who might not otherwise get gifts on Christmas. The program is put on by Samaritan’s Purse, and Christian international relief effort. As my family was devoutly Christian (Seventh Day Adventist, to be exact), this traditional fit right in with our values and goals. As an adult I am no longer religious, so I’m still not sure if this exact opportunity will become an appropriate tradition for my own family.  I’m not sure how I feel about pushing “our” traditions and beliefs on other cultures in this way, although it does make me happy that children around the world will have necessary, helpful, and fun items delivered to them. Regardless of what program we ultimately go with, donating (whether it be money, items or our time) will definitely be a yearly tradition for us. I think getting children involved and aware of our responsibility to help our fellow creatures (human and otherwise) of the world is very important to a future community that cares and acts for the betterment of everyone.


Setting Up a Tree

To me, the Tree is central to my Christmas experience. I know, love and joy and peace and giving and all that should be the centre (and yes, I absolutely agree), but to me the tree is a big deal. It really helps me get into the feeling of the season to have my own green monument to the holidays lighting our home up and providing a space to let the presents pile up, waiting for the big day. December without an tree is a very sad thought for me.

Because our little bean is still picking up every small speck she can find on the floor and trying to eat it (even the little bits of food she JUST tossed down from her highchair because it’s likely that food we try to feed her is poison while floor findings are always good eating), I don’t feel good about having pokey tree needles laying around. This puts a bit of a damper on my Christmas traditionals, but thankfully there are a variety of ways to host a tree in your home that don’t involve an actual tree. I’ve used fake trees in the past, and have nothing against them (even though I’d much prefer a real tree), but I’d like to try some of the creative ideas Pinterest has been popping in my feed the past couple days for alternative Christmas boughs. Stay tuned for what I’m going to try, and how it turns out!


My 2-year-old self posing for Christmas Cards.

We’re still working on our family festive traditions, and I’m sure we’ll be adding and adjusting what we do every year to fit with our families wants and needs, but I think we’re off to a pleasant start with what we have. What does your family do? Are there special traditions from your childhood you are/will be carrying out with your own troop? Do you have any new interesting and creative ideas you’d like to use to make the holidays special? I’d love to hear all the variety of ways other families celebrate! Comment with your thoughts under this post!!


Merry Mistletoe Season!! (Oh… that reminds me… add “hanging mistletoe” to our list!)

5 thoughts on “Starting Family Christmas Traditions

  1. Sara

    Your holiday traditions sound a lot like mine! We’re still playing around with adding/shifing traditions that fit our little family. Each year we do buy an ornament that represents us at the time and write down our wish for the year again and keep it to open for next Christmas. Enjoy your LO’s first “real” holiday!

  2. Janet Nielsen

    I was going to say the same! Your traditions are very similar to ours! We did the one present on Chrismas Eve growing up. My Husband’s family is Danish and their main celebration is on the 24th so there are now LOTS of presents on Christmas Eve, but I loved that tradition growing up. Also, that photo is fantastic. The 90s in all their glory 😉

  3. Cathy Tocher

    The best kind of family tradition for me has always been trying to get as many family members together as possible! This year the new tradition is (hopefully) going to be having this little train set run around the tree to the delight of my new granddaughter and grandson (and all of us adults too of course)! Happy Holidays!


What's it look like from where you're sitting? Leave me a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.